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Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman on long 2s: ‘You know what? Those numbers you can stick… alright? You know, all you analytical people that take that’

Mar 4, 2014, 12:39 PM EDT

In simple terms, there are four types of shots by location:

  • Short 2s (at the rim)
  • Long 2s (defined here as everywhere else inside the arc, which is a different definition than commonly used)
  • Short 3s (corners)
  • Long 3s (above the break)

Here’s a breakdown of how many points per shot NBA teams score from each of those locations:


This doesn’t account for how likely drawing a foul or turning the ball over is while hunting each type of shot, but you get the basic outline. Short 2s are ideal, followed by short 3s then long 3s. Long 2s should be a last resort.

That’s pretty intuitive. There are no style points for making a long 2 rather than a short 2 or a long 3 rather than a short 3. And because there’s typically greater distance disparity between long and short 2s than between long and short 3s, the gap in value inside the arc is greater.

Of course, not every team fits this model. Different players have different strengths, and that could shape where teams shoot from. Let’s look at the Washington Wizards (in red) relative to the NBA averages (still in blue):


As you can see, the Wizards are better than league average at short 2s, short 3s and long 3s and worse than league average at long 2s. But the overall value of each Washington shot ranks in accordance with the rest of the league.

So, the Wizards should try to generate – in order – short 2s, short 3s and long 3s.

Easier said than done, obviously.

Defenses exist, and they’re trying, too. Really, defenses would prefer to contest every shot, but like offense, playing defense is hard. That’s why many good defenses focus on taking away short 2s, short 3s and long 3s – leaving the less-damaging long 2s open.

To counter, good offenses either get good long-2 shooters, or they work even harder to avoid shots from that range. It’s a constant battle.

Except in Washington.

See, the Wizards will gladly take those long 2s. Wizards coach Randy Wittman, via Kyle Weidie of

“You take open shots. You take open shots. Where they are is dictated by what the defense does. If you predicate what kind of shot you’re going to take not based on what you’re doing reading the defense, you’re not going to get good shots. I just worry about goods shots.

You know what? Those numbers you can stick… alright? You know, all you analytical people that take that… You take good shots, that’s the most important thing. Maybe we’re not taking good midrange shots, maybe we’re taking contested ones. I understand the numbers are there for a reason, we look at the numbers, but to sit there and… We got a good, open shot we’re taking, I don’t care where it is.”

Opposing defenses are suckering you, Randy. Those shots are open for a reason.

No NBA team shoots worse on long 2s (37 percent) and has them comprise a higher share of their total shots (46 percent) than the Wizards.

Sometimes, offenses with bad players are stuck taking long 2s. Defenses just win the battle.

But the Wizards don’t have bad offensive players. After all, they rank perform better than league average at all other locations.

They’re just too content with an open long 2 because it’s open, and that has evolved into them actually hunting open long 2s. Wittman noticed an area on the floor where he could schematically create open shots, and he thinks he’s taking advantage.

Really, he’s playing right into the defenses’ hands. He should spend more time formulating a gameplan that creates open short 2s and 3s for his players. They’re capable of delivering.

Eventually, the NBA will hit an equilibrium, where defenses guard short 2s and all 3s so well, long 2s will become efficient again.

The Wizards aren’t there. They’re just playing foolishly.

  1. spursareold - Mar 4, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Randy won’t have a job for long. He’ll be on the “Get off my advanced statistics law!” junk pile with Hollins.

    • kinggw - Mar 4, 2014 at 1:59 PM

      The Griz arent exactly thriving without Hollins are they? Advanced stats are nice but they lead to failed strategies like that of the Rockets. The Rockets are 40-19, sitting 5th in the West. They are the anti-Wizards. They only take 9 mid range shots a game. The Rockets are a good team, but anyone who has watched them know that they wont win a championship with that style of play. If there is a day when the threes arent falling, more than likely they aren’t going to win.

      Advanced stats have a place in the NBA, but teams shouldn’t go overboard.

      • casualcommenter - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:11 PM

        Actually, the Grizz disprove your own point in multiple ways.

        First, Lionel Hollins hated the Rudy Gay trade and felt it was motivated in part by advanced stats showing Gay was a net negative. Well, the Grizz played better without Gay than with him and made a deep post-season run. Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors also improved after trading away Gay this year. So Hollins was wrong.

        Second, as for why the Griz’s record is worse this year, a big reason is injuries. The most notable injury has been to Marc Gasol, whose individual numbers aren’t too impressive but whose advanced stats say is extremely important to his team’s offense and defense. Some people didn’t like him winning defensive player of the year last year because his standard numbers aren’t too good, but the Grizz fell off when he was injured. With Gasol’s return, they’ve been much better.

      • casualcommenter - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:17 PM

        Uh, if the Rockets aren’t hitting their jump shots, shooting long 2 point jumpers is no better than shooting 3-pointers. The only difference is that when they do hit a jumper, the low-percentage shots will be only worth 2 points instead of 3 points.

