“That’s great,” said Coach Scott Brooks, the main crusader in this three-point mission. “I think last year, we averaged 35 [midrange shots]. So, if we can get it down to 10, I don’t think that can happen, but 20 would be nice just to get it down.
“It’s really, if the midrange is open, I don’t mind guys taking it,” Brooks continued. “It should be open. It’s the contested, long twos early in the shot clock we’re trying to get rid of.”
Friday night will be the Wizards' next preseason game, and the next step in players' assimilation phase. For a team that ranked in the top 10 of medium-range attempts (shots from 17 feet to inside the three-point line) and points per possession while using that play, according to statistics from Synergy Sports, the Wizards are balancing the season’s directive with their old instincts.
They’re used to taking midrange shots. Sometimes not taking them, like normal, is an adjustment.
“If it’s an early shot clock situation, try to shoot threes, not try to shoot deep twos,” point guard John Wall said. “So trying to get situated with that. A couple times in practice I’m like, ‘Oh, am I supposed to shoot this shot? Am I not supposed to shoot this shot?’ But I can still take the shot, [Brooks] just don’t want it early on in the shot clock unless it’s a layup or a three, which is understandable. I think all of us are just trying to get adjusted to that type of style of play.”
The timing of a shot will determine if it’s good or not. In the past, as Wall orchestrated the pick-and-roll play with a screening center, he would immediately have space to rise and take the first open midrange look early in a half-court set. That’s no longer a suitable shot in the Wizards' lexicon.
“[Brooks] doesn’t really care if we take midranges and that’s probably when I shoot a lot of my midrange,” said Wall, who attempted nearly 200 shots from 17 feet to within the three-point arc last season. “But it’s more so like the first eight seconds or six seconds into the shot clock, he doesn’t want us to shoot deep twos. So if you have that shot, kind of probe and probe and probe and try to get a three or a layup.
“So that’s kind of the difficult part because at times, you come off pick and rolls, you’re going to have that shot right away,” Wall continued. “He doesn’t want us to settle for that because that’s what a lot of teams want you to settle for and that’s what we want teams to settle for when we’re guarding them. So that’s going to be the toughest adjustment for me.”
As someone who doesn’t see much daylight in offensive sets, guard Bradley Beal will take any open shot he can get — even if it’s the type of shot the Wizards are trying to limit from their collective mind-set.
“I don’t care how many shots I have or what they look like,” Beal said. “I just want good shots at the end of the day.”
When reminded of his Monday shot selection (seven three-point attempts, four at the rim and just one midrange), Beal suggested that the performance wasn’t planned. He’s a shooter and doesn’t want to over-analyze how many threes or long twos he takes.
“If a midrange is open, I’ll shoot it,” Beal said. “I don’t get many open shots and Coach understands that so I’m not going to sit here and say I’m taking 10 [threes] a game but if I’m coming off a pick and roll and I’m open, I’m shooting it.”
And about those 38 three-pointers as a team? Whatever works, said the shooter who doesn’t want to think too much about the shots.
“I’m not really an analytical guy, so y’all asking the wrong dude,” Beal said. “I don’t give a damn about how many threes we put up. As long as we win the ballgame. If that’s what’s going to win ballgames, we’re going to do it but I just want to win games.”