After adopting a new pace-and-space offense over the summer, the Wizards own a 2-1 record one week into the NBA season.
Their transition to an up-tempo, small-ball game hasn't been without hiccups, but it's already paying off in a key area: Drawing fouls.
In an ideal world, every trip down the floor would result in an easy basket at the rim, a 3-point field goal or a trip to the free throw line for Washington.
The Wizards haven't shot well from downtown (35.2%), but they're leading the league in personal fouls drawn per game (28) according to player tracking data on NBA.com. They're also 2nd in free throw attempts (34) and fast-break points (20.7) per game.
John Wall has drawn 5 fouls per game by himself, while Bradley Beal and Ramon Sessions are right behind him averaging 4 apiece.
Those numbers represents a major leap from last year, when the team finished 22nd with 19.6 fouls drawn per game. It's also the most obvious evidence of what their new offense does to opponents.
Pace creates the threat of fast-break buckets, while space spreads out defenders around the perimeter and opens lanes to the basket. The system forces opposing players into fouls, either intentionally to prevent an uncontested bucket or accidentally as they struggle to stay in front of the ball handler.
When asked about drawing more fouls this season, coach Randy Wittman said it was part of the plan.
"That was an area we had to improve on," he said. "Spacing the floor and having people running softer lines has gotten us where we've put the ball on the floor and gotten fouls going to the basket."
Though three regular season games is a small sample size, Wittman noted that Washington got to the line a lot during the preseason as well.
"I think it's a byproduct of our spacing," he said.
Drawing fouls has its pitfalls, though. The Wizards are shooting a middling 77.5% from the stripe, plus they're taking hard knocks at high speeds -- a dangerous combination for a team hoping to make a deep playoff run. Want proof? Just check out Beal after the season opener in Orlando.
But free throws are among the most efficient shots in basketball, so every trip to the line represents a valuable opportunity for Washington.
Those opportunities will be harder to come by Wednesday night against San Antonio. So far this season, the Spurs have averaged the fewest personal fouls (15.5) in the NBA.
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