The Washington Wizards were the talk of the league after the first month of the season. After starting 10-3, the Wizards are now under .500, with a 23-25 record.
fIt is hard to pinpoint exactly what happened, simply because Washington’s individual players have generally performed well. Only Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans have significantly fallen short of expectations, and the latter is even averaging a cool 23.6 points per game, still driving his team’s offense despite atypical struggles with his jumper.
In the volatile Eastern Conference, 23 wins are enough to keep Washington within play-in range. This team’s chances for real playoff success, though, hinge on the prospect of some additional firepower from the outside. Here is the why absolute biggest need the Wizards must address at the 2022 NBA trade deadline is shooting.
Wizards 2022 NBA Trade Deadline Need
There are issues with Washington’s roster, but it is still looking good overall. With Rui Hachimura back after having personal issues, the Wizards should be playing better as he gets acquainted with the way the roster changed over the summer. Beal is still in DC and Kyle Kuzma is playing the best basketball of his career. Montrezl Harrell is again in the running for Sixth Man of the Year, while Spencer Dinwiddie and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are making positive contributions, too.
Still, the Wizards have a major weakness: shooting. Right now, they’re shooting 32.4% on 31.1 three-point attempts per game, dead last and 29th in the league, respectively. Their best long-range shooter by is Caldwell-Pope, who’s hitting triples at a 37.2% clip. Beal, who shot around 35% the last two seasons, is shooting just 30% from beyond the arc and averaging only 1.6 made threes per game.
The Wizards desperately need to bring in a reliable three-point threat. They could go in one of two directions, and the first is a bit risky.
After being signed to a three-year, $30 million deal in the summer, Reggie Bullock has not done well for the Dallas Mavericks. The nine-year veteran is having a down year, connecting on 31.9% of three-pointers in 23.6 minutes per game. However, Bullock might be available for a reduced price due to his poor form, and there is a recent precedent of him playing much better.
In the 2020-21 season, Bullock had a great year for the New York Knicks, averaging 10.9 points per game and shooting 41.0% from three. That career-best performance could prove an anomaly, especially since it came in a contract year. However, Bullock’s struggles in Dallas could also be the product of an awkward fit. The problem with making this move is that Bullock would crowd Washington’s wing rotation, potentially marginalizing Deni Avdija or Hachimura, the team’s stake for the future. Taking time away from them might be counterproductive, but would still be a worthwhile risk.
On the other hand, the Wizards might go for a move with more concrete upside, like acquiring Harrison Barnes. The Sacramento Kings forward is in the midst of a banner season, shooting a career-best 41% from deep while also shouldering more self-creation duties with the ball. He’s making around threes per game, which is exactly what the Wizards need. He also has one year left on a bargain contract, making Barnes an attractive asset this time next year if Washington wanted to make another change.
The problem with bringing in Barnes is that doing so would surely cost them Avdija or Hachimura in a trade. The former has emerged as a promising wing defender and taken subtle strides offensively after a rough rookie season, while the latter’s physical tools and shooting potential remain intriguing. Neither Avdija nor Hachimura projects as a surefire impact player going forward, but it’s not impossible to imagine them developing into quality starters, either.
Future moves of the Wizards really depend on the direction they want to take their franchise. Getting Bullock would not be expensive, but it would be a risk given his underwhelming tenure in Dallas thus far. Getting Barnes would likely cost one of their prized youngsters, which begs the question of what roles Avdija and Hachimura are expected to play going forward.
Regardless, if Washington wants a place in the playoffs, or at least in the play-in, shooting needs to be the priority leading up to the trade deadline. Barnes and Bullock are only two options, and the Wizards will likely have more before February 10th.