To the surprise of some, the Wizards selected sharp-shooting Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert 14th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft. Kispert is a four-year player who went from averaging 6.7 points per game as a freshman to averaging 18.6 points per game as a senior for a Bulldogs team that was a one-seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. He was the second-leading scorer on the team after power forward Drew Timme.
While some were surprised to hear Kispert’s name called in the lottery, the Wizards were incredibly high on him and even considered trading up to get him with the 10th pick. General Manager Tommy Sheppard, was quoted as saying, “We didn’t know where he would fall. The fact he was there on the board at 10, we started looking around to see what we needed to do to move up. We decided this would be a great opportunity to sit still and there he was.” to NBC Sports.
The pick makes a lot of sense for the Wizards, and there are a lot of things to like about Kispert’s game. He was nearly universally regarded as the best shooter in this draft and shot 44% on 6.5 3-point attempts per game in his final college season. This will be a huge boon for a Wizards team that was 28th in 3-pointers made and 23rd in 3-point percentage last season. He is also excellent at moving without the ball, and not just off of screens for catch-and-shoot jumpers; Kispert is a willing cutter with a great sense of timing. He will be able to contribute in a very meaningful way very soon in his career with this in-demand skillset and fits the mold of guys like Duncan Robinson, JJ Reddick and Kyle Korver who open up the floor for teammates due to their off-ball gravity and constant movement around the floor.
Kispert also was given marks for his toughness, determination and never-say-die attitude by scouts. He greatly improved his strength and ball skills throughout his time in college and was a well-known gym rat. While Kispert was not known for his lock-down defense due to his mediocre athleticism, he was known for being physical, relentless and never backing down against anyone he matched up with. The Zags frequently trusted him in big moments, such as in the WCC title game against BYU when he scored 14 points in the second half and hit two huge 3-pointers to close out the game. He will bring a competitive edge and willingness to compete to this Wizards team, something that Bradley Beal will undoubtedly appreciate.
While Kispert is probably more naturally suited to play small forward at 6’7 220 pounds, created a big of a logjam with Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans on the roster, he will likely get big minutes next season as his movement shooting and off-ball gravity makes him an ideal match with Bradley Beal. Too many times last season, Beal would penetrate into the teeth of the defense and kick the ball out to an open 3-point shooter, but the Wizards simply did not have the personnel to consistently capitalize on these opportunities. That will immediately become less of a problem whenever Kispert is on the floor. Beal has apparently expressed his satisfaction as well, with Sheppard saying in a press conference that Beal was “pleased” with the selection.
Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard opens up his press conference by mentioning how pleased Bradley Beal is to see Washington select Corey Kispert and add shooting. Beal Era still continuing, it seems.
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) July 30, 2021
Kispert’s addition to the team is a welcome one, and his rapid development as an older rookie could be crucial to a team that is clearly aiming for the postseason following a sign-and-trade for former Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Everything appears good on paper, but obviously one can only speculate until the season begins. Here’s to hoping that this marriage is as good in practice as it is in theory.
All stats courtesy of Pro Basketball-Reference and ESPN.
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