With Beal and Porzingis, why is Wizards’ offense stalling? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The 42-point margin in Friday night’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets marked the worst home loss in Wizards franchise history and just the 14th time they have lost by 40-plus points. While that is notable, it also served as a reminder of what this season could be like for Washington, in the sense that teams that hover around .500 tend to have high highs and low lows.
While a middle-of-the-road record may seem like a stable situation when you peer at the standings, teams that are .500 or close to it are usually consistently inconsistent. It can be a rollercoaster because you don’t know what to expect on a given night.
But the most surprising part of Friday night’s loss was arguably not the fact the Wizards’ defense was dominated by a depleted Nets team missing Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons and Seth Curry. It certainly was not surprising to see Kevin Durant light them up, given his track record.
But 86 points? That’s all they scored and the Wizards were essentially at full strength, minus Delon Wright, whose impact is felt more on the defensive end. Keep in mind Brooklyn entered this game ranked dead-last in the NBA in defensive rating.
Following the loss to Brooklyn, which marks four losses in five games for the Wizards, Washington now sits 27th in the NBA in points per game (108.0) and 22nd in offensive rating (109.7). While they show up better in some areas, like field goal percentage (14th, 47.0%), the objective of basketball is to put the ball in the hoop and the Wizards just aren’t doing that enough.
The Wizards actually ranked slightly higher in scoring (22nd) and offensive rating (21st) last season, even without Bradley Beal for half of the season, without Kristaps Porzingis for the majority of the year and without other difference-makers like new addition Will Barton.
It’s a confusing early season trend for the Wizards. On paper, they seem to have the personnel to field a high-scoring offense. Beal, Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma is a solid scoring trio at their core and they have considerable depth with guys who can get hot like Barton, Monte Morris, Rui Hachimura and Daniel Gafford helping fill out the rest of their rotation.
It’s just not working by design. Beal, Morris, Hachimura and Barton are all scoring below their career averages. The volume hasn’t been there and neither has the efficiency, despite Beal and Porzingis each carrying career-highs in effective field goal percentage.
The elephant in the room when it comes to the Wizards’ offense is, once again, their 3-point shooting. After ranking 30th in threes made and 29th in attempts last season, the Wizards are once again 30th and 29th. They shot 34.2% from deep last season. They are shooting 32.7% so far this year.
Washington lost the 3-point shooting margin 5-to-19 on Wednesday and had to make NBA history to beat the Sixers. On Friday, they made eight threes compared to 14 for the Nets.
It’s going to be hard to win games with that type of deficit on the 3-point line. In their first nine games, the Wizards made fewer threes than their opponents seven times.
The Wizards appear to have a chance to score more in volume as the season transpires because they have a decent quantity of players who can score. But fixing their efficiency, specifically by making more threes, may be difficult.
They just got Corey Kispert back and he should help. But he was on the team last year when they had trouble shooting threes and can’t fix the issue all by himself.
Wright also represents a 3-point threat, though a low-volume one, and some guys like Beal and Morris are shooting below what they usually do from three (though Beal’s recent seasons may suggest otherwise). Hachimura also emerged as the team’s best 3-point shooter last year, but this season is making just 23.5% of his long-range shots.
The Wizards drafted 10th overall pick Johnny Davis for a variety of reasons, but 3-point shooting wasn’t one of them. He made just 30.6% from three last year at Wisconsin. He’s unlikely to help them anytime soon in that area.
Being a bad 3-point shooting team creates a small margin for error for the Wizards. When their opponent gets hot from deep, which many teams in this era can do with regularity, they are fighting an uphill battle trying to keep up. They aren’t equipped for shootouts.
The Wizards have only played nine games and, as we saw last season, early season trends can be deceiving. But while much focus is placed on the Wizards’ defense, and for good reason, their offense seems to be underperforming to a significant degree. Making some threes would be a good way to start pulling themselves out of it.