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Wizards having major issues getting to free throw line so far this season

Wizards having major issues getting to free throw line so far this season

WASHINGTON -- On Friday night, in their loss to the Cavaliers, the Wizards as a team shot only six free throws compared to 29 for Cleveland. The difference in makes was 25 to three and the Wizards lost by 13. Naturally, Wizards players and head coach Scott Brooks pointed to that discrepancy as a reason they lost, albeit carefully as to avoid fines from the league.

Although that was an extreme example, getting to the line has been an issue for the Wizards so far this season. After eight games, the Wizards are 29th out of 30 teams in free throw attempts. That has conveyed to the fourth-fewest points from free throws.

There are a few reasons for why this could become a long-term trend. For one, the Wizards are shooting more threes as they pivot to a more analytics-based shot profile. They are attempting 2.6 more threes per game this season than they did last year.

They are 15th in the NBA in shots within five feet, 22nd in drives and 26th in post-ups. They are posting up just 4.4 times per game, less than a quarter of the league-leading Sixers who with Joel Embiid post up 18.2 times on average.

The Wizards are even taking long twos, despite their analytics push, with the fifth-most shots from within 15 to 19 feet of the rim. Add it all up and the Wizards, who ranked ninth in free throw attempts last season, are getting to the line far fewer times nowadays.

Head coach Scott Brooks has recognized the problem and is working on finding the exact solution.

"Nowadays, a lot of three-point shooters get fouled as well. We've just gotta keep working, keep doing it and believing in it and things will turn our way," he said.

Brooks pointed out how Bradley Beal, despite ranking 15th in the league in free throw attempts with 6.8 per game, should get even more. 

"That's the thing that's kind of a bit confusing to me. I'm trying to figure out ways to make it more clear and visible when he gets held," Brooks said.

What could also hurt the Wizards is the fact they have a lot of young and inexperienced players. Drawing fouls in the NBA is an art and so is defending without fouling.

Players generally learn over time the best ways to deal with NBA officiating. There are many tricks to the trade that guys like James Harden and DeMar DeRozan have mastered. They will dribble the ball through the lane and pull it in close right as they sense a defender's reach. They also, of course, know how to sell fouls to the refs.

That dynamic may hold the Wizards' younger players back until they get up to speed, even for a guy like Rui Hachimura whom Brooks sees great long-term potential in terms of getting free throws.

"Rui, to me he's going to be one of those guys who gets us six or seven or eight free throws a game eventually," Brooks said.

For now, it is a learning process, even for Brooks and Beal, a veteran coach and player.

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WATCH: Rui Hachimura dunks on Clippers' Ivica Zubac

WATCH: Rui Hachimura dunks on Clippers' Ivica Zubac

Rui Hachimura scored a career-high 30 points the last time he and the Wizards played the Clippers, so on Sunday, the rookie's confidence had to be high. 

Hachimura did most of his damage against Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell, and when Ish Smith whipped a pass to him on the baseline, Zubac wasn't stopping the rookie forward from slamming it on him. 

Zubac is the kind of big Hachimura should be able to feast on. Hachimura can match up with him on defense since he doesn't have much of an offensive skill set and can blow by him on the perimeter. 

If the Clippers decide to put a much better defender on Hachimura like Harrell, the hope is he'd have built up some confidence finishing at the rim to the point where it doesn't matter who's guarding him. 

It seems like Hachimura has a finish like this every game, so we'll be here to give you most of them as the young forward develops toward potential stardom. 

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Davis Bertans is on track to hit to become the third player in NBA history to hit 300 three pointers

Davis Bertans is on track to hit to become the third player in NBA history to hit 300 three pointers

The Wizards have unlocked Davis Bertans' full potential as a marksman this season, and it could lead to he Latvian forward joining Stephen Curry and James Harden in the NBA history books. 

Through 21 games, Bertans is averaging 14.4 points on 45 percent shooting and 44.8 percent from three on 8.3 attempts per game. Before this season, Bertans' career-high in attempts from deep was 4.4 last season. 

That's 78 made threes so far this season, which puts him in a tie for third place in the NBA along with Buddy Hield. He trails only Devontae Graham and James Harden. 

As of now, Bertans is on track to make 304 three-pointers by the end of the season. That would be the fifth-most makes in a season in NBA history and make him just the second player ever to eclipse 300 triples.

Curry has done it each of the last three seasons, including the year he hit 402 (!) threes in 2016. James Harden hit 378 threes last year and is well on track to do it again this season. 

It's hard to see Bertans slowing down at this point, but there's a reason only two players have ever accomplished this feat. He'll have a chance at adding to his impressive total Sunday night against the Clippers at 6 p.m. EST on NBC Sports Washington. 

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