WASHINGTON -- Apparently, sometimes zero minus two equals four. Since the trade deadline, the Wizards have seen a sharp reversal of their season-long difficulties making threes and, rather amazingly, right after Davis Bertans and Bradley Beal left the rotation.
Bertans and Beal were the most accomplished 3-point shooters on the Wizards for the majority of this season, all while the team has collectively averaged a league-worst 10.3 threes per game and has ranked 26th in percentage (33.2). But since Bertans was traded and Beal's season was cut short due to injury, those remaining on the roster have caught fire as a group.
Over their last seven games since the trade deadline, the Wizards have averaged 12.7 threes made per game while shooting 40.5%, good for second in the NBA during that stretch. These seven games include an outburst of 17 threes against the Pacers on Feb. 16 and another with 16 threes against the Spurs on Feb. 25.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the Wizards look like a completely different team shooting from the outside.
"I think a lot of that is just the ball movement and the types of threes we’re generating; less off the bounce, more catch and shoot in rhythm," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. "That bodes to our assist numbers. The ball has been moving and we’re getting to spots, we’re shot-ready."
Indeed, the assists numbers have increased as well. Over the last seven games, the Wizards are averaging 26.0 assists per game, up from their 24.1 per game clip. On Friday night against the Spurs, they recorded a season-high with 36 assists.
That said, there has not been a significant increase for the Wizards in creating open looks. According to NBA tracking data, they are averaging 15.0 wide open threes (defender is 6+ feet away) over the last seven games compared to their 13.8 per game rate for the season. However, they are now making 45.7% of those looks compared to 37.0% on the season overall.
The threes are helping their offense overall and not surprisingly. They have a 113.3 offensive rating in the last seven games, which would rank fourth in the league if held over the entire season. On the year, their 109.1 offensive rating ranks 21st in the NBA.
A lot of players are getting involved in the 3-point attack. Rui Hachimura has led the way, shooting a scorching-hot 70.6% from long range over his last seven games. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma have each shot 45.7%, Anthony Gill has made 40% and Raul Neto hasn't been far behind at 39.1%.
Kuzma made a career-high eight threes against the Cavs on Saturday night. Earlier this season, after a rare game in which the Wizards were hot from three, he remarked how much different the team's results would be if they merely shot league average from the perimeter. He's encouraged by this recent stretch.
"It’s great. The 3-point line is the great equalizer in basketball. Obviously, it’s a big part of the game. You have to take them and you have to make them at a reasonable clip. It makes the game a lot easier, it puts a lot more stress on the defense and it just makes everything click a little bit more," he said.
The Wizards are still missing Kristaps Porzingis, who remains out with a bone bruise in his right knee. He has traditionally been a 3-point threat and a unique one at that, given his size at 7-foot-3. Porzingis shot 37.6% from three on 6.0 attempts per game just last season, though his percentage has dipped to a career-low 28.3 this year.
As the majority of this season has shown, however, sometimes it's not as simple as adding good shooters into the mix. The Wizards had Bertans and Beal, who have a combined 3,263 made threes for their career, and they remained one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the league. If this recent sample size is a sign of more to come, it may be more of an indication of the types of threes they are taking rather than those who are taking them.
Perhaps these last seven games are an aberration that will be exposed over time, but it's been an unexpected surprise for the Wizards and one they certainly hope will continue.