Wizards' Corey Kispert hitting his stride early in Year 2

Kispert hitting his stride early in Year 2 for Wizards originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON -- The trajectory has continued for Corey Kispert.

After raising his field goal percentage every single month of his rookie year, the Wizards' second-year pro is shooting even better through his first month of this season. Through nine games, he's in the coveted 50-40-90 tier: 56.6% from the field, 48.4% from three and 91.7% from the free throw line.

Despite missing eight games and a month's worth of practice time to begin the season, and despite stumbling out of the gate last year as a rookie, Kispert looks noticeably better already in his second NBA season. He's shooting at a high clip and is maintaining that level as he bounces back and forth from the bench to the starting lineup.

Kispert, 23, says doing that is "easier said than done." Jumping between the first and second units means playing with different personnel, yet Kispert is not missing a beat.

In the Wizards' win over the Miami Heat on Friday, Kispert came off the bench to score 17 points, shooting 5-of-8 from three. On Sunday, he was in the starting lineup and contributed 14 points and six rebounds, shooting 2-of-3 from deep. He has reached double figures in four of his last five games, shooting 13-of-19 (68.4%) along the way.

Kispert's consistency is appreciated by head coach Wes Unseld Jr., who has had a lot of moving parts in recent games due to injuries in his rotation.

"I think it’s just a credit to the way he plays, the way he moves and cuts," Unseld said, adding: "He’s able to find easy points just by being a facilitator, a ball-mover, a screener. He does so without handling the ball or dribbling, which is a key to a lot of our offense."

From the moment he took the floor with the Wizards after being drafted 15th overall in June, 2021 Kispert has stood out for his off-ball movement. He stays in constant motion, whether that's cutting through the lane or respacing on the perimeter to give his teammates room to operate.

Kispert received an advanced degree in that brand of basketball through four years at Gonzaga University. He's also in a good place to apply that knowledge with Unseld Jr. aiming for an equal opportunity offense.

"No matter what I’m doing or who I’m on the floor with, my job is the same. It may be a kind of one-size-fits-all deal for me, which is nice," Kispert said.

Now that Kispert is living up to the billing as a 3-point shooter, the Wizards are seeing some positive domino effects. Other teams have to respect his range and, as Unseld Jr. explained, that creates "gravity" by drawing defenders away from the basket.

Kispert is trying to counter that by also proving he can score around the rim. Through cuts in the halfcourt and by running the floor in transition, Kispert is finding lanes to the basket to score. He's 11 of 12 so far this season on shots within five feet of the basket.

Kispert is solid at finishing in the lane because he's got good size, strength and touch, with the ability to get up around the rim, having registered a 37 1/2-inch vertical at the draft combine. Kispert has been working to combine all of those traits to become a more multi-dimensional scorer.

"On every scouting report in America it’s going to be shooting No. 1. I’ve gotta make teams pay for that," he said.

Another area where Kispert is showing early improvement is on the defensive end. He says he's "a lot more comfortable" this season simply because he has one year of experience under his belt. That has helped the game slow down and has also given him a better foundation of knowledge to work with.

Last season, Kispert was facing opposing players for the first time in most cases. Now that he's played against the entire league a few times, he has a better grasp of players' tendencies.

As he explained it after Tuesday's practice, it gives him a better chance to be "proactive" rather than "reactive." The numbers are backing that up so far. Players guarded by Kispert are shooting 40.3% this season, according to the stats website Second Spectrum. That is third-lowest on the Wizards (to Rui Hachimura and Jordan Goodwin) and it's 4.1% lower than those players defended by Kispert have shot for the season overall.

Put another way, players assigned to Kispert shoot 4.1% worse than usual. That's a fairly big difference.

Kispert has only played nine games, so his numbers have to be presented with caveats. But so far he is off to an excellent start and that is despite beginning the year with an injury. That's not bad for a guy in his second year.