http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2015/2/21/8082175/wizards-three-point-shooting-trevor-ariza-paul-pierceThe Wizards finished 2014 looking like legitimate contenders. They had the third-best record in the East at 22-9, behind the Toronto Raptors and the Atlanta Hawks. There was a lot of work to do offensively but fans were rightfully optimistic about the team's chances to come out of the conference.
Since the new year, the Wizards have gone 11-13 and are just one and a half games ahead of the sixth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. It's been a precipitous fall that shows no sign of stopping, with the team having lost seven or their last 10.
There are many reasons why Washington is in a slump. Marcin Gortat has taken a step back recently while Bradley Beal can't shake the injury bug for good. Defensively, neither the effort nor the execution are there at times, which is a death sentence against a team like the Cavaliers, who destroyed Washington Friday. Yet Washington was great on defense early in the year and Beal and Gortat are proven talents who will surely bounce back. That leaves three-point shooting as the most worrying aspect of their bad stretch, as it has been a problem that has plagued them all season long and has only gotten worst lately.
For the season Washington ranks No. 27 out of 30 teams in three-point attempts per game despite shooting the fifth best percentage in the league from outside.They are taking over four fewer three-pointers than last season. After being one of the most prolific and efficient corner three-point shooting teams in 2013-14, the Wizards now rank in the bottom third of the league in attempts. They are simply not shooting enough and recently not even connecting on the few outside shots they take. The reason why that has happened largely comes down to one name: Trevor Ariza.
The Wizards replaced Trevor Ariza with Paul Pierce, a move that was lauded for the cap flexibility it allowed Washington to maintain and the versatility Pierce added as a secondary ball-handler. Yet there's one area in which Ariza is superior to Pierce and that's volume three-point shooting, in particular from the corner. Ariza is leading the league in total corner threes this season and finished second last season, when he was with the Wizards. He had excellent chemistry with John Wall, who found him again and again for spot-up threes.
As Ariza moved on, the Wizards have not found one player to replace his production. Rasual Butler filled in well to start the year and Pierce is an accomplished shooter but he prefers to shoot from the wings or the top of the arc.