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The 2015-16 Washington Wizards: All Pace, No Space

“Go ahead. Make my day” – Clint Eastwood

Coming in to this season, hopes for the new-look Wizards offense were sky high. We’d all gotten a teaser preview in last years playoffs, and were ready to see the feature presentation being released for the 2015-2016 NBA season.

However, after a DC cameo appearance by Paul Pierce (worthy of an academy award no doubt), DC’s executive producers were tasked with finding a replacement for their heroic Truth.

We were told it would be a total team effort, and that the offseason improvement from incumbents (Otto and Hump) and additions (Dudley, Neal, and Anderson) would be something to Marvel at. We believed.

Six games is far too early to get up and walk out of the theater, but the concern is starting to set in. This was supposed to be the year the Wizards embraced “pace and space,” and clearly they have, from an ideological standpoint.

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And the pace is certainly working. When the Wizards run, the Wizards are fun! And the Wizards win.

But when the tempo slows, the turnovers are rapid. The Wizards lead the league in turnovers at 19.8 per game. In their three losses, they have committed 23.0 turnovers per game (vs 16.3 in wins). John Wall alone has committed 6.0 turnovers per game in losses, and 5.0 per game overall, an unacceptable number that is neutralizing his effectiveness and neutering any MVP or All-NBA buzz. So what’s going on? Where is all that promise from last seasons playoffs? Where’s all the space?

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Well, a lot of it is wearing #34 in Los Angeles, California. The rest? The rest just hasn’t materialized as we’d hoped so far. The guys tasked with creating space simply aren’t creating space, allowing defenses to clog driving lanes, jump predictable passing lanes, and basically challenge Wizards “shooters” with this type of disrespect.

So just how bad is it right now? Let’s go inside the numbers:

John Wall:

John Wall is our guy. We will all happily ride or die with John Wall. He’s like the David Fincher of the NBA, a star putting out brilliant performances year after year, yet without national recognition, despite doing stuff like this:

But right now, he’s struggling, and his lack of spot-up three point shooting is suffocating the Wizards spacing.

Overall, Wall’s 3-point shooting has stayed relatively consistent, shooting 29% overall through six games, compared to 30% last season. But Wall is struggling mightily as a catch and shoot threat, a vital aspect of creating space for the new-look Wizards offense. Take a closer look at his 3-point shooting numbers this season versus last season.

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Ugh. 22% on catch and shoot threes through six games is a large and debilitating regression. I’m not saying he needs to shoot like James Bond, but he can’t keep shooting like a Storm Trooper. His 32% on pull up 3s is OK, but these shots are often coming at the end of the shot clock. Simply put, that percentage is likely to drop taking shots like this:

We talked about Wall’s turnovers….kinda depressing. Knowing that he’s indirectly contributing to some of the other turnovers, too?….Even more depressing.

Otto Porter:

This was supposed to be the year of the Otto. Remember last year’s playoffs? Of course you do. You remember the scoring. You remember the promise. And you remembered Trevor Ariza. Well, these numbers will give you some insight on the value of the corner 3, and how making vs missing can completely change the perception of a players performance.

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Otto this season:

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vs. last season’s playoffs:

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OP JR. is actually shooting better from above the break than last season, both regular season and playoffs. But look at that corner 3-point shooting! Fifty percent from the left corner and 71 percet from the right corner in the playoffs compared to 0 percent and 20 percent this season. That’s a problem. Hitting corner 3’s is a vital aspect of being a successful 3 and D wing. The corner 3 is among the most efficient shots in basketball, and also a shot that is often readily available, particularly for small forwards (and point guards, John).

Otto has had some good games this year, but his success is hinging on tempo. He needs to find his stroke in the half court, and from the corners, or the Wizards spacing will continue to be limited.

Kris Humphries:

Disclaimer: I have no problem with the way Kris Humphries is shooting. He’s never been a stretch-4. He attempted just seven 3’s all of last season, and made zero. Expanding your game from a non-shooter to a knock-down shooter takes more than one offseason. Given his history, I’d say he’s actually doing extremely well. 39% is a very respectable 3-point percentage for a stretch-4.

But opponents know that Kris is unproven, and they’re going to continue leaving him open and making him prove he can be dangerous on a consistent basis.

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Hump is a work in progress. The more he improves, the better everyone will look. Accurate Hump shooting means fewer Wall turnover, fewer clogged driving lanes, and fewer losses. However, it will take consistent shooting from Kris before teams start respecting his stroke. Given his shooting history (or lack thereof), positive consistency is no guarantee.

Bradley Beal:

My God. Where would the Wizards be without The Dragon Warrior. Let’s take a moment:

I don’t need to give you stats to tell you that Bradley Beal is BALLIN! But I will anyway:

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Yeah….that’s what we call making THE LEAP. Beal is almost single handedly spacing the floor for the Wizards right now. He’s demanding that teams respect his shooting, and then abusing hard closeouts with strong drives to the basket. He’s throwing *fire emoji* when creating shots for himself, and shooting even better on catch and shoot opportunities.

All of which makes his health and the status of his shoulder that much more vital. There’s the Wizards that have Bradley Beal……

….And then there’s the Wizards that have cable:

The good news? It’s not academy award season quite yet, nor is it award season in the NBA. Six games does not make a season. Shoot, six games barely makes a sample. There’s plenty of time for things to turn around. Wall has time to show he’s a decent catch and shoot option. Otto has time to show the 2015 playoffs are the new rule, not the exception. Kris Humphries has time to keep stretching into a true stretch-4.

The ideas are in the right place. Keep the pace up. Keep the shots coming. When the shots start falling, the space will come, and so too will the wins. And we’ll see less Wizards basketball that looks like The Red Wedding, and more basketball that looks worthy of The Red Carpet.

Until then, Pray for Beal.

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