The Wizards, three-pointers, and the value of shot selection

USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards are only 29th in the NBA in three point percentage. How can the team improve its accuracy without anyone who can create open looks?

The phrase "poor shot selection" comes up a lot whenever people talk about the Washington Wizards. Jordan Crawford is the current standard-bearer for the 3 - 20 Wiz kids, but he's only the latest in a long line of guys who are in love with shots they should have no business taking.

One area of his game that has been affected by his trigger-happy approach is his three point shooting. Despite his ability to make long twos at a very solid clip, the third year guard is shooting only 33% from deep this year, three percentage points less than the NBA average.

Does that mean he's not a good three point shooter? Not necessarily. According to NBA.com/stats, while Crawford is making a mediocre 31% of his three point attempts from above the break, he's shooting a sterling 43% from the corners. Sure, the sample sizes are still relatively small, but his performance last year was largely the same.

Jordan Crawford Three Point Locations, 2011-12 vs 2012-13

Shot 3Pt% 3PA 3PM
2012 Corner 3 39% 23 59
2012 Above the Break 3 26% 55 212
2013 Corner 3 43% 6 14
2013 Above the Break 3 32% 30 94

Data via NBA.com/stats

Whereas last year 78% of his total three point attempts were above the break tries, this year that proportion has jumped to 86%. Over the last two years, about 90% of his made corner three attempts have been assisted, while only about 60% of his above the break ones have been. His drift away from the easier shots probably has more than a little to do with his need to function as the team's primary playmaker while Wall recovers.

While players generally shoot better from the corners, that doesn't necessarily mean that the team as a whole should stop shooting threes from anywhere else. The above the break three pointer can be a valuable weapon in transition, plus it creates space around the basket when opposing defenses are forced to defend it.

One player who might warrant more playing time due to his ability to make these shots is unheralded reserve and plus/minus god Cartier Martin. Martin can create off the dribble from time to time and his heart is in the right place on defense, but he's basically a three point specialist, and a pretty good one at that. What makes Martin particularly useful is his ability to make shots from the places that the rest of the roster can't.

Cartier Martin Three Point Locations, 2012-13

Shot 3Pt% 3PA 3PM
Corner 3 31% 4 13
Above the Break 3 48% 20 42
Overall 44% 24 55

Data via NBA.com/stats

Players have sweet spots, and Martin's seem to all be above the break. While he can make threes from the corner, he's an excellent shooter from above the break, having made 48% of his attempts from that area this year. That's Steve Novak territory. While it's unrealistic to expect him to continue to shoot so well for the rest of the season, a percentage in the low 40s would be in step with his historical performances.

The Wizards could take advantage of Martin's strengths and Crawford's weaknesses by making adjustments to the team's playcalling and lineups. Martin and to a lesser extent Martell Webster are both good above the break shooters, while Crawford and Bradley Beal are much more effective from the corners. It might not always be possible due to matchups, but keeping either Martin or Webster on the floor at all times could greatly improve the Wizards' poor spacing. Meanwhile, running more plays for Beal and Crawford in which they're attacking the basket or spotting up in the open corners that Martin and Webster don't need to shoot from to be effective could improve the team's overall performance.

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