Wizards' need for shooting highlighted by inefficient guard play

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Wizards' need for shooting highlighted by inefficient guard play originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Wizards have three glaring needs this offseason and technically they could check off all of those boxes with one player. That would just require finding a starting-caliber point guard who can make threes and defend, which may be easier said than done.

For as much as defense should be a priority in all of the Wizards' moves this offseason, shooting at the guard position was a problem in 2021-22 that they should probably address. The numbers paint a bleak picture in terms of where their guards sat relative to the rest of the roster and to the league.

The Wizards, for example, had the second-highest true shooting percentage in the NBA at center (66.4) and the fourth-best percentage from forwards (59.3) but their guards ranked 25th (53.6). True shooting percentage compiles field goal, 3-point and free throw percentages into one number.

The 3-point production is what tanked that number the most. Wizards guards were tied for 13th in field goal percentage (43.7) and ranked ninth in free throw percentage (83.0), but were 26th in 3-point percentage (33.7) and made the fewest threes per game as a group (4.6). That paralleled the Wizards overall, as the full roster ranked fifth in field goal percentage (47.2), but made the fewest threes (10.5/g) and ranked 26th in 3-point percentage (34.2).

Another way to look at it is relative to league averages. The league-average 3-point percentage for the 2021-22 NBA season was 35.4. The only Wizards guard who met that threshold last season was Ish Smith (35.7), but that mark came on limited volume (42 total attempts), as he joined the team in February via a trade deadline deal.

Every other Wizards guard was a below-average 3-point shooter. Included in that mix was Bradley Beal, who shot a career-low 30% from three. Despite being a 37.2% career 3-point shooter, he hasn't shot above league average from deep since 2017-18.

On a related note, Wizards guards ranked 28th in the NBA in points per game as a group (44.7) despite having Beal's 23.2 points-per-game average accounted for, though he only played in 40 games. Wizards guards were also 20th in assists per game (15.0), so there was a general hole in offensive production.

The way head coach Wes Unseld Jr. and team president Tommy Sheppard have described their ideal starting point guard suggests they might intend to improve the assists number. It's worth noting, however, that four of the teams that ranked lower than the Wizards on that list are still standing in the NBA Playoffs - the Bucks, Heat, Warriors and Sixers. The Wizards were also 12th in the NBA in assists per game this season as a team (25.0), so it doesn't necessarily correlate to wins and losses.

Finding a starter-level point guard who can both defend and shoot threes may be difficult, but 3-point shooting alone may be relatively easy to add at that position. Just about all of the best free-agent point guard options shot above league average from three including Cory Joseph (41.4), Patty Mills (40.0), Tyus Jones (39.0), Avery Bradley (39.0), Delon Wright (37.9) and Jalen Brunson (37.3).

The fact there were so many point guards who met that qualification further illustrates the Wizards' quandary last season. It's not a rare trait among point guards in the modern NBA.

There may also be trade options who could suit the Wizards in that regard. Players rumored to potentially be available include Malcolm Brogdon, a career 37.6% 3-point shooter, and Mike Conley Jr. who shot 40.8% from three last season. Both are also known for their defense.

So, that's the good news. The Wizards may have a problem, but they should have the ability to fix it. But one way or another, it should probably be addressed.