The Washington Wizards' dismal 2-8 start can be attributed to several factors: eight new players, a new coach, lack of chemistry, distractions caused by point guard Rod Strickland's inconsistent attendance at practice and injuries.
Yet in the most simplistic analysis, the Wizards aren't winning because they can't shoot.
The Wizards have the fourth-worst shooting in the league at 41 percent and are last in three-point shooting at 27 percent. As a result, they rank 27th in scoring (91.3 ppg) in the 29-team NBA. The league average is 98 points per game with Milwaukee averaging an NBA-best 106.9 points.
The lack of offense has been a significant factor in the Wizards losing games by an average of 10 points, second worst in the league.
"That tells me we're shooting too many jump shots," Coach Gar Heard said.
In its last five games, Washington has failed to shoot 40 percent from the field. All of its opponents have surpassed that except for the Toronto Raptors, who shot 32.9 percent to the Wizards' 39.5 percent. Washington defeated the Raptors Thursday to snap a seven-game losing streak.
On Saturday night, a Los Angeles Clippers team reduced to nine available players shot 44 percent--52.6 percent from three-point range--against the Wizards and won, 98-89.
"I think the difference in the game was the shooting percentages," said Wizards center Ike Austin, whose team shot 39.8 percent.
Washington's leading scorer, forward Juwan Howard (14.4 ppg), is shooting 47 percent, which is consistent with his career mark of 48 percent. However he is five points below his career scoring average of 19.3.
Rookie guard Richard Hamilton is Washington's second-leading scorer with 10.7 points per game. He is shooting 39 percent, including 31 percent from three-point range. Strickland is the only other player averaging in double figures (10.5 ppg) and is shooting 40 percent.
Guard Mitch Richmond (9.7 ppg) has made 31 percent of his shots--his career average is 46 percent--and has made just 6 of 26 threes (23 percent). Austin's 9.1 scoring average and 43 percent shooting percentage are consistent with his career numbers.
Forward Tracy Murray and guard Chris Whitney are known as shooters but have struggled this season. Murray (6.5 points per game) is shooting 37 percent--he shot a career-worst 35 percent last season. Whitney (7.4 ppg) has made just 32 percent of his three-point shots, making 3 of 22 threes in his last six games.
The Wizards have yet to establish the fast-breaking transition offense Heard tried to implement before the season. Heard said he wanted his players to take the first or second good shot that arises. His intention was for those shots to come near the basket.
Instead, players are taking quick shots from the perimeter, particularly after the team has rallied from a big deficit and pulled within striking range. After scoring 18 of their 27 third-quarter points from in the lane to trim the Clippers' 17-point lead to six, the Wizards scored just 10 fourth-quarter points inside and shot 8 of 24 from the field.
It is not an isolated pattern. In its 109-95 loss to Seattle, Washington trimmed a 12-point deficit to three with about two minutes left in the third quarter. The Wizards then shot 6 of 20 in the fourth quarter, scoring six points in the lane.
Washington posted the same fourth-quarter shooting percentage in a 104-95 loss to Miami, when it cut a 23-point deficit to two early in the fourth period.
"We're playing harder every game," forward Aaron Williams said. "We just have to play for 48 minutes. I don't think we've done that this year."
Wizards Note: Austin and Washington Mayor Anthony Williams will be handing out 2,000 turkeys at the Calvary Food Bank in Northeast Washington today.