Coach Randy Wittman has said all the right things about the Washington Wizards playing faster and with more shooting, but starting Kris Humphries isn’t enough. For his career, Humphries has only attempted twenty-six three-pointers and only managed to hit two of them. In two preseason games, he has tried 10 threes and made three, so he’s embraced the “shooters gonna shoot” mentality, but the Washington Wizards have a better option in forward Jared Dudley.
Admittedly, Dudley is still injured and has a ways to go before he’s cleared to play, but his eventual insertion into the starting lineup could be the catalyst to Washington becoming a contender.
He’s not a star, but a complementary player that can give a team a new dimension. Jared Dudley’s has earned his reputation as a three-point shooter, but it is a little misleading; he is not just a shooter. Over his career, he has made 39.6 percent from three, and he is also capable of putting the ball on the deck and making a play against a recovering defense. That added wrinkle makes him even more valuable to a team. However, it is important to remember his shooting is his best contribution to a team.
As a spot-up shooter, Dudley scored 1.05 points per possession (PPP), tallying 236 points last season, per NBA.com. That was nearly 46 percent of his total point output. An opposing defense would have to pick their poison dealing with a John Wall-Marcin Gortat spread pick-and-roll with Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, and Dudley spotting up around it. With Wall handling the ball and Gortat sucking in defenders on his rolls to the basket, three-pointers would rain down on any defense.
Last season, the Milwaukee Bucks leaned on Dudley’s shooting to help sustain their anemic offense. During the regular season, the Bucks were 4.9 points better per 100 possessions with him on the floor, per BaskeballReference.com. That number soared to 20.1 during the playoffs against the Chicago Bulls.
Despite all this, Wittman may be hesitant to start Dudley because he gives up some size compared to Humphries or even Drew Gooden, and that may end up costing them on the defensive end. However, those fears would be unfounded because Jared Dudley is an accomplished team-defender. While he might be smaller than most power forwards, Dudley being 6’7” allows him to defend multiple positions.
Jared Dudley played four positions during his time as a Milwaukee Buck, the majority of which was at the 4. He played exactly 75.2 percent of his time as a power forward for them. Although he gave up some size, he posted a Defensive Real Plus-Minus of 2.47, 35th among all NBA players. It should be noted, though, that opponents shot three-pointers at a high percentage against him.
He was a crucial part of the Bucks’ defense last season that terrorized the league. The Bucks play a hyper-aggressive defense that calls on defenders to clog the lane but still recover and defend their original assignments. In any simple pick-and-roll, a third defender will come up into view of the of the ball handler, ready to bump the roll man and blow up the play, hopefully forcing a turnover. Last season, the Bucks lead the league in steals with 9.6, and scored the third-most points off turnovers, per NBA.com.
If Wittman intends to establish small-ball as the new identity of the Washington Wizards and have it be successful, starting Jared Dudley is the only reasonable course of action. The other wings on the team like Porter and Alan Anderson don’t have the experience playing as a power forward, and the big men like Humphries and Gooden are not consistent threats from three-point range. He is the only player on the roster that can be categorized as a stretch four. His blend of skills can help Washington become a legitimate threat to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ hold on the Eastern Conference.