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How effective is the three point shot?

Published by Axel on 31st October - 22:54 (CET)
Okay, so this new three point field goal trend has really messed up people's minds. Luckily I'm here to set you straight! And this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I'm a Bulls fan...

Golden State have made most teams in the league try to replicate their whole playbook, which goes a) kick someone in the nuts, or b) hoist up more three pointers than retire-mode Kobe did. With the league averaging an all-time high 24.1 three pointers attempted per game and per team in '15-'16 we saw an increase of almost two attempts compared to year before.

The whole league averaged .354 in three point field goal percentage, good enough for a 13th place and not that far away from the 4th placed .360 in '13-'14. This while shooting .452 from the field. Any dummy can figure out that 0.360 * 3 is more than 0.452 * 2, so how could this be a bad thing? Hear me out!

First off the field goal percentage in '15-'16 was unusually low and only better than the '14-'15 season, a few seasons during the minor NBA dark ages in the early 00's and a lot of seasons in the 60's when nobody really cared. While the average shot distance has increased by about two feet the last 30 years and therefore should be a bit lower, we should probably expect that .452 number to increase a tiny bit. The three point percentage was also very high, much thanks to a few teams (again mostly looking at you, Golden State) which took an enormous number of threes with insane percentages. But there aren't many teams that can do that, and the formula above completely ignores the fact that the increased number of three pointers attempted, usage of stretch fours, decrease in drives and players moving further out from the basket result in a heavy decrease in offensive rebounds. The team average of 10.4 offensive rebounds per game last year is the lowest since the NBA started counting offensive rebounds more than 40 years ago.

Another fact which shouldn't be overlooked is that the number of three pointers taken also results in fewer free throws. Last season's team average was 23.4 attempted free throws per game. Apart from '11-'12, '12-'13 and '14-'15 this is the worst league average since 1946, and the free throw shot is by far the most effective shot in the game as any dummy also can figure out that (0.75 * 1) * 2 is way better than both 0.360 * 3 and 0.452 * 2. And 75% is a relatively low free throw percentage.

Do the extra points made out of three pointers really make up for the lack of free throws and offensive rebounds? There are numerous of other factors, but the league average Offensive Rating of 106.4 during '15-'16 only places at a 22th place since the league began to record this stat, so perhaps it doesn't?

Well, if you have a set of Kyle Korvers or Steph Currys and therefore have the firepower to play that game it's a great choice, but shooting a lot of three pointers at a league average might actually hurt you.
If Gregg Popovich says he's fine with going big and not shooting a lot threes - the Spurs placed fourth from the bottom in three point attempts in '15-'16 - maybe the other teams should be as well?

With that said I can now move on to more important things. The Chicago Bulls aren't actually in as much trouble as you may think. At least when it comes to the whole spacing issue with Wade/Butler/Rondo. Dwyane Wade is the 3rd best shooting guard in history. Sorry Iverson, I'll use your days as point guard to my advantage here. Not sorry, Gervin, West and Drexler. If you're a shooting guard of that caliber you are certainly able to adapt and adjust your shot, for instance your three point shot. Wade did so during the latter part of the previous season, enough to have him shoot a very good .522 from three during the post season, and he took a lot of those shots. It seems to have stuck as Wade looked strong in the preseason with an average of .438 from three, followed up by a strong 22 point performance in his first regular season game as a Bull, making four of six three pointers.

Also come on, there's always Doug McBuckets and Threekola Mirotic on the roster, and it's not as if teams will leave Jimmy Butler alone at the three point line. I hope they do.

Go Bulls!!

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