Corey Kispert is making his 3s and other teams are adjusting

Kispert is making his 3s and other teams are adjusting originally appeared on NBC SportsWashington

WASHINGTON — The New York Knicks’ defense was able to accomplish two things simultaneously on Friday night against the Wizards. They packed the paint to encourage Washington to take threes, yet they watched Corey Kispert closely enough to limit him to four attempts.

That is essentially how it was described in postgame by the Wizards. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. and his players explained how the Knicks limited the Wizards to 31% shooting from three on 42 attempts, while also holding them to 28 paint points.

But Kyle Kuzma also added this when asked whether Kispert needs to be more aggressive after only accounting for four of those 42 shots.

“I mean, teams understand that he’s a 3-point shooter and they did a great job not allowing him to get off shots,” Kuzma said. “I think for the most part he was hunting when he could, he made shots when he could, he put the ball down and made the right play. That’s all you can ask for. I thought they did a pretty good job with their 3 -point defense all night. That comes with it.”

That would suggest the NBA is catching on to Kispert’s improvement this season. He has now made at least one three in 17 straight games, a career-best streak for the second-year pro.

For the season, Kispert is making 41.6% from long range on 4.4 attempts per game. Over his last seven outings, he has shot 50% from deep on 4.9 attempts per game.

Kispert is trending upward and making the most of the current opportunity for him with starting shooting guard Bradley Beal out due to injury.

“I feel great, the best I’ve felt in my career shooting the ball for sure. I’m really, really happy with where my jumpshot is,” Kispert said.

Kispert said his success this season has been partly rooted in his mindset. He’s not paying as close attention to his statistics as he did last year as a rookie. And he is viewing his development more in the context of the long-term.

Kispert believes he has taken steps forward not only as a 3-point shooter this season, having raised his percentage from 35.0% as a rookie, but also on the defensive end. He feels on track to where he wants to be at this stage in his career.

“All that stuff is lining up perfectly,” he said.

Given what was said in postgame press conferences after Friday night’s loss, it sounds like a continual adjustment will be needed for him to find more shot attempts, particularly from long range. The more he plays well, the more other teams are noticing and will work to force him out of his comfort zone.

Kispert does a solid job of countering opposing defenses with well-timed cuts to the rim and catch-and-go moves. But over time, it may become a natural goal for the team to get him more shots.

Some of the top shooters in the NBA of Kispert’s ilk tend to take upwards of six 3-point attempts or more per game during their best years. Examples would be Joe Harris, Cameron Johnson and Seth Curry. Duncan Robinson at his peak with the Miami Heat a few years ago was attempting eight threes per game.

Regardless of the sweet spot number, Kispert says it’s always his goal to take more shots.

“It doesn’t really matter if Brad is in or out, they’re still encouraging me to be aggressive. I can always be more aggressive,” Kispert said. “As someone who’s responsible on this team for shooting threes, and we don’t shoot a lot compared to the rest of the league, it’s kind of my job to be aggressive. Brad, even when he’s in, is one of the main encouragers I’m looking to take more and more.”

Kispert made a good point there, that the Wizards need more 3-point shooting. They rank 27th in 3-pointers made per game (10.8) a season after finishing dead-last in that category. They are also 23rd in 3-point percentage (34.3).

Kispert is well-aware of that weakness and how he factors into fixing it. But as the Knicks demonstrated on Friday night, other teams are, too.

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