All the right moves

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY NEIL GREEN­BERG neil.green­berg@wash­post.com Ex­cerpted from wash­ing­ton­post.com/ news/ fancy-stats

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.

NED DISHMAN/GETTY IM­AGES

Otto Porter Jr. drives past new team­mate Jared Dud­ley, shown with the Clip­pers in 2013. Dud­ley re­places Paul Pierce.

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