The three-point shot has changed the way basketball is played. Before the three-point shot, the game was played by big men down in the paint. Games and championships were often won by the teams with the tallest players. The center was the position that teams wanted to spend high drat picks and big dollars to obtain the best.
Now the NBA is a guard oriented league. Height is still a luxury teams like to have, but it is not the prize it once was. What teams want now are athletic guards and small forwards who can knocks down a three. And why not? A 50% filed goal percentage for guys who bang around under the basket is considered a good percentage. If you break that down that adds up to one point per attempt.
If you can shoot 33% from three-points that also equates to one point per attempt. So if you have guys who can shoot higher than 33% from three, then those guy are more valuable than guys who shoot 50% from inside the two-point area.
There was a time, and there still are a few around to this day, when there were shooting guards who specialize in three-pointers. These guys hung out around the arc and would catch and shoot. Some of these included Chuck Person, Robert Horry, Jeff Hornacek, Mark Price, and Dennis Scott. These sharp-shooters made the three a weapon on teams that were still primarily dominated by big men who did the bulk of the scoring. Horry made so many clutch threes in playoff games, he earned the nickname “Big Shot Bob”.
But now, the three pointer has become a big part of the arsenals of the games leading scorers such as Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. All of these guys are deadly accurate from deep, even though they are more than capable of scoring down low. These days, if you want to win championships and scoring titles, it helps if you can do more than one thing.
Anthony is the NBA’s leading scorer this season and is attempting more threes than ever before. He shoots them at a 38% clip which adds up to more than one point per attempt.
Durant is second in scoring and shoots 41% from downtown. He is deadly accurate form three-point land, so much so that most teams try to get him to put it on the floor, even though he is very good and driving it to the hoop and dunking. Teams figure that is still better than watching him drain threes. At least the dunks are only two points.
Bryant shoots 32% from three. If he could get his percentage up a couple of points, he would probably be leading the league in scoring. Still, he seems to make the big ones. He also shoots them pretty well considering his game is more driving in and getting layups and short jumpers.
James shoots 38% from deep. He doesn’t shoot as many as some of these other guys, but he surely can knock them down.
How do these percentages stack up with the “specialists”? Let’s see:
Stephen Curry shoots 44% from three. He is a three point specialist. His game is shooting the jumper from downtown. He shoots an average of nearly eight of them per game which is roughly twice as many as the top four scorers.
Ryan Anderson has been one of the best three point shooters in recent years. He is a specialist as well, hanging out near the arc and waiting for catch-and-shoot chances. Anderson shoots them at 39%.
So you can see, the top players in the game such as Durant, James and Anthony, have had to work the three-pointer into their arsenals. They have made themselves as good from deep as any of the “three-point specialists. This is done out of necessity as the three pointer has become such a great weapon.