Gregg Popovich has been an adamant critic of the three-point shot. He believes it isn’t real basketball. His San Antonio Spurs reflect this idea, attempting only 18.7 three-point shots per game. This ranks 25th in the league. Remember that statistic: In 2015-16, 18.7 three points attempted is 25th best in the league.
Let’s flashback fifteen years. 18.7 three point attempts per game would be the second highest in the NBA, trailing only the 2000-01 Boston Celtics who attempted 19.9. No team had attempted more than 20 a game.
Jump ahead to 2005-06, 10 years ago. 18.7 three point attempts per game would be the 7th highest in the NBA. The 2005-06 Phoenix Suns led the league with 25.6 attempts per game. Only Phoenix and Golden State attempted more than 20 three-point shots a game that year.
Jump ahead to 2010-11, five years ago. 18.7 three point attempts per game would be good for 11th highest in the NBA. The 2010-11 Orlando Magic led the league with 25.6 attempts per game. Nine teams attempted more than 20 three-point shots a game, a big increase in just five years.
Welcome back to 2015-16. 18.7 attempts per game is 25th best in the league. The 2015-16 Houston Rockets attempt the most three-point shots at 31.3 per game. Currently 24 teams (Yes, literally the entire NBA) attempt over 20 three-point shots a game, a massive spike from 2010-11. Why are so many teams shooting from beyond the arc? It appears that attempting a lot of three-pointers correlates to success since the entire top 10 in terms of three-pointers attempted is in the playoff picture. Detroit is the only team currently not in a playoff seed, but they have attempted the 10th most and sit at the same winning percentage as the eight seeded Chicago Bulls in the East.
The top 10 teams are as follows in order of attempts: Houston, Golden State, Charlotte, Cleveland, Dallas, Portland, Atlanta, Los Angeles (Clippers), Boston and Detroit. All of these teams are shooting at least 26 three-pointers a game. Although some may not shoot at a high percentage, we are tracking only attempts and not makes.
The modern NBA has completely changed. There is a major emphasis on shooting beyond the arc because it gives the team three points instead of two. Players such as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kyle Korver and J.J. Reddick are proving their worth because they can consistently score from long range. The current trend suggests that the value for three-point specialists will explode. Every team is always in need of another shooter to not only stretch the floor, but actually be able to hit the shot.
Golden State has proved how valuable the three-ball is this season. Their record speaks for itself and is mostly due to the shooting of not only Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, but also of Harrison Barnes, Brandon Rush, Leandro Barbosa and Draymond Green. All can stretch the floor and have the green light to shoot when open. This forces defenses to stretch out and it weakens the help on driving lanes. When teams do cheat to help against a driving Warrior, the result is often a kick-out into a made three-pointer. The Warriors offense has thrived off of this phenomenon and I expect teams to start to copy this new-style of basketball.
Because three is more than two, expect the trend of three-point shooting to continue to grow. While teams such as Miami, Chicago, Memphis and San Antonio are all playoff teams and are in the bottom six in terms of three-pointers attempted, they would happily add more shooters to their rotations. The Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers are in the top-half of three-point shots attempted, so this doesn’t guarantee success. However, if you can add the right shooters into a rotation, your team should be primed for the postseason.