The NBA All Star Game this year has shown us that the deep threes are the future of this sport. Over the recent years, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, Trae Young etc. have revolutionized the game by shooting from 28+ feet range with regularity. In Atlanta it was on full display. Curry and Lillard seemed to have a personal contest over who is going to hit a further three, finishing with an identical shooting percentage from three: (8-16). However, Lillard stole the show with a game winner from half court, reminding everyone that there is no bad shot if you can shoot it from anywhere.
Two years ago, Lillard waved away Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder with a wild step back three, and PG 13 called him out for shooting a bad shot. Not even George, his teammate on the Lebron’s All Star team, can’t argue against it anymore:
“I guess I was criticized for the right reason for calling Dame’s shot in the playoffs a bad shot. I see this guys’ range is crazy, the ability to knock these shots down. And I mean, it’s not like it’s a half-court heave. These are shots that are in their-well in their range. They probably can shoot it deeper. It is a great shot, two thumbs up”
So what can we take away from the two guards splashing it from half court in this year’s All Star game? For starters, a deep three has over the recent years become a crucial part for some of the best offensive players in the world. Keep in mind that these players aren’t just jacking up threes. Deep shots are practiced over and over again because players who can shoot from that far out keep the defenses on their toes as soon as the ball crosses the half court line. Players like Lillard or Curry not only shoot a good percentage from these far away lands, but they break their opponents back as it is pretty demoralizing to see a guy knock down a shot from 30+ feet. Therefore, long shots give you the three points, but also give you a psychological advantage because let’s face it, it must feel pretty awesome to hit such a shot in a game.
A while ago, we talked about what the good and bad shooting percentages are, and what factors determine that. Well, we can use this logic to see which shots are good or bad. The increasing role of statistics allowed players to be more confident in their abilities, as they show how good a player can shoot from a specific area. It doesn’t matter how difficult a shot is if a player is hitting it at a consistent rate. For example, Damian Lillard was shooting 37,7% last season before the all star break on threes that were further than 28 ft. That means that he was bringing over a point per possession on shots that were considered ridiculous only a couple years ago. NBA players are shooting from over 30ft 75% more than they did only 5 years ago! Players who are shooting from this far out usually have good percentages, so it is not suitable to characterize long threes as bad shots.
So is there a bad shot in today’s basketball? Well, the closest thing that comes to it is a long two pointer. While the threat of a long three spreads the defenses and makes them guard the whole half court, long twos are almost the same difficulty as threes but they don’t offer the same value as threes. That’s why teams are increasingly letting guys open in these areas, eliminating more efficient shots such as those from the paint or three. However, a long two isn’t necessarily a bad shot. If a player is shooting really well from that area and is posting good percentages, of course he/she will shoot when they are open. Ultimately, the shot is only as bad as how bad a player is when shooting from a certain area. That means that a bad shot for one player would be considered an extremely good one for another. It is on the coaches to recognize what to allow his/her players to do on the court based on their particular set of skills.
Photo: Dale Zanine/USA Today Sports