The Wizards made a series of moves last summer to improve their 3-point shooting and, on paper, it appeared that they did. After they finished the 2020-21 season 28th in 3-pointers made (10.2/g) and 23rd in percentage (35.1), they added players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope via trade and Corey Kispert through the draft. NBC Sports Washington did the math on what their newly compiled roster shot the year before and figured the Wizards had a chance to be league average from 3-point range.
They were far from that. In fact, they somehow got worse. The Wizards in 2021-22 made the fewest threes of any team (10.5.g) and ranked 26th in percentage (34.2). It was a cautionary tale of how not everything goes according to plan. Davis Bertans became a shell of himself, while Bradley Beal shot a career-low percentage from long range, combining with Spencer Dinwiddie to form one of the least efficient backcourts in the league.
In the modern NBA, 3-point shooting is king and the Wizards really struggled in that department. It was a prohibitive problem.
So, the Wizards set out this summer once again with 3-point shooting in mind. They brought in three players in particular who should help their cause; Monte Morris, Will Barton and Delon Wright. All three should play key roles in the rotation, with Morris projected to start at point guard and Barton possibly at the three.
There should also be a chance for improvement from within. Rui Hachimura made a significant leap with his 3-point shooting last season, but only for half of the year. If he plays a full season shooting a similar percentage, that should make a difference.
Kristaps Porzingis should also give the Wizards more 3-point shooting at the center position after only playing 17 games for them last year. Kispert could be more consistent and better than he was as a rookie. Deni Avdija could come back with a better outside shot after his first full and healthy offseason.
But setting aside those best-case scenarios, let's first go strictly off of what these guys shot last year. Let's look at the 11 veteran players most likely to be in the rotation and tally up the score. Here is what they shot last year:
Will Barton 157/430 (36.5%)
Kyle Kuzma 128/375 (34.1%)
Monte Morris 124/314 (39.5%)
Corey Kispert 112/320 (35%)
Deni Avdija 82/259 (31.7%)
Kristaps Porzingis 78/252 (31.0%)
Bradley Beal 63/210 (30%)
Rui Hachimura 55/123 (44.7%)
Delon Wright 44/116 (37.9%)
Taj Gibson 15/38 (39.5%)
Daniel Gafford 0/1 (0.00%)
(this list excludes Johnny Davis, who is entering his rookie season)
If you take their makes and attempts and average everything out, this rotation shot 35.2% last season. According to Basketball Reference, the league average 3-point percentage last season was 35.4%. So, the Wizards would be right about in the middle of the league. The San Antonio Spurs shot 35.2% last season as a team and placed 18th among 30 NBA teams.
Even shooting league average from three, or just below that threshold, would represent a major step forward for the Wizards. They went 35-47 last season, yet were 26-22 when they made at least 10 threes. Conversely, the Wizards went 9-25 when they made fewer than 10 threes.
Just because the Wizards project to be about league average in terms of 3-point percentage, based on what their players shot last year, doesn't mean that will be the case, as we saw in 2021-22. However, they could also be better than expected if a few things go their way.
Here are a couple of factors that could. One is if Beal doesn't shoot a career-worst 3-point percentage again. Another is Kispert shoots for a full season like he did after the All-Star break as a rookie, when he knocked down 38.6%. Like Beal, Porzingis also shot a career-low from long range; maybe that doesn't happen again. And then Hachimura could carry his percentage over a full season, rather than 42 games, or roughly half of one.
Let's punch in Beal's numbers from the 2020-21 season when he played in more games and shot a better percentage from three (34.9%). Let's also use Porzingis' career 3-point percentage (35.3%) on the same attempts he shot last year. And let's extrapolate Hachimura's percentage and attempts over a full season, plus Kispert's post-All-Star-break percentage.
In the case of all four of those elements going the Wizards' way, the percentage rises to 36.8%. That would have ranked 5th-best in the NBA. Again, though, that would require Beal and Porzingis to shoot about 5% better, Kispert to shoot 38.6% from deep and Hachimura to shoot 44.7% from three for the entire season. It also does not account for volume, which is important to note and harder to apply year-over-year given all the different variables.
The more realistic expectation may be that the Wizards will shoot around or just below league average from three. As last year showed, expectation doesn't always match up with reality. But the Wizards appear to have made some progress in terms of 3-point shooting. Perhaps this time it will work as designed.