The Wizards Need a Midrange Shooter and Defender

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Players and coaches often lament that there aren't any pure mid-range shooters any more, only dunkers and three-point specialists. The lone example of a guy who can come off double-screens to hit 15- to 18-foot jump shots if former Wizard and current Piston Rip Hamilton. In fact, since they've lost Hamilton, the Wizards are the quintessential example of a team that can't shoot or defend 15- to 18-foot shots. They can hit threes the same as anyone else, but when it comes to overall own or allowed field goal percentages, or even own or allowed free throw percentages, the Wizards are at the bottom of the pile.

This season, the Wizards were ranked 26th in field goal percentage, at 42.1 percent. Yet they allowed 45.4 percent shooting to their opponents. Are they just bad shooters and bad defenders overall? Nope. They just play three-point basketball: the shots that are made are either layup or three-pointers. In terms of percentage beyond the arc, the Wizards were the 11thbestteam in the NBA, shooting 34.1 percent. And they allowed only 34.2 percent. Not bad at all.

In other words, they understand the three-pointer. They take it if they're open, and hit it a respectable percentage, and they defend it when someone's about to shoot, and allow only a respectable percentage. What about the midrange game?

Unfortunately, there's no easy statistic to distinguish easy buckets like layups or difficult buckets like fadeaways from what ought to be standard buckets like midrange jumpers. But we can get a gauge for Washington's shooting accuracy by looking at how they would shoot from about 15 feet out when there are no defenders.

In other words, we can look at their free throw percentage. The Wizards hit just 71.4 percent of their free throws. You or I can do better than that (on a good day). Meanwhile, opponents shot 77.1 percent from the free throw line against the Wizards. Only Seattle "allowed" a greater accuracy from the free throw line.

It's a bit of a misnomer to call it "allowing" the shot because the defense can't do anything but stand there and watch as the opponents take a free throw, but it may be an indication of one of two things: either the Wizards are fouling the high-percentage shooters instead of the low-percentage shooters, or they are allowing their opponents to hit midrange jumpers and get into rhythm, thus increasing their free throw accuracy as well.

It's probably a combination of both, which is to say, the Wizards are not very good at defending midrange jumpers. When such a shot is taken, they either allow it to be an open shot or they foul the shooter. Either way, they are giving up good quality shots and points, while not being able to do the same thing on the other end of the court.

What they need is a guy who can break through screens on defense and stay with his man, not allowing open jumpers. What they need is a guy who can come off screens on the offensive end to nail the open midrange jumper.

What they need is Rip Hamilton. But what they have is the draft.

Gilbert Arenas will decide today whether to cut a plea bargain or face a jury trial. He is charged with carrying a concealed weapon and driving without a license, both misdemeanors. If he loses in a jury trial, he could face up to six months in jail. For more on this story, read yesterday'sNEWS@ Southeast report.

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Tom Knott ofThe Washington Timeswrites: The Wizards are like cicadas. They come out only once every 17 years.It could help the Wizards being part of the worst division in sports history next season, lumped with the Hawks, Bobcats, Magic and Heat in the Southeast Division. This is the first-ever sports division to deserve a warning label.

Barry Horn ofThe Dallas Morning Newswrites: Ziggy's scouting report: "Sebastian has excellent ball handling skills. He is a great passer who sees the floor and has no problem giving the ball up. He is an excellent shooter and great penetrator. He'll pass teammates the ball even though he knows they might miss a shot that he could have taken and made. But when the game is on the line and there is less than three minutes to go, he'll take the shot and he'll make the shot." Sebastian, Ziggy says, is far more advanced than Brooklyn USA's most recent star point guards - Shammgod Wells, who played at Providence College and evolved into God Shammgod before he was drafted by the Washington Wizards, and the University of North Carolina's Ed Cota.

Greg Sandoval and Dan Steinberg ofThe Washington Postwrites: Kevin Garnett ushered in the trend when he hopped from Farragut Academy in Chicago to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995. On Monday Garnett, 28, was voted the league's most valuable player. He renewed his contract recently with the Timberwolves for $100 million. His original contract with the team was for $127 million. Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Jermaine O'Neal (Indiana Pacers), Tracy McGrady (Orlando Magic) and Kwame Brown (Washington Wizards) are just a few who followed. Agents are also advising the prep players to make a run at the pros before it's too late, said Bryan Colangelo, president and general manager of the Phoenix Suns. Colangelo drafted Amare Stoudemire, the 2003 league rookie of the year, from Cypress Creek High School in Orlando.

Tony Kornheiser ofThe Washington Post writes: During minicamp, Mr. Taylor once jumped to deflect a pass with one hand while grabbing onto his shorts to keep them up with his other hand. I've heard of being ambidextrous, but that's ridiculous. What exactly did he major in at Miami, exotic dancing? (And why does the phrase "a possible Gilbert Arenas situation" keep swirling in my head?)It's fine to say you prefer your clothing loose and baggy, but eventually Mr. Taylor will need a regulation NFL uniform. Exactly whose is he supposed to use, Jon Jansen's? Or are the Redskins going to convince Gilbert Brown to come out of retirement so Sean Taylor can have something appropriate to wear?