One of the few joys of watching preseason games was witnessing the Washington Wizards show off their new offense. Coach Randy Wittman seems to have finally realized that the team will benefit from playing faster and with more shooters. The only potential problem is that Kris Humphries, the starting power forward, is not exactly the prototypical stretch 4. Over his career, he has only attempted twenty-six three-pointers, making just two of them.
The even bigger problem is that the Wizards don’t have many options outside of Humphries. I’ve argued for eventually starting Jared Dudley, but he hasn’t returned from injury yet. He is set to make his debut for the team this week, but it will be some time until he’s completely back to form. Drew Gooden shot 39 percent from three-point range last season, but he can’t be depended on to play substantial minutes. Nene doesn’t have the range and is perennially a contender to miss multiple games. The only real option the Wizards have at the moment is Kris Humphries.
To his credit, Humphries has shot the three without hesitation. In six preseason games, he has attempted twenty-four three-pointers, but he has only managed to hit eight of them, per NBA.com. As well as having a low shooting percentage, his release on the shot is slow. You can practically see him concentrating on the shot. Defenses aren’t treating him seriously as a three-point shooter, so he has space, but he will have to quicken his release if he wants to get those shots off against closing defenders.
There is hope that he can improve his shot, though. With the exception of former teammate, Andre Miller, Kris Humphries had the best shooting percentage of all the Wizards when it came to shots taken fifteen to nineteen from the basket: 43.6 percent. The second highest mark with a similar volume of shots belonged to Paul Pierce, who managed to hit 41.2 percent from that range. Humphries’ percentage is still a bit low, though, so maybe he should focus on the corner three while limiting his above the break or wing threes.
Honestly, the idea of Kris Humphries as a stretch 4 is theoretical, at best. He can shoot mid-range shots, but he is an unproven three-point shooter. His insertion into the starting lineup may have an unintended effect on the Wizards’ defense. Last season, the Washington Wizards gave up the ninth-fewest points in the league per 100 possessions, 102.4, according to NBA.com. Nene—the starting power forward last season—was a big part of that. When he was on the court, the Wizards only gave up 97.8 points per 100 possessions.
Though Nene isn’t a shooter, he spaces with the floor to an extent with his smart passing. He can operate in tight spaces and plays tenacious defense. The same can’t be said of Humphries. It’s not as though the team was a sieve when he was on the floor, but he doesn’t bring the individual and team defense that Nene supplies.
In the interim, Wittman is doing the right thing by starting Humphries, but ultimately he isn’t the answer. He may develop into a consistent shooter, but that’s far from a guarantee. As soon as Dudley is healthy, he should be the starting power forward for the Washington Wizards.