Wizards

Kispert shows promise with best game so far

Wizards

Davis Bertans spraining his left ankle against the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 1 was not ideal for the Wizards. It did, however, create a window of opportunity for rookie Corey Kispert, both for him to see more playing time and for the Wizards to get a more extended look at their 2021 first-round pick.

Like most rookies, Kispert has been slow to find his footing in the NBA. In his first seven games after Bertans went out, Kispert averaged just 3.7 points while shooting 18.8% from three. He was billed as the best shooter in the draft, but even after four years of success in college, it has taken him time to adjust to the NBA level.

Thursday night, however, was a step forward. He finally got his threes to fall by making three of them in the first half and he finished with a career-high 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting from the field.

The Wizards lost the game to the Miami Heat, but their least experienced rotation player showed signs of progress.

"Corey's done a great job staying ready. His biggest thing is he's just gotta be confident in himself," Kyle Kuzma said. "That's the No. 1 thing I see with him. He's out there for a reason. He's one of our best shooters, we've seen it all September and even in practices."

Kispert went 3-for-7 from three, setting a career-high for 3-pointers made. He knocked all of them down within a span of four minutes and 59 seconds. All three were on catch-and-shoot plays, the types he used to feast off of in college at Gonzaga.

 

The Wizards drafted Kispert 15th overall largely because of his 3-point shooting. In four years with the Zags, he shot 40.8% from deep. As a senior, he made 44.0% of his threes on 6.5 attempts per game.

Kispert may develop into one of the game's best 3-point shooters, but he still has plenty to learn before he can find consistency at the NBA level. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. pointed out some of the things he did against Miami that he would like to see more of.

"His cutting and his moving; he was very aggressive and he didn't hesitate. He took the shots that were available, didn't turn them down. When he felt pressure, he was great with going [off the] catch and getting into the paint, kick out and respace. That's going to be the way he has to impact the game," Unseld Jr. said.

Kispert's three 3-pointers helped the Wizards improve in that area from a rough game the night before when they made only eight shots on 42 attempts against the Hornets. 3-point shooting has been a weakness for the Wizards overall this season, as they rank 24th in percentage (33.0) and 27th in makes (10.8/g).

Bertans has been making steady progress in the nearly three weeks since he first got injured. Recent comments from Unseld Jr. and team president Tommy Sheppard indicate he will be back next week and perhaps early in the week.

That may leave Kispert just a few more games before the minutes he has been offered start to dry up. But Thursday's performance was encouraging and it's inevitable the Wizards will have to rely on him more as the season goes on.