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Davis Bertans, after 3-point contest snub, torching NBA from beyond arc

Davis Bertans

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 18: Davis Bertans #42 of the Washington Wizards celebrates after making a three point basket in the first half against the Chicago Bulls at Capital One Arena on December 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

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Davis Bertans was making 47.2% of his 3-pointers on 4.4 attempts per game when the NBA announced the 3-point-contest field last season. The selections included

  • Seth Curry (48.5%, 2.9)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (42.9%, 4.0)

Not Bertans.

Bertans, who was then on the Spurs, said he was told he got omitted because he didn’t shoot enough. But he doesn’t believe that. He has two other theories:

“I was playing in San Antonio. It was a small market. People outside of San Antonio rarely follow the team.”

“They try to bring in guys who are more popular to bring the show, and it’s more fun for the fans. I think that’s the direction they went. They bring in Dirk and the Curry brothers.”

Bertans said he understands why the NBA chose the players it did. He also appreciated spending more time with his wife and baby daughter. “When the All-Star game was going on, I wasn’t upset for a second that I wasn’t there,” Bertans said. But he wanted to compete. He cheered for unheralded Nets guard Joe Harris, who campaigned his way into the contest and won it over Stephen Curry.

This season, Bertans wants his own turn in the event in Chicago.

“I don’t think they can use the same excuse if they don’t take me again,” Bertans said.

They sure can’t.

Now with the Wizards, Bertans is attempting 8.6 3-pointers per game and making 46.2% of them. The 6-foot-10 power forward is on track for one of the best outside-shooting seasons in NBA history.

Nobody has ever matched his combination of volume and efficiency. Here are the highest 3-point percentages among players attempting even six 3-pointers per game:

Davis Bertans 3-point shooting

Bertans is making nearly four 3-pointers per game. That puts him on pace to make 325 3s over 82 games. Only Stephen Curry (four times) and James Harden (once) have ever made 300 3-pointers in a season.

Not bad for someone who has repeatedly been afterthought.

Drafted No. 42 by the Pacers in 2011, Bertans was traded to San Antonio on draft night. You know the deal by two other players involved: No. 15 pick Kawhi Leonard and George Hill.

Bertans remained in Europe several more seasons. He tore his ACL in 2013, rehabbed and returned stronger. Then, he tore the same ACL again in 2015. One of his main responsibilities at the time was calming his family, which was concerned the injury could derail his career.

“Everybody else was more worried about me than I was,” Bertans said.

Bertans did what he did during his first rehab. He kept his head down and focused on the day-to-day.

Finally, he signed with the Spurs in 2016. Bertans played well, but his role remained limited on a team resistant to 3-point shooting. He mostly just spotted up beyond the arc to space the floor and shoot when open.

Last summer, San Antonio practically gave away Bertans and his $7 million salary to create flexibility for signing Marcus Morris. Morris reneged on his deal with the Spurs to sign with the Knicks. But Bertans was already gone.

That worked out great for Bertans. In Washington, he has the ultimate green light.

“Any shot is a good shot,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of Bertans, who’s averaging 15.8 points per game. “I mean, really.”

There’s seemingly no limit on how Bertans creates and knocks down 3-pointers. His height and quick release allow him to shoot over defenders, and his mobility and ability to square up on the move get him open. Everything works.

He makes catch-and-shoot 3-pointers (minimum: 60 attempts):

Davis Bertans 3-point shooting

He launches off-the-dribble 3-pointers (minimum: 30 attempts):

Davis Bertans 3-point shooting

He cashes in when left open or wide open, per, on 3-pointers (minimum: 60 attempts):

Davis Bertans 3-point shooting

He hits 3-pointers when the defense is tight or very tight, per (minimum: 40 attempts):

Davis Bertans 3-point shooting

He bombs from deep (26 to 40 feet, so to filter out end-of-quarter heaves, per Basketball-Reference) (minimum: 40 attempts):

Davis Bertans 3-point shooting

The versatility of Bertans’ shooting is just incredible.

“He’s J.J. Redick at 6-9, 6-10,” Washington guard Ish Smith said.

Bertans will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said he wants to re-sign Bertans, who’ll be up for a big raise. The 27-year-old could help many teams on his next contract.

But Bertans isn’t looking too far ahead. Eying a spot in the 3-point contest is about as far as he’ll go. He has more pressing issues, like opposing defenses increasingly keying on him.

“You’ve got to be on high alert if he’s standing over in the corner looking like he’s doing nothing. That tells you he’s trying to trick you to get off,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s coming.”