        What you’ve done is used Charles Barkley’s favorite complaint about teams like the Thunder (“They shoot too many jumpers and those don’t always fall,”) but you’ve incorrectly tried to use that to argue the Rockets should shoot more long 2 point jumpers.

        If like Barkely you don’t think teams should be reliant on jump shots, that’s fine, but asking them to shoot more long 2 point jumpers to fix that problem doesn’t make sense.

      • unxpexted1 - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        @casual, in the end yes, its about not focusing on jumpers, because normal jump shooting teams dont win. I think what my problem with advanced stats is that it makes teams focus on one part of the game because statistically its the “best” shot to today. SO i think it makes teams specialize in one thing instead of having balance, which seems to be the case with Houston. They have a lack of balance offensively. I think there is a place for Advanced stats but it seems sometimes the application is flawed.

        Look at memphis earlier this year. Advanced stats said that creating more possessions and playing uptempo is statistically the best option to win. They tried doing that early in the season and it didn’t work at all. Now they have resorted to their older style of play of making it a low possesion game, even though statistics say thats not the best route.

      • azarkhan - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        I think they should have kept Lionel Hollins, but in fairness to Grizzlies coach David Joerger, Marc Gasol (and others) missed a lot of games with injuries.

      • kinggw - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:01 PM

        Im not arguing that the Rockets should take more long 2s, im arguing that their style of play, which is dictated by advanced stats, is fundamentally flawed and that Wittman is correct.

        The Grizzlies are all in on the advanced stats trend, how has it benefited them? How about the Rockets? I think Rockets success this season is more a factor of Houston having two superstars on their roster versus their reliance on advanced statistics to generate strategy.

      • spursareold - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        kinggw – You want to see advanced stats in motion? San Antonio. Picking and working for the RIGHT shots has extended the careers of their Big Three well into their 30s, and also extended the successful run of the team. Having that system in place allows them to plug people in for rest or injury repolacement.

        That’s a MUCH larger sample size than one injury riddled season for the Grizz.

      • spursareold - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        Oh, and

        Washington 31-29
        Grizz 34-25

        The Grizz would be the THREE seed in the East. Just the luck of the draw.

      • unxpexted1 - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:31 PM

        @spurs, i would argue that the spurs don’t use “Advanced Stats” and that they play more an an old school basketball approach of motion, pick and roles and play making off screens, backcuts etc. Nothing advanced about that, that’s purist basketball at its finest.

      • unxpexted1 - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:33 PM

        I’m saying it as a compliment, not a knock.

      • kinggw - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:47 PM

        Now you’re reaching. Its ridiculous to say that advanced statistics have extended the career of San Antonio’s big 3.

        In your praise of advanced stats you seem to overlook other equally important intangibles to a team like talent and chemistry. You also neglect the fact that the big 3 has played together for over 10 years and the Spurs have constantly surrounded them with quality role players. Pop’s resting of his stars has had a bigger effect on their longevity than advanced stats.

        Again, I see the benefit but I also see that some teams go too far. Advanced stats told the Griz they didn’t need Rudy Gay because he is an inefficient scorer, we also saw the Spurs take advantage of the fact that Memphis didn’t have anyone who could create their own shot in the WCF.

      • spursareold - Mar 4, 2014 at 4:23 PM

        Pop is a HUGE proponent of advanced stats. He wasn’t always. Yes, they’ve played together for a long time. How do you think that happens? By doing what they want? By taking whatever shots they want? There has been a system in place for probably the last 5 years that looks for and creates GOOD shots. The reason that they sped up their offense from the old days was because they realized they were taking better shots than anyone else, and if you’re doing that, more possessions opens up a larger points gap.

        Pop DOES rest his stars, and without missing a beat. Do you know how? The system for finding and taking good shots. Patty Mills, their backup PG, is rocking an 18.9 PER this year after bouncing out of the league a couple of years ago. You think he suddenly got real good? Or did he land in the right place? If you look at the team shot charts, the Spurs take a LOT of shots at the rim, a lot of CORNER threes, and some threes above the break. They only shoot long twos on occasion, usually when the clock is running down. Duncan shoots at the elbow to space the lane. Parker shoots off the pick and roll enough to keep the defense honest. Almost everything else is a quality high return shot.

  2. nghtrder169 - Mar 4, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    No one complained about MJ taking long 2’s…. Lol

    • akbar264 - Mar 4, 2014 at 1:24 PM

      He was absurdly good at them. He’s an anomaly.

    • casualcommenter - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:13 PM

      MJ was good at long 2’s. Dirk Nowitzki is good at Long 2’s.

      The Washington Wizards’ players, unlike those guys, are not good at Long 2’s. Therefore, unlike MJ and Dirk Nowitzki, the Wizards players shouldn’t take Long 2’s if they can avoid it.

