- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 2, 2018

If Scott Brooks needed more context for his point, he could use this: Since the 2010-11 season, NBA teams that make 12 3-pointers — no matter how many they attempt — win 69 percent of the time. That’s 57 wins in the 82-game regular season.

Brooks has said over and over this season that he wants his team to shoot more 3-pointers. They won’t ever morph into the Houston Rockets, who shoot more threes than twos, the only team in the NBA to do so, but Brooks has asked for more and received it of late.

December 29, the Wizards attempted a franchise-record-tying 36 3-pointers. Two days later, they took another 36. The reasons for this are varied.

First, the competition helped. Ever-firing Houston was the opponent Dec. 29. It shot 48 3-pointers in the game, surpassing the Washington franchise record for attempts before the fourth quarter began. The smaller, skilled personnel necessary to reach such a total forced Brooks to deploy his equivalent. Markieff Morris and Mike Scott player together instead of rotating at power forward. Otto Porter also played the spot. The traditional big men the Wizards have so much money sunk into, Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, played less.

The next game provided the same opportunity against revamped Chicago. Even when the Bulls put follicly blessed center Robin Lopez on the court, Washington stayed small. That meant some punishment for Scott on back-to-back trips in the middle when he was the “center.” At 6 foot 8, 237 pounds, Scott had little chance in the post against the 7-foot, 277-pound Lopez when the Bulls scored on consecutive plays by going to their center. However, that did not disturb or deter Brooks. He was willing to live with what happened if Chicago consistently went to Lopez on offense. It stopped doing so, and he was removed in favor of a shooter.

“I know [Robin] Lopez had a couple of post-ups down low, but that’s not how they want to play, nobody wants to play that way, that’s a low-percentage shot throughout the league,” Brooks said afterward.

The challenge for Brooks is when to force his hand onto the other coach. Washington’s most productive five-man lineup since Brooks has been in charge consists of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kelly Oubre Jr., Porter and Gortat. Replacing Gortat with Morris or Scott gives the Wizards their best chance to shoot a lot of 3-pointers. It also has challenges.

Taking Gortat off the floor removes the team’s best screener. When the smaller lineup was having a hard time shaking loose against Chicago, Brooks re-inserted Gortat to go clear some space on pick-and-rolls. Money is also a factor. Maybe not in-game, but overall. How much can Brooks sit Gortat and Mahinmi, who will combine to make $29.4 million this season, accounting for 23.57 percent of their salary cap spending? The average NBA team pays its centers $8.9 million. Washington pays $14.7 million. Can it justify benching that for a long period?

Coming into Tuesday, the Wizards are 21st in the league in attempts and 11th in percentage. They average just 9.8 3-pointers made per game in 26.6 attempts. Dial back to pre-Brooks when former coach Randy Wittman was often flayed for his lack of embracing the 3-pointer. In his final season, Washington shot 24.2 per game and made 8.6. That’s just two fewer attempts and one fewer make per game than this edition of the Wizards.

However, the contrast is in system focus. Brooks wants the Wizards to shoot at least 30 3-pointers per game. After most games, even productive ones from that range, he will mention his desire for more attempts. Wittman never did.

“I like it, and we’re making them,” Brooks said Tuesday of the recent uptick. “There’s no question — I think it all comes down to if we move the ball and make the extra pass, we can end up shooting 30 threes a game.”

Beal is a representative of the team’s attempted move away from dreaded long twos and into a more 3-point oriented group. He progressively reduced his long two-point attempts year by year when the math that showed the benefit of a 3-pointer versus a long two was presented to him, even if the numbers countered a comfort level he had.

“As you evolve throughout the game, from high school to college, obviously the three-point lines get further and further back,” Beal said. “I still like to take long twos. I feel like if I have an open one, I’m going to take it.”

Like any progression, time is a factor. Brooks, players and the rest of the league still make Houston an outlier. Though, the creep is ongoing. Golden State led the league with 31.6 three-point attempts two seasons ago. Last season, four teams averaged that many 3-point attempts per game. This season, that number is up to five, with the potential to rise to seven. Three-point attempts are only increasing. The Wizards are trying to keep up.

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