When the Washington Wizards signed Drew Gooden to a 10-day contract at the end of February, I don’t think even they thought that he’d be as good as he had been. I’m not sure if he thought that he would be this good. Maybe the only person who knew he would be as good as he has been was Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
In either case, in a search to fill a roster spot after Nene went down with a devastating knee injury, the Wizards picked up a gem in Drew Gooden. So far in his stint with the Wizards, Gooden has been an effective floor spacer from the middle of the floor and from outside. Along with that, he’s been able to perform well on the glass. Gooden is averaging 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 14.6 minutes of play per game with the Wizards in just eight games.
In four of the eight games that he’s played with the Wizards, Gooden has been able to eclipse or equal a 12 point scoring total. In his latest outing with the club, he managed to score a season high 21 points and was a huge contributor in a 4th quarter rally against the Brooklyn Nets. Gooden has been quite the surprise, but we’re still quite deep in the Honeymoon phase with Gooden. The reality of the situation is this shooting stretch by Gooden probably won’t last and shouldn’t be completely trusted.
In his eight games played with the Wizards, Gooden is shooting 50% on six shot attempts from beyond the arch and 63% on 22 shot attempts from the midrange area. He’s shooting 1-7 in the paint outside of the restricted area and 11-16 inside the restricted area. Even with him going 1-7 inside the paint and outside of the restricted area, those are great marks to have as far as shooting goes. Gooden has been able to stretch defenses out and punish them inside as well.
But for his career, Gooden has always been an average midrange shooter. His shot percentage has hovered around that 39-40% mark from that area of the floor. The 63% mark that Gooden currently has will likely regress to the mean. And for his career from deep, he’s always been atrocious. His attempts for the Wizards from deep have mostly been from the two wings. He has one corner attempt from each corner and two attempts from each wing.
With the way that John Wall and Andre Miller are able to probe the paint off of penetration, there are going to be a lot of looks outside the arch. It’s great that Gooden has been able to be the threat that he has from there, but the reality of the situation here is that Gooden has been a poor three point shooter throughout his career. He’s never shot more than 1.0 three per game throughout his career and he’s a career 23% shooter from that area of the floor. There’s a chance that he could’ve improved with his time off and added to his game, but we haven’t seen that yet and seeing is believing in the NBA.
But that’s just it–seeing is believing. And right now, Gooden is taking shots from the outside with regularity. The sample size is still small here, but Gooden has emerged as a stretch-5 threat for the time being. And the Wizards couldn’t have asked for a better piece with Nene out of the picture for the time being.
In the last eight games with Gooden, the Wizards offense has skyrocketed. On the season, they’ve got a 103.0 offensive rating which is in the bottom half of the league. But in the last eight games, the Wizards have a 108.2 offensive rating. Part of that is because of them having a solid bench unit and doing different things offensively. John Wall is driving the lane more, Trevor Ariza has been scorching from deep, the team in general is shooting less midrange shots and taking more threes. But Gooden is very much a key part to that stretch too.
Just looking at his play the other night against Brooklyn, he opened the lanes up in the fourth quarter for the Wizards offense to get going. He was a key cog on the defensive end in the fourth quarter, and the unit that he was apart of in the fourth quarter had a 128.6 offensive rating with a defensive rating of 25.4. The Nets, by the end of the game, were closing out on Gooden like he was some sort of sharpshooter.
But that’s because, with the Wizards, he’s played that sharpshooter role well. And that’s where perception meets reality in this situation. The reality of things is that Gooden may not keep up this excellent shooting stretch that he’s been on, but the perception of his excellent shooting being there will sit in the back of opponent’s minds and cause them to close out. The threat of him hitting shots from outside will force defenses to close out which, in turn, will open up more driving lanes for the Wizards’ guards.
With Drew Gooden, the Wizards hope that perception truly does become reality. They want him to keep taking and hitting outside shots. But if he can’t, the the mere memory of him doing so could open up the floor for the Wizards.
Shot chart data provided by NBA.com