In Defense of the Deep Two: My Favorite Open Shot | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

In Defense of the Deep Two: My Favorite Open Shot

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Updated: October 19, 2015

[Ed. Note: This is the TAI debut of Lucas Hubbard (@LucasHubbard1), an NBA fan and Duke grad from Maine who is now living in the D.C. area. He’s been a Warriors fan since 2009, but we shall accept him here, as the Washington Wizards are his East Coast darling. Today, Lucas breaks out his shield to defend attacks on long 2-pointers. Enjoy.]

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The NBA—despite all its offseason recombinations and exchanges, Twitter or otherwise—fosters a pretty similar environment each season. LeBron’s team will break out of the gate slowly before blossoming in late spring; Draymond Green’s turtle-like corpus will talk disproportionate amounts of trash; the Clippers and Rockets will systematically, parasitically drain the enjoyment from the sport. In many senses, the league is a fragile ecosystem.

So when one of the perennials of this ecosystem—like Randy Wittman’s heartbreakingly chaste commitment to the midrange jumper—finds itself encroached upon, it’s cause for concern. Fear, even. And while most hoops fans embrace the sleek, evolved chassis of the 3-point shot, I’m here to sound the alarm: Deep 2s (DTs) are an endangered species, and they need our help.

Let’s not mince words: DTs are irredeemably bad shots. They’re the confluence of lazy strategy and faulty red lights, the basketball equivalent of a nuclear launch code sounding when all are off-duty and any warm body is seen as a potential savior.  “Here, Josh Smith, you deal with it!” Sure, that’s painting with a broad brush—I’d rather have Bradley Beal shooting from 18 feet than Marcin Gortat from 23, and I don’t think I’m alone there. But once you apply a bit of hand-waving with the “all else equal” caveat, from a mathematical perspective it’s pretty apparent that, when the shooter has the range, 3’s are better than 2’s.

Still, DTs are valuable. They’re the court jester of the NBA season, providing more ridiculous, hilarious moments than any other facet of the game. Yeah, Blake Griffin’s dunks are great, but what they inspire is awe sprinkled with, for most of us land-bound beings, jealousy. Missed free throws? Maybe they’re funny if you’re a sadist, but I still have nightmares about Andris Biedrins’ combover shooting 11 percent from the line.

They’re different, DTs. Because there are so many levels to a DT, with potential explanations for its genesis spanning mental, social, and even hierarchical realms. Watch Jarrett Jack pull up from 21 feet, hand in his face, with a dozen seconds left on the shot clock during a mid-February game in Boston, and try to determine exactly why. Maybe that’s just Jarrett feeling Jarrett and trying to get his. Maybe he’s freezing out his teammates, which seems unnecessary since the Nets are beyond caring at this point. Maybe it’s Jarrett wooing Randy Wittman, tugging at heartstrings that he can’t believe now lay dormant. Maybe he’s trying to unseat DeMar DeRozan as the undisputed champion of piss-poor shot selection. Maybe—and you hope this isn’t the case—that was the play drawn up in the huddle?

On the flipside, you’ll have Kobe Bryant backing down through triple teams, draining the shot clock, shimmy-shaking to set up an absolutely horrendous shot, the kind that would lead to fisticuffs in your local YMCA. And when it goes in, which happens less nowadays but still often enough, you laugh. A successful DT is equal parts bad tactics and incredible skill, and when Kobe drops 40 in such a manner, it’s like he ran a marathon wearing ankle weights. (Which does seem like a Kobe thing to do, but I digress.)

As evidenced by the diaspora of power forwards toward half-court territory, teams are phasing out the DT, and from a detached viewpoint, you can’t blame them. Houston is perhaps the closest thing the NBA has to a P/E firm, with CEO Daryl Morey trimming the DT fat and installing a new set of layup/3-pointer best practices. The change has been successful on the bottom line, and even the old guard has to begrudgingly recognize James Harden’s body of work. He’s very much the antithesis to Kobe, the “work smarter” to Kobe’s “work harder.” If the addition of Ty Lawson generates its expected returns for the Rockets, they could very well have the trophy to justify their process, which will only further validate the redundancy of DTs.

It’s a concern, then, when this ruthless philosophy creeps into a historical DT safe-haven such as Washington. Yes, fewer midrange jumpers is probably a good thing for the Wizards—they are in the business of trying to win basketball games. The counterpoint is that they’re also trying to entertain fans, and for my money, watching Drew Gooden shoot foot-on-the-line 3s will never get tiresome. (I’d say let’s set up a Kickstarter for him to do this during TV timeouts, but that’s a whole separate topic.) Every good basketball game has a handful of these garbage shots in big moments, and previously the Wizards were always game to provide these sketchy, lack-of-forethought possessions. But with DT-care provider Paul Pierce (see G3 vs. Atlanta) now plying his trade across the country, and Grandmaster Wittman positioning his chess pieces for a perimeter attack, I don’t know what to expect anymore. We fear the unknown and take solace in the familiar, but this shift—along with the undercurrents of small ball and increased pace streaming below the Beltway—is beyond unknown. For a tactically-conservative franchise like Washington, it’s unthinkable.

So as a DT preservationist, it was a reassuring sight when, in the Wizards-Knicks game last Friday, Carmelo Anthony briefly went on one of his runs—a casual seven points in two minutes on contested jumpers. (One shot was technically a 3-pointer, although I like to think his feet ended up behind the line accidentally. Call it a deep DT.) Anthony can do this, spurting off in a way to remind fans that, although the Knicks have been a consistent punchline recently and his inefficiency / defensive disinterest is pretty tightly coupled with this downward spiral, he’s a damn good shooter when he’s on. When he takes these shots with 16, 17, and 20 seconds remaining on the shot clock, with no “trust the process” excuse to fall back on, the narrative is strictly results-oriented: a miss and he’s a selfish bum; a make and he’s on the path back to being a superstar. That ever-present dichotomy turns each DT from October to April into a referendum and a roller-coaster, and that journey—as much as the combination of Steph Curry and John Wall and Boogie Cousins and KD’s return and the gauntlet out West and the ceaseless attempts to dethrone LeBron in the East—makes me unhealthily excited for the NBA’s return. Maybe Washington won’t provide the DTs I need this season, although Jarrett Jack still lurks as a midseason, midrange temptress. But I know I can always watch the Knicks (or the Lakers, or the Bobcats) and feel right at home.

We’re very close, now. On October 27, Detroit and Atlanta will kick off the NBA season, and before long, Reggie Jackson will take a bad shot. While Twitter’s collective scoffing will nearly lead to a bullying PSA, I’ll relax and smile, confident that a new generation of DTs is waiting in the wings, ready to hatch.

 

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Lucas Hubbard
Lucas joined TAI in 2015 as a late convert to the Cult of Randy Wittman. He holds many strong, ill-informed opinions about the NBA, most of which center on the belief that Mo Speights is an All-Star. Lucas lives in DC, where he has chanted "Ot-to Por-ter" at 9 consecutive Wizards games.