Washington Wizards Offense: Where It's Been, Where It Needs to Go | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Washington Wizards Offense: Where It’s Been, Where It Needs to Go

Updated: October 16, 2013

[Ed. Note: Below is second post by Cameron Purn, a basketball junkie from Seattle, WA, who attended Western Washington University and who now lives in Japan. His first TAI post statistically broke down John Wall’s defensive numbers compared to some other top NBA point guards. You can check out some of Cameron’s work on his own website, KeeperOfTheCourt.com, and you can follow him on Twitter here: @KeeperOTCourt. —Kyle W.]

The 2012-13 Washington Wizards had a league-low offensive rating of 100.2, per Basketball-Reference.com. Where did things go so wrong? And where didn’t they go wrong?

The Good.

#1. Shooting 3-pointers

The Wizards shot the 3 at a nice clip last year, and they were outstanding from the corners. A look at Washington’s shot performance last year:

via nba.com/stats

via nba.com/stats

#2. Transition play

Per NBA.com/stats, the Wizards ranked 10th in the league in fast-break points scored, at an average of 14.2 points per game (tied with the Jazz). The prospect of John Wall playing a potential 82 games next season hints at future improvement in this category, as he is the driving force behind their fast-paced pushes. Without Wall, the Wizards averaged 12.7 fast-break points per game in 2012-13 (ranked 17th); with Wall, that bumped up to 15.1 per game (tied with the Warriors for 7th best).

#3. Post passing

Washington’s post passing is notable almost entirely due to the presence of Nene. While the collective passing skill of Nene’s comrades down low is nothing spectacular (that of Emeka Okafor, Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker, and Kevin Seraphin), having even one player who can control the area in both the high and low post is highly valuable:

The Bad.

#1. Shooting 3-pointers

How was Washington’s long-distance shooting both a strength and a weakness? Because they didn’t tap into their 3-point shooting potential.

They shot an incredible 45.1 percent from the corners in 2012-13—second to only the Warriors, who shot 3s at an all-time rate last season. And yet the Wizards attempted only 7.6 percent of their shots from the corner spots. This degree of frequency pales in comparison to the inferior-shooting Rockets and Heat, for instance, who attempted 10 percent and 11 percent of their shots from the corners, respectively. Despite playing at a slower pace, the Heat shot 209 more corner 3s than the Wizards last season, good for 94 extra points if shot at the Wizards’ clip (45%); the faster-paced Rockets shot 188 more, good for 85 extra points.

Regarding their output from all spots beyond the arc, Washington ranked a respectable 10th in 3-point shooting percentage, but once again, lacked in frequency and ranked 20th in attempts.

An acceptable discrepancy? The league’s movement towards “small ball” offense (accompanied by its hoist-happy nature with 3s) may suggest otherwise. Numerous teams have welcomed this method of thinking and style of attack, and in fact, each and every one of the league’s best offenses attempted more 3-pointers than the Wizards. 

As it stands, though, the statisticians advancing the small ball movement can only point to an indirect positive correlation between embracing 3-pointers and a higher offensive rating. Only one thing is for certain in this particular case: the Wizards didn’t tap into their best offensive attribute, and, as any successful offense will tell you, that’s a big no-no.

#2. Pick-and-Roll rollers

Per mySynergySports.com, at 0.84 points per play, the Wizards ranked 28th in the league when the pick-and-roll (P&R) roller finished the play. We should remember that this statistic does not perfectly demonstrate the ability of the roller alone—how well the ball-handler plays the P&R is a factor, too. The amount of attention that the uninvolved players tend to attract also matters, and, of course, the entire team’s level of offensive execution plays a part.

A good roller will have some, if not all, of the following characteristics: he will embody an athletic player with good hands and be a big target; he will be a quick-minded passer; he will have a knack for diving to the hoop at the right time and speed; and he will have good scoring instincts. Last year, as the numbers suggest, these traits weren’t put on display by Washington’s big men.

#3. Coming off of screens

The Wizards took a screen-containing misdirection play designed to free shooters and ran it routinely last year. They did so with outstanding execution:

But at 0.77 points per play, the Wizards still ranked only 29th in the league at scoring with screen action. The unimpressive result here is an understandable one, actually:

  • John Wall was the only player that consistently demanded double-teams to relieve pressure from shooters.
  • The midrange shooting ability of the Wizards was below average.
  • John Wall and Martell Webster were the only players to pose as consistent off-the-dribble threats.

The reasoning behind the low-efficiency here becomes even clearer when recognizing that multiple Wizards players had trouble with shot selection last year. There wasn’t much favoritism within the offense, and thus, guys like Bradley Beal, Cartier Martin and Garrett Temple were given more of a green light than they’d been previously accustomed to (for Beal, it was merely a matter of getting adjusting to the NBA environment). These players, among others (Jordan Crawford immediately comes to mind), revealed their propensity to fling up shots when given just a tiny bit of space off of a screen. Choosing your spots is important, too, and watching film reveals players electing for long 2-pointers instead of open 3s, or unwisely passing up a midrange shot and barreling into a crowded lane.

In other cases, we observe the simple lack of exercising good judgment.

Of course, Jordan Crawford and Cartier Martin are now gone, and Bradley Beal has a year of NBA experience under his belt. Next season, it’s highly likely that we see less instances of him committing overzealous passes through traffic, and his shot selection will only improve.

#4. Making cuts

At 1.06 points per play, the Wizards’ ability to cut and finish ranked at a very unfortunate 29th in the league. Washington actually employs solid cutters at numerous positions: Jan Vesely is a bouncy big man with an affinity for staying on the move; Nene and Martell Webster both cut hard and display a good understanding of timing and spacing in cuts (they also have a pretty good two-man chemistry, too). However, the 2012-13 Wizards embodied a team with unsure hands, poor finishing ability (Nene and Okafor, for example, combined for a mere 36.6 percent inside 9 feet), unselfish but below-average passing tendencies (19th in assists, 25th in turnovers), and a semi-predictable halfcourt offense. These things hurt scoring efficiency with cuts.

Offensively, the bad clearly outweighed the good in 2012-13. Fortunately, there’s still plenty to appreciate and look forward to in Washington. In addition to the aforementioned post passing, 3-point shooting, and transition play, there are minute details of the Wizards’ halfcourt offense that do deserve praise (they do a terrific job of consistently opening up the wing on the weak side and recognizing shooters, for example).

Washington fans can certainly take solace in the fact that the Wizards are a young and blossoming team who are bound to improve. Fans can even look to Coach Wittman’s allocation of playing time last year, which was historically egalitarian (16 players averaged 15 minutes per game or more, with no one exceeding 33) and expect much more consistent rotations going forward. This will ultimately leading to better familiarity and cohesiveness.

Even without the implementation of a more sophisticated offense, the above combined with a little more luck with injuries could lead to much better offensive output in this upcoming season. In Washington, things are alright.

Cameron Purn