Washington Wizards: Will The New Offense Be A Better Offense?


Will the Washington Wizards’ New Offense Be A Better Offense?

The NBA is an ever-changing game. Teams get get left behind. React or die.

In response to a second straight Eastern semifinals loss, Randy Wittman and the Washington Wizards were left with no other option but to change their ways. Offenses that had won championships for so long, like what the Wizards ran last season, are getting shown the door.

Two burly big men down low, slash-only wings, and mid-range happy shooters; all trumped by the magic of team tracking and player data.

Unassisted midrange attempts account for 20 percent of all shots, but yield just .67 points per attempt. When they’re assisted, however, they yield .97 points per shot (according to SportVu).

What is this data telling us, you ask? Pull-up jumpers: bad. Catch-and-shoot jumpers: very good.

Teams like the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs have some very talented shooters, but success in the percentages comes from ball movement. Assists and efficient offense are very closely related, and teams that were in the top five in assists last season were also in the top five in True Shooting percentage (TS%).

The data also tells us why the deep, unassisted mid-range attempt is the worst shot in basketball. Such an accusation shouldn’t be a surprise to most fans, but the numbers make teams that still shoot them often, look silly.

The Washington Wizards were one of the worst offenders last season. Bradley Beal, an elite shooter from deep, took too many unassisted pull-up jumpers from midrange, and didn’t make nearly enough.

According to nba.com, Beal was shooting 5.5% more pull-ups than catch-and-shoots, and his eFG% was 16 points lower on the former. For John Wall‘s favorite target in both the halfcourt and transition, the numbers stick out like a sore thumb.

Beal’s shot selection did improve during last season’s first round against the Toronto Raptors, and the offensive thrived as a result. He shot 9.4 3-pointers per game, versus 6.1 during the regular season.

In response to that, Wittman employed more sets and lineups that focused on Paul Pierce rotating out to the perimeter at power forward. While the offense wasn’t able to take another leap against a stingy Hawks defense, quality spacing was created with three or four three-point shooters consistently on the floor and in good position.

Now Wittman, in somewhat of a surprising move (as Ben Mehic discussed), is going all-in on the pace-and-space, read-and-react offensive movement for this season.

More space will be created for shooters like Beal to take advantage of more efficient shots in the catch-and-shoot, and Wall will have even more opportunities to rack up double digit assists.

It isn’t just a playbook change; lots of specific help was signed during the offseason in Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley, and Gary Neal. 33-year-old Nene, an inconsistent shooter from 10 feet and out and a sub-par rebounder for his size, will start the season on the bench.

It makes sense on paper: Nene’s niche role makes more sense in the second unit.

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A quicker, more consistent outside shooter in a starting role fits the new mold.

But recent injuries to Anderson and Dudley will slow down prep time.

Flowing into a new offense always takes a while. Instincts must be adjusted. Players are in new positions on the floor, and pass sequences are different. Mistakes will happen.

But Anderson, a key shooter off the bench, just underwent his second ankle surgery on Tuesday after missing all training camp and preseason.

The 32-year-old was one of the least heralded offseason signings, but Wittman was planning on him to be a valued veteran member of the second unit. Maybe even a sixth man; and now it’s possible he misses a couple months.

This is on top of preexisting injuries to Dudley (back), Garrett Temple (hamstring), and Martell Webster (hip). All three will likely be ready for the season opener in Orlando, but practice time in the new offense will likely not be enough when they do come back.

Because of this, Wittman will have two options for the first month or so: constantly mix and match lineups and move players out of position to keep four confident three-point shooters on the floor at all time, or revert back to the old offense.

The former would likely involve Otto Porter seeing time at the four — a position he is severely undersized for — and both Ramon Sessions/Gary Neal at the one and two. Kelly Oubre will get some early minutes he won’t be ready for.

Wittman, and old-school coach, may not be able to bring himself to do that.

Reverting back to the old offense should be a last resort.

Nene and Gortat down low, a focus on quick transition baskets, and a narrow half-court offense; the Washington Wizards have been stagnant in the playoffs with that philosophy. Not to mention this season is a big part of the recruiting pitch for Kevin Durant, and Washington can’t afford anything less than a Conference Finals appearance.

So exercise caution alongside optimism for the offense. New isn’t always guaranteed to be better.

Next: Washington Wizards, Randy Wittman Need to Have Patience with New Offense

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