Kispert lives up to hype by setting Wizards record


WASHINGTON -- Once the first few picks are off the board is when the NBA Draft usually becomes less predictable, but when the Wizards were on the clock at 15th last summer, one player stood out as an obvious fit. They desperately needed 3-point shooting and still available was the best 3-point shooter in the class, Corey Kispert of Gonzaga.

The Wizards didn't overthink it, they took him and hoped his impressive track record as a shooter would translate to the next level. He shot threes at a high percentage, at high volume and over a large sample size of four years in college. Odds are he was eventually going to do the same at the NBA level.

So far, so good. On Sunday night in the Wizards' win over the Warriors, Kispert scored a career-high 25 points, made a career-high six threes and in doing so set the Wizards' rookie franchise record for threes made in a single season. He got the record with his second three of the night, his 92nd of the year. His sixth triple also tied a rookie franchise record for threes made in a single game.

Both previous marks were held by Bradley Beal, who was in street clothes on the Wizards' bench and handed Kispert the game ball soon after the final buzzer. The Wizards drafted Kispert in hopes he could be their next great shooter and he's off to a good start.


"That's kind of my calling card. That's the reason why I'm here. You need an elite skill to be an NBA player and mine is shooting it," Kispert said.

Kispert didn't find this level of success overnight. He had a slow start to the season, but has continued to improve, raising his field goal percentage every single month. He's also having his best month shooting from the perimeter, now at 42.4% in March. Kispert has raised his 3-point percentage for the season to 35.2.

As his percentages go up, so has his confidence. Kispert hit a stepback three in the first half on Sunday night, a departure from his usual method of shooting threes off the catch.

Kispert said he is "excited" for this offseason because he already knows what he wants to focus on in improving his game. Creating his own shot is one area and he also wants to get more flexible and mobile to mitigate injuries.

Kispert, though, is already seeing his hard work pay off on the fly. When Beal went down for the season with a left wrist injury in February, Kispert assumed his role in the starting lineup. He has since averaged 11.7 points in 31.3 minutes, shooting 47.7% from the field and 38.9% from three on 6.2 attempts per game. 

The 3-point shooting numbers are not quite elite, but they are also not far off. Only 10 players in the NBA this season shoot a higher percentage on at least six attempts per game.

Wizards veteran Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shoots with Kispert every day at practice. He called Kispert his 'Basket 3 buddy,' a reference to the hoop they shoot on at the Wizards practice facility. They joke around by calling that basket their "vacation spot."

Caldwell-Pope has seen Kispert's progress firsthand and can attest to the work he puts in.

"That's great for him to see your numbers go up every month. That's great for a shooter, just to see your progress... Every game he gets better," Caldwell-Pope said.

Despite Kispert's emergence, the Wizards have remained one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the NBA this season. They are dead-last in the league in threes made per game (10.4).

That means it's likely to be a big point of emphasis this offseason. They are going to need to find more shooters to address the problem.

In Kispert, though, they appear to have a really good 3-point shooter breaking through from within. It's what he was drafted to do and he's starting to look as advertised.