      • nghtrder169 - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:27 PM


  3. azarkhan - Mar 4, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    Maybe Randy is making the best of a bad situation, defending his players who insist on taking dumb shots despite what the coach says. Nene’s comments after a loss to the Spurs come to mind: “Our young guys must take their heads out their butts and play the right way because I’m getting tired of this…I wish our young guys who think they know a lot of things, who think they are smart and they just got in the league. What makes me mad, after a game like that, they look at stats.”

    • mrmilanp - Mar 4, 2014 at 6:52 PM

      Maybe. But it also seems possible that the reason they take so many long two’s is because the coach, and the offense, allow them to. And I’ll take Randy’s quote basically stating this over Nene’s ambiguous quote any day.

  4. discountdoublecheck - Mar 4, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    All things considered…randy has lasted a LOT longer than I ever thought he would and he definitely has his guys playing for him which is always nice to see.

    That said though…you just can’t help but feel like it’s just prolonging the inevitable :-/

  5. unxpexted1 - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    The Josh Smith rule

    • spursareold - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:17 PM

      Josh Smith is the POSTER CHILD for NOT taking long twos.

      • bougin89 - Mar 4, 2014 at 4:24 PM

        Josh Smith is the poster boy for not taking jumpers, period.

  6. ryanaammess - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    Why didnt the Wiz fire this guy after last season? Theres upgrades over Wittman available.

    • shanelsweet - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      Because their franchise player and every other player that they intended to retain gave Witt high praise in their end of season interviews, and they still praise him now. Firing a coach who has the respect of his players and who makes them want to play better doesn’t make a lick of sense. Just like the Heat, Spurs, and OKC, the Wiz didn’t blow things up after last season. They made a few bench changes, but brought back all their rotation players. They’ve got great team chemistry as a result and a chance to do some damage in the playoffs.

      • discountdoublecheck - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:05 PM

        I agree Shane. It’s sort of a rough situation. Randy doesn’t grab anyone as anything more than a stopgap type coach, and his career #’s are hideous…but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that he has his guys playing very sound ball even without Nene and the players definitely respect him and give their all for him.

        It’ll be very interesting to see how this all ends up playing out. I can’t help but get the feeling that knowing Ted…despite the loyalty he’s known for (somehow too much so…see:George McPhee with the Caps and certainly EG with the Wiz) if a big name were to express any sort of interest in coming here, he’d listen.

      • shanelsweet - Mar 4, 2014 at 6:59 PM

        Maybe, but Ted put the bar at making the playoffs this year. For Wiz fans, that’s huge after years of suffering. Witt has the team on the cusp of more than just that. Their schedule is getting easier and the young players seem to be meshing. It’s a great time to be a Wiz fan, and there’s no need to talk about firing the coach or GM. If the Wiz hang tough in a 2nd round series this year, folks are going to start wanting to play with Wall, Beal, Webster, Nene, Gortat and the rest. That’s the model Ted’s been using. In that model, you don’t fire folks who win. You go out and spend a little extra to get them the top flight players they need to contend for a championship.

  7. shanelsweet - Mar 4, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    “He should spend more time formulating a game plan that creates open short 2s and 3s for his players.” OMG, do you watch the games at all, or just stare at the numbers? It’s obvious that Witt wants his team to push the pace and take the open shot. Considering they’re one of the hottest teams going right now, his game planning is working just fine. Isn’t it just as possible that the reason they are above average in hitting the other 3 types of shots is because they make teams respect and defend those long 2s? You know, hitting a long 2 makes getting to the rim a lot easier

    • unxpexted1 - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:04 PM

      I agree with most of this, but their half court offense can be brutal at times. That’s my knock on Witt.

    • spursareold - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:19 PM

      He needs to be replaced then. That system is ONLY a plan for the regular season. NO ONE will let you do that in the post season. You HAVE to be able to execute in the half court.

    • asimonetti88 - Mar 4, 2014 at 3:36 PM

      “It’s obvious that Witt wants his team to push the pace.”

      Isn’t that even more reason to get the ball to the basket for some easy lay-ins?

    • Dan Feldman - Mar 4, 2014 at 4:00 PM

      “Isn’t it just as possible that the reason they are above average in hitting the other 3 types of shots is because they make teams respect and defend those long 2s? You know, hitting a long 2 makes getting to the rim a lot easier”

      Entirely possible. But if you watch the games, you’d know that’s not what’s happening here.

    • mrmilanp - Mar 4, 2014 at 6:56 PM

      Why would teams respect and defend those long 2’s more with the Wizards when they are below average at shooting them? Just because they shoot a lot of them? Maybe this would be the case if the other 29 teams were coached by Randy Wittman.

  8. spursareold - Mar 4, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    Wittman’s argument is specious anyway. You’re uncovered when you cross center court. Why not shoot then? IT’S A BAD LOW PERCENTAGE SHOT. You’re open, but you shouldn’t shoot.

  9. nicofthenorthstar - Mar 4, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    Wittman couldn’t cut it in MN. That’s all you really need to know.

    • eugenesaxe1 - Mar 4, 2014 at 9:02 PM

      Who has?

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