Will Porzingis help solve Wizards' biggest needs?

Kristaps Porzingis

While the Wizards enter this offseason with prevailing needs for defense and 3-point shooting, they may be helped over time in those areas simply by having Kristaps Porzingis play more for the team. He arrived at the February trade deadline and only appeared in 17 games for the Wizards, so their overall season numbers barely reflect his contributions.

Their overall numbers are troubling and suggest they need a good deal of help. They ranked 25th in defensive efficiency, 21st in paint points allowed per game (48.2) and 30th in threes made per game (10.5). Porzingis alone will not solve those issues, but his presence is part of the equation as he both blocks shots and makes threes.

To what degree he will help will likely depend largely on his availability, as injury concerns have followed him throughout his career. Last season, he only appeared in 51 total games between the Mavericks and Wizards. As a result, he only made 78 total threes on the year. For comparison, Deni Avdija made 82 and he shot just 31.7%.

Porzingis, though, has a strong track record as a 3-point shooter especially relative to his position. He's a career 35.3% shooter from deep on 5.0 attempts per game. Only Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (39.0%, 5.3 3PA/g) held at least those numbers for the Wizards last season. 

In his 17 games with the Wizards, Porzingis made multiple threes in 10 of them. Amazingly, that set a franchise record for a Wizards center in a single season. The only other big man to have as many multiple-three games in one year was Chris Webber, a power forward, who did it twice in the 1990s.


Wizards president Tommy Sheppard said in his end-of-year press conference he wants the team to take and make more threes moving forward. Porzingis should help in terms of volume, health permitting. He and Kyle Kuzma are the projected starting big men for the Wizards and the two averaged a combined 10.6 3-point attempts per game last season. That's a rare quantity for a duo their size, with Kuzma at 6-foot-10 and Porzingis at 7-foot-3. Only the Bucks had two players 6-foot-10 or taller each attempt at least four threes per game last season.

The Wizards need to scale their 3-point shooting volume upward, as Sheppard notes. Caldwell-Pope led the Wizards with 159 total made threes last season. Meanwhile, 22 of 30 NBA teams had at least one player make 160 or more. The Jazz had four players do that and four other teams had three players hit that mark.

Porzingis did help the Wizards' 3-point shooting effort in his brief tenure this season. He shot 36.7% from three in his 17 games and the Wizards shot 36.4% in the month that he played, compared to their 34.2% clip for the season. The ascendance of players like Rui Hachimura also factored into that cause. 

Porzingis' defensive impact is harder to quantify. While he blocks shots, that's not the only determining factor of good defense. His role as the Wizards' defensive anchor will be to protect the rim by also altering shots and being reliable in different situations, namely pick-and-rolls.

The Wizards, for instance, didn't improve much at paint defense when Porzingis was on the floor. They allowed 47.7 paint points per game when he played compared to 48.2 for the season as a whole.

Regardless, there seems to be considerable potential in the Porzingis and Daniel Gafford pairing. Both ranked in the top-15 among NBA players this season in blocks per game, Porzingis at 1.6 and Gafford at 1.4. The Pacers and Jazz were the only other two teams with that distinction.

Both Porzingis and Gafford were also top-20 in contested twos per game, joining the Celtics and Cavs as the only three teams to have that. And Gafford was particularly efficient in that regard, ranking seventh in the NBA in contested twos per-36 minutes, an ideal trait for a bench player.

Porzingis and Gafford are each capable of big shot-blocking performances that can change games. Gafford and Porzingis each had three games with 5-plus blocks this season. Before this season, Alex Len (who did it once) was the only Wizards player with at least five blocks in a game in the previous five years.

As they are currently constituted, the Wizards will have two starting big men (Kuzma and Porzingis) who can stretch the floor and make threes. They will have two centers, one the starter (Porzingis) and the other his backup (Gafford), who can block shots and protect the rim.


Porzingis being on the team creates those dynamics and the longer he plays for the Wizards, the more he could help their biggest areas of need. They may still require significant improvements in those categories, but he should give them a decent head start.