Here with your weekly look at the Wiz is Mr. Irrelevant contributing writer Bryan Frantz.
Trevor Ariza led the Wizards in three-point attempts and makes last season by knocking down 180 of 442. Second in both categories was Martell Webster (146 of 372), followed by Bradley Beal (138 of 343) and John Wall (108 of 308).
Wall’s jumper improved dramatically last year, so Wizards fans were hopeful about his shooting heading into this season. But Ariza went to the Rockets, Beal broke his wrist in early October and Webster had his third back surgery in late June.
No other player got close to making 100 threes in a Wizards uniform last year. Al Harrington was the closest with just 34, and he most recently played in China.
For these reasons, Washington wasn’t expected to be a real threat from downtown this year, especially early on with all the injuries. Yet more than a quarter of the way through the season, the Wizards lead the entire NBA in three-point percentage with a blistering 39.7 percent. The entire NBA.
The Paul Pierce signing helped, as he has knocked down 30 of his 85 three balls so far, and Beal only ended up missing the first nine games of the season. Wall’s shooting has been just slightly below the career numbers he put up last year, and Otto Porter Jr., Drew Gooden and Garrett Temple are all shooting at least 37 percent from distance.
But the real difference-maker has been Casual Rasual Butler (his name is actually pronounced rah-sule, but I’m trying to make it a thing), who is shooting a ridiculous 53.4 percent from three-point range. There are only three players in the NBA who are shooting above 50 percent from distance this year. One is all-time great shooter Kyle Korver (54.6%), one is Courtney Lee of the Grizzlies (54.1%) and the other is Casual Rasual.
Yet, despite the league-best accuracy from long range, the Wiz shoot just 16 threes per game, the fourth-fewest in the league. Compare that to last season, when Washington shot 38 percent from distance (tied for fourth) and put up 20.8 per game (19th).
Is Washington not taking advantage of a great strength by shooting so few, or is the exceptional accuracy a product of selective shots? Should the Wizards put up more deep balls, or is the improved shooting because they aren’t forcing as many bad threes?
The three teams that shoot fewer threes than the Wizards are the Grizzlies (15 per game), Kings (14.7) and Timberwolves (13.5). Sacramento and Minnesota rank among the league’s worst in three-point percentage, so it’s probably better for them that they don’t shoot many, but Memphis is third in the league at 37.8 percent accuracy from downtown. Memphis also has the second-best record in the NBA at 20-4, so clearly the Grizzlies are doing something right.
If you look at the distribution for the Wiz and Grizz, you’ll see they have a very similar composition. Each team has four players shooting 2.7-3.9 threes per game, an elite shooter (Butler and Lee, respectively) and another very good shooter (Beal at 47.5% and Mike Conley at 42.7%).
The key difference between the two teams is the number of players each has that can reliably hit threes. Washington’s top five three-point shooters have combined to knock down 136 threes this year while the top five for Memphis have hit just 120.
And Webster, who drained 1.9 threes per game a year ago, is expected to return as early as next week. Washington has also been getting even better from distance as the season has worn on, thanks largely to Beal and Butler. The Wizards have knocked down at least 40 percent of their threes in five of their last six games, including 10-of-17 on Tuesday night against the Timberwolves.
Their next game is against the Heat on Friday. Miami allows the fourth-most made three-pointers in the NBA with 8.5 per game. Personally, I want to see Casual Rasual drop at least eight by himself.