Friday, December 14, 2012

Shoot the J

The 3-point shot is awesome. Not only is it one of the more valuable shots in basketball (looking at you too, the free-throw), but it pretty much has allowed Steve Novak to have a career and that's kind of cool.

Now, some teams are really good at shooting threes and they do it a lot. One of these teams is the New York Knicks. I'm probably not the first person to tell you that the Knicks take a lot of threes, but I need to place emphasis on the extent to which they do. Thirty-five percent of all their shots come from behind the arc at this point! The closest team to that is Houston at just under 32 percent. Clearly, the Knicks get it.

Other teams have yet to completely utilize the long-range shot. Some of these teams are bad at shooting them (Chicago at 33.2); others just are reluctant for some reason (Memphis at a respectable 36.5 percent).

So, I guess you're asking, does this matter? Well, potentially very much. I decided to look into whether teams were helping or hurting themselves with the threes they were taking. Essentially it goes like this: I did some math to figure out how many points a team was either gaining or losing on 3 by seeing how they would score shooting a league-average amount of 3's.

Teams That Should Shoot More Threes:

1. Chicago, -6.96 points per game
Chicago, despite being a bad 3-point shooting team, leads this list. Basically, they take so few 3's that, even though their percentage isn't great, they're probably still hurting themselves.

2. Memphis, -4.59 points per game
This one is baffling. Memphis, as mentioned above, is actually a good 3-point shooting team. They rank 10th in percentage yet 28th in rate of attempts. They've essentially streamlined their attempts to only people who can make them (Conley, Ellington, Gay, Bayless...), which is a pretty solid strategy. So why not shoot more?

3. Boston, -4.27 points per game
They were low in 3-point rate last year and Ray Allen leaving probably hurts, but they need to find some additional attempts from their wings.

Teams That Are Probably Fine:

1. Oklahoma City, -0.19 points per game
They stroke it and take a pretty decent amount of 3's. Good combination.

2. Minnesota, +0.07 points per game
The opposite of the Thunder, the T'Wolves are atrocious from behind the arc and don't hoist up that many. Kevin Love will presumably fix this a little bit and you've got to love Shved, but they're probably fine.

3. Indiana, +0.16 points per game
Anything to make this offense more watchable would be nice, but they're fine I suppose.

Teams That Are Stroking It

1. New York Knicks, +11.19 points per game
Holy hell! Not much more needs to be written about Knicks 3-point shooting, but yeah, this is crazy.

2. Houston, +7.11 points per game
I like this strategy from Houston. They start 4 guys who are, at the very least, threats from outside (Lin, Harden, Parsons, and Patterson), and bring Morris, Cook, and Douglas off the bench, all of whom shoot above 36%. The space created for their two premier pick-and-roll ball handlers is crucial.

3. Los Angeles Lakers, +4.7 points per game
Not everything is going wrong I guess?

This analysis obviously isn't perfect. Increasing the rate of attempts could affect how well a team shoots from three. Also it's not necessarily easy to just find new looks from 3 when you have an established offense. But overall I think a lot of teams are leaving value on the table that needs to be utilized.

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