All the right moves
The Washington Wizards finished the regular season with a 46-36 record, their best since 1978-79. They also tied a franchise best with 19 wins in their first 25 games. They advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1979 and swept an opponent — the Toronto Raptors — in a best-ofseven series for the first time in franchise history.
The Wizards were a completely different team in the postseason. They opted to play small ball with Paul Pierce — now with the Los Angeles Clippers — at the stretch-four position. Coach Randy Wittman increased the team’s three-point shot attempts from 16.8 during the regular season to 23.3 in the playoffs.
Washington’s offseason acquisitions will allow that trend to continue.
Forward Jared Dudley, acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks, addresses the team’s need for more perimeter shooting. Bradley Beal and Pierce accounted for 40.7 percent of Washington’s three-point attempts; they made 39.9 percent. The rest of the team hit 33.3 percent.
In Milwaukee, Dudley shot 38.5 percent on threes last season.
When Dudley was guarded on a catch-and-shoot attempt, a critical component for an effective stretchfour forward, he had an effective field goal percentage of 51.4 percent. That jumped to an eFG% of 62.9 percent when he was unguarded, showing that defenses are going to want to keep track of where he is on the court. Perhaps most important, Dudley took 2.5 catch-and-shoot threes per game and hit 39.1 percent of them, which will further allow him to spread the defense.
He also was a solid roll man off ball screens, scoring 0.96 points per play per Synergy Sports.
As for replacing Pierce, Dudley’s playing style and overall regular season production were a near identical match. For example, Pierce’s most frequent play was spotting up, same as Dudley. Their second-most frequent play — running in transition — also was a match. Pierce’s thirdmost run play was coming off screens; Dudley’s was the pick and roll, making it more an apples-to-apples comparison.
Pierce had a true shooting percentage of 58 percent and took 46.2 percent of his field goals from beyond the three-point line. Dudley had a true shooting percentage of 57.2 percent and took 45.4 percent of his shots from three-point range.
Pierce shot 38.9 percent on threes, Dudley 38.5 percent. Pierce produced 0.138 win shares per 48 minutes, Dudley 0.116.
So while the loss of Pierce is one no team wants to be faced with, the addition of Dudley should help smooth the transition.
Gary Neal, who signed a one-year, $2.1 million deal, will contribute by giving the Wizards secondary scoring help from the bench. He split time between Charlotte and Minnesota last season, taking 2.8 three-point shots per game with the Timberwolves and hitting them at a 35.5 percent clip.
His improvement in Minnesota was partly a result of making a shot that was more closely guarded. With the Hornets, Neal was 8 for 45 (17.8 percent) on three-point shots with a defender within four feet. He was 5 for 18 (27.8 percent) on those shots for the Timberwolves. On wideopen shots (defender not within seven feet) from beyond the arc, he shot 66.7 percent. There is a sample size issue at play here, but if Neal can continue shooting with confidence, there is no reason he can’t post a threepoint shooting percentage close to his career mark of 38.1 percent — a rate that would have ranked third on the Wizards among players taking at least three three-point shots per game.
But newly acquired Alan Anderson is perhaps the team’s most potent longrange addition. Almost half his field goal attempts (47.7 percent) were from beyond the three-point line last season as a member of the Brooklyn Nets; he made 34.8 percent of them.
While many of the Wizards’ moves should be considered welcome changes, the team didn’t fill all its most glaring holes.
Washington needs to be concerned with the incumbent men in the middle.
Nene allowed opponents to shoot 58.7 percent in the paint and held opponents to a good but not great 0.83 points per play down low. He was terrible trying to cover the ballhandler in single coverage on the pick and roll (1.01 points allowed per play, placing him in the bottom 20 percent of the NBA), which he was called upon to do in more than a third (37.3 percent) of his defensive possessions.
Martin Gortat was very good at preventing points on the left block in the post (0.70 points allowed per play) but was below average on the right side (1.07 points allowed per play), where opponents scored at least one point 55.4 percent of the time and often muscled him to the basket.
It got so bad for Gortat on both sides of the ball that Wittman limited his court time in the second half for a while.
The Wizards also need a backup point guard. Ramon Sessions still is under contract for the upcoming season, but he’s not a shooter and struggles finishing around the rim.
So far, owner Ted Leonsis and General Manager Ernie Grunfeld have given Wittman everything he wanted. Now it is up to him to make it work and get the team to take the next step.
Otto Porter Jr. drives past new teammate Jared Dudley, shown with the Clippers in 2013. Dudley replaces Paul Pierce.