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How important is the 3-pointer any more?

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How important is the 3-pointer any more? 

Post#1 » by payitforward » Fri Aug 28, 2020 8:47 pm

I've been trying to figure out the right place to put this interesting article. Finally giving up & just creating a new thread for it.

https://www.truehoop.com/p/10-things-to-know-about-the-nba-playoffs

The article is about a number of subjects. It's these first few paragraphs I'm curious about:

Before we had the data to prove it insane, basketball coaches said good shots were one thing and 3-pointers were another. Then teams that shot more 3s started waxing everybody. John Hollinger pointed out more than a decade ago that if you looked at nothing other than 3s attempted (not even made) you could go a long way to predicting how many games a team won. More 3s made your team better. It’s the innovation of the last few decades of basketball. In 1980, a typical NBA game featured four 3-pointers total--including end-of-quarter heaves. This season the two teams combine to take 68. The game is only 48 minutes long.

But the game never stops evolving. And this year, we are starting to see some wrinkles: the NBA’s best defensive team is the one that permits the MOST 3s (the Milwaukee Bucks). On BRING IT IN today David Thorpe shared his theory about how they make that work.

And another important wrinkle. Mike D’Antoni, the high priest of the 3-ball, who invented the offense that upended the NBA, told me all he ever wanted to do was get more layups. No one believed him when all this began in Phoenix. But now? John Hollinger writes for the Athletic about D’Antoni’s current team, the Houston Rockets, who are widely seen as 3-crazy:

Houston’s 3-point shooting is basically a ruse at this point – a trick to tempt you away from guarding more valuable space at the rim. The Rockets only shot 34.5 percent on 3s this year, and McLemore was the only individual to make more than 36.3 percent. On the other hand, they shot 55.7 percent inside the arc – the second-best mark in the league, and with the best free-throw rate piled on top.


(link: https://theathletic.com/1999758/2020/08/16/hollingers-western-conference-playoff-picks-who-will-advance-and-why/)

It took the league a long time to learn to value the 3 enough to shoot a lot of them. And now the league is off on a new journey, tinkering with what works in the new world. A lot of that will be surprising. Innovation is fun.


Your thoughts?
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Re: How important is the 3-pointer any more? 

Post#2 » by Ruzious » Fri Aug 28, 2020 10:41 pm

Milwaukee is the best defensive team in the NBA while giving up the most 3's, but... they've been right up there at the top on offense because of 3 point shooting. Their worst outside shooter is probably Giannis, but he wouldn't be anywhere near as effective as he is without being surrounded by 3 point gunners - particularly deep 3 point shooters. 3 points shooters - in general - make their teammates so much more effective. A player like Ben Simmons may be a future MVP - if he's surrounded by 3 point shooters.

And we could go on and on about GS's success with 3 point shooting.
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Re: How important is the 3-pointer any more? 

Post#3 » by wall_glizzy » Fri Aug 28, 2020 11:49 pm

The 3-pointer's a great shot; the second-best in the entire game after a lay-up or dunk. Even with the league's vastly improved shooting over the past couple of years, a highly effective defense can give up a fair number of 3s if that sacrifice is made in the name of protecting the rim. It's what the Bucks have done, to an incredible degree, this year, with the Celtics and Raptors following suit but not quite as effective in denying lay-ups. (I think it was those two teams, at least - doc and I talked about this quite recently in some thread or another).

The 3 is still hugely important, however; the correction we're starting to see is in fact teams being more intelligent about defensive strategies around players who can't hit even open 3s well enough to punish them. In other words, credible three-point threats are probably more important now than they've ever been.

As far as the lesser shooters go, you still want them out at the perimeter - the numbers show that the "three point revolution" has in fact largely consisted of converting mid-range shots from role players into more efficient three-point attempts. By-and-large, save for some absolutely elite players who will pull up from anywhere, "superstar"-type offensive shot profiles include as much midrange, and as much finishing at the rim, as they ever have.

The same John Hollinger cited above has termed the latest evolution of NBA offense the "heliocentric" era - if you're lucky enough to have the right personnel, your best bet on offense is to keep the ball in the hands of your superstar as much as possible. It is, in other words, the Luka Doncics of the world whose lay-ups we're optimizing for here, not the Maxi Klebers (who would have a considerably higher degree of difficulty manufacturing those looks from an isolation situation on the perimeter).

So yes, the league, now as ever, is built around generating the game's easiest - and most valuable - shots. But the best way to do that, currently, is to surround a single offensive supernova with credible three-point threats who provide them with the maximum space to operate inside of the arc.
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Re: How important is the 3-pointer any more? 

Post#4 » by queridiculo » Sat Aug 29, 2020 11:09 am

I thought it was always understood that the 3-point shot was just a means to an end.

Stretch and bend defenses with the threat of the shot to open up opportunities inside.

When Golden State's offense was at its peak they excelled because their movement perfectly complemented their ability to stretch the floor, at times it looked like they were running layup drills.

It's not unlike running the ball in football. If you manage to stick with it, you are eventually going to get the coverages to take advantage of with in the passing game. The consistent threat of a ground game is more important than the actual production.
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Re: How important is the 3-pointer any more? 

Post#5 » by payitforward » Sun Aug 30, 2020 2:56 am

wall_glizzy wrote:The 3-pointer's a great shot; the second-best in the entire game after a lay-up or dunk. Even with the league's vastly improved shooting over the past couple of years, a highly effective defense can give up a fair number of 3s if that sacrifice is made in the name of protecting the rim. It's what the Bucks have done, to an incredible degree, this year, with the Celtics and Raptors following suit but not quite as effective in denying lay-ups. (I think it was those two teams, at least - doc and I talked about this quite recently in some thread or another).

The 3 is still hugely important, however; the correction we're starting to see is in fact teams being more intelligent about defensive strategies around players who can't hit even open 3s well enough to punish them. In other words, credible three-point threats are probably more important now than they've ever been.

As far as the lesser shooters go, you still want them out at the perimeter - the numbers show that the "three point revolution" has in fact largely consisted of converting mid-range shots from role players into more efficient three-point attempts. By-and-large, save for some absolutely elite players who will pull up from anywhere, "superstar"-type offensive shot profiles include as much midrange, and as much finishing at the rim, as they ever have.

The same John Hollinger cited above has termed the latest evolution of NBA offense the "heliocentric" era - if you're lucky enough to have the right personnel, your best bet on offense is to keep the ball in the hands of your superstar as much as possible. It is, in other words, the Luka Doncics of the world whose lay-ups we're optimizing for here, not the Maxi Klebers (who would have a considerably higher degree of difficulty manufacturing those looks from an isolation situation on the perimeter).

So yes, the league, now as ever, is built around generating the game's easiest - and most valuable - shots. But the best way to do that, currently, is to surround a single offensive supernova with credible three-point threats who provide them with the maximum space to operate inside of the arc.

Great post, wall_glizzy -- really well argued & presented. Thanks.
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Re: How important is the 3-pointer any more? 

Post#6 » by wall_glizzy » Mon Aug 31, 2020 4:25 am

payitforward wrote:Great post, wall_glizzy -- really well argued & presented. Thanks.


Thanks man! I know I've linked the channel, which I love, before, but here's a related video on how different, less-desirable shot profiles can influence the number and quality of opportunities a team has at more efficient looks

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Re: How important is the 3-pointer any more? 

Post#7 » by I_Like_Dirt » Fri Sep 4, 2020 4:49 pm

wall_glizzy wrote:
payitforward wrote:Great post, wall_glizzy -- really well argued & presented. Thanks.


Thanks man! I know I've linked the channel, which I love, before, but here's a related video on how different, less-desirable shot profiles can influence the number and quality of opportunities a team has at more efficient looks

Haven't watched the video yet but midrange definitely isn't dead. The best teams in the league are able to score from anywhere because they can also defend anywhere.

What's changed isn't offenses so much as it's defenses. Nobody could defend the Warriors but a few teams had been building up some concepts around the league and it culminated in a Raptors championship last year.

I think the Celtics have probably been at the front of the line, though. Everyone was screaming about how lucky they were that teams were missing their open 3s against them for a few seasons. It wasn't all luck. Gameplanning so teams that just take any and every open 3 wind up taking a bunch of 3s from spots they're more likely to miss from is a fantastic way to defend. And on the flip side, if opponent's are going to build defenses that leave the midrange open, finding guys who can hit midrange shots is probably a good idea.

There are a few exceptions. It takes a lot to push Steph Curry inside when he can hit a 40-footer like it's a layup. But that doesn't change the foundation of things. It's not totally about shooters surrounding a single star as it is about getting as many triple threats as you possibly can on the floor. This means almost anyone can become a shooter if needed and there are options for guys who can be the focal star at any given point, too.

Defenses got smart and sacrificed some size for the super mobile 6'7" or 6'8" guys who were still strong. It's really tough to challenge that short of going super big inside but that comes with other problems such as actually getting the ball inside, fewer shooters and fewer ballhandlers, and potential defensive weaknesses on switches with a very few exceptions. Teams really can't defend midrange shots effectively without opening up room either inside or from 3. So long as teams maintain guys who can shoot, pass and drive, there will always be threats fr those spots and the midrange game will still be a thing.

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Re: How important is the 3-pointer any more? 

Post#8 » by nate33 » Fri Sep 4, 2020 4:53 pm

3 of the last 4 champions featured the best midrange shooter in the game at the time: Durant, Durant and Kawhi.
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Re: How important is the 3-pointer any more? 

Post#9 » by I_Like_Dirt » Fri Sep 4, 2020 6:47 pm

nate33 wrote:3 of the last 4 champions featured the best midrange shooter in the game at the time: Durant, Durant and Kawhi.
It doesn't hurt that Kawhi and KD are both great defenders, passers, can hit 3s, rebound, etc. Forget jack of all trades, they're masters of all trades.

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Re: How important is the 3-pointer any more? 

Post#10 » by doclinkin » Sat Sep 12, 2020 7:32 pm

Lakers vs Rockets is a good example of why I suggest bigs are undervalued nowadays and therefore a good bargain. To some extent too the success of Jokic vs Clippers

I forget what thread I was talking about that. (Trade thread maybe. About Gobert/Jarrett Allen.) The 3FG is important no doubt, and it is a weapon that lets any team have a chance of success in the regular season. In the postseason however it is a skillset that diminishes in importance. Second chance points, offensive rebounding, points in the paint, fouls, and the defensive corollary to each of those see an uptick in significance. Traditionally these skills have been the forte of the giants. Monsters in the paint. I get the feel that these will see something of a renaissance, or at least that skilled Bigs will become once again desirable for teams that hope to advance in the playoffs.

Where teams were hunting stretch bigs for a while, and three point gunners, I think at some point we will see a run on mobile and active defensive Bigs, skilled Bigs who can both defend and pass and score reliably from the free throw line and in. Yes, a standstill giant is no longer a requirement, but a Bam Adebayo defending like a madman while earning 5 assists a game can have a significant effect in their teams success, and the presence of a true Pivot player like Jokic can force the Clippers to play 30+ minutes of Zubac trying to find a counter.

If I were scouting the near future metagame, I'd be looking for Bigs with solid numbers in steals, assists, and defensive rebounds. If they had a high FT% as well this suggests the ability to develop a midrange shot, if they rack up a good FT/FG ratio this suggests they are willing to bang in traffic, which can rack fouls on opposing Bigs or overpower small ball teams that try to guard with multi-tool small forwards. Anthony Davis is of course the ideal model, who does everything well on both ends, including score. But teams will look for a counter to the Davis's of the league. Giannis is a force, but he too suffers when big active players get inside his footwork and bump him body to body.

This profile is what leads me to look for the Xavier Tillman types. Savvy strong bigs who defend and pass. They needn't be the biggest, tallest, immobile types, they just need to be strong and active and Smart. Small ball can only take you so far, you need every player on your team to have the complete skill set, including passing and defending with position. I don't believe however that positionless basketball is really a thing. A team does need muscle and size. With GSW as the exception, having skilled Bigs seems to be the simplest and most efficient formula to advance in the playoffs.
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Re: How important is the 3-pointer any more? 

Post#11 » by Kanyewest » Sun Sep 13, 2020 1:01 am

nate33 wrote:3 of the last 4 champions featured the best midrange shooter in the game at the time: Durant, Durant and Kawhi.


Curry too.

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Kyrie up there as well for 2016.

Klay as well for the Warriors (although he didn't help as much offensively in the 2015 finals)

I'm guessing that trend may be accurate for most teams that won a championship. Wade, Kobe Pierce, Manu, Jordan, etc.

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