Washington Wizards basketball will return tonight at 8:00 PM against the Memphis Grizzlies, or will already have by the time this article is published. The first half of the season was a mixed bag for the Wizards. They started the year 0-5, and were 3-13 through their first 16 games. They were ultimately able to turn it around in February with a five-game win streak and a 9-7 record in the month, they were able to go 4-15 over their last 29, and are now in 12th place in the Eastern conference at 14-20. With a strong second half of the season, reaching the postseason is well within reach. The Wizards are currently just five games back of the fourth seed in the East. In order for the Wizards to reach their ceiling as a team and get to the playoffs, they will need to be firing on all cylinders. Players who had lackluster starts to the season will need to pick up the pace. One Wizards player who had a disappointing start to the season was power forward Davis Bertans.
Bertans averaged 15.4 points per game on 42.4 percent 3-point shooting in 2019-2020, and was fourth in the NBA with 3.7 3-pointers made per game. He was indisputably one of the best shooters in the league in last season, and was rewarded for his performance with a hefty five-year, $80 million contract. In signing such a substantial and long-term contract, it was expected that Bertans would improve the following season, or at least have a season of similar caliber. Unfortunately, he has had a lackluster season thus far. He is averaging just 11.5 points per game, and has seen all his per game averages and shooting percentages take major dips, except for his free throw percentage.
At his best, Bertans shoots the ball at a level that very few in the NBA are capable of. There are a select few players in the league who are not just shooters, but offensive juggernauts capable of drawing the attention of entire defenses. They aren’t just traffic cones that sit in the corner and nail spot-up threes, they sprint around screens and nail off-balance shots from dribble hand-offs or pin downs. They need to be accounted for at all times by opposing defenses. Davis Bertans is one of these players, along with the likes of Duncan Robinson, Joe Harris, JJ Reddick and of course, Stephen Curry. All of these players shoot above 40% from three, and Bertans is shooting just 38.4% from deep this year. This is not an objectively bad percentage by any means, it is actually above the NBA average. But the Wizards did not pay Davis Bertans $80 million to be an above average shooter, they paid him like he was among the best in the league.
The Wizards have been a poor 3-point shooting team this season, they are 24th in 3-pointers made per game at 11.1 and 28th in 3-point percentage at 34.4%. If Bertans can rediscover his old self, it would be a huge boon for the team. Even in a down season, he has shown what he is capable of at his best. He torched the Denver Nuggets in a two point win earlier this season for 35 points and nine 3-pointers. Certainly it would be absurd to ask that much from any player on a nightly basis, but clearly he still has the ability to be a huge difference maker. When Bertans is hitting his shots, the Wizards are capable of beating very good teams. Here’s to hoping Bertans is able live up to his moniker “The Latvian Laser” and be a catalyst for a playoff push.
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