“I hate it. To me it’s not basketball. … It feels like cheating.” - Coach Gregg Popovich on 3-pointers.
Well, Pop dialed up his Game Genie in the playoffs. His Spurs made 40.9 percent from beyond the arc to get them to a playoffs-leading 106.7 points per game and a ridiculous 112.7 offensive efficiency rating. That led to the Spurs posting a net rating 11.6, which hasn’t been topped by a playoff team since the Lakers in 2000-2001 at 13.5. But we all knew how superb the Spurs were.
The NBA is moving more and more to 3-pointers and it makes sense. Here comes some obvious math stuff: Getting an extra 50 percent compared to a two-pointer enticing. For instance, let’s say a player takes makes four 3-pointers out of 10, that’s 12 points on those 10 shots. Comparatively, that player would have to make six two-pointers out of those 10 shots to match the same 12-point output. This is basically a way to explain effective field goal percentage, which in this case would be 60 percent in both aforementioned scenarios.
It probably won’t surprise you, but 10 out of the top 11 teams for effective field goal percentage last season made the playoffs — the Suns are the exception and would have tied for the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference. What’s more, all of the top 16 teams for effective field goal percentage averaged at least 7.9 3-pointers per game as a team while none of the bottom 14 made more than 7.3 per contest. Obviously, the more you make treys, the more efficient your offense is going to be.
There are a lot of ways to make triples. More often than not, teams will set up a drive-and-kick system with a point guard getting the ball to a shooter out on the wing for a trey. This was widely popular by the Wizards and John Wall. Three of the top 19 players for catch-and-shoot triples were on the Wizards: Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster and Bradley Beal. All three of those guys converted over 40 percent of those shots with Ariza knocking down an incredible 46.2 percent — good for an effective field goal percentage of 69.3 on those shots alone.
Besides the Wizards, a lot of teams have their systems in place to get triples. We’re going to take a look at how some teams do that and what it could mean for new free agents coming and going. Let’s take a look at the top-10 teams in 3-pointers and how it can help translate into projecting fantasy value.
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Here’s a neat table I put together for how the top-10 teams scored their 3-pointers (data per Synergy). They’re arranged with the top-ranked team (Rockets) and the top and No. 10 (Nets) at the bottom:
|Spot Up||Off Screen||Handoff||ISO||PNR||Transition|
Thanks to making 10.3 triples per game on a ridiculous 28.0 attempts after the break, the Rockets led the NBA in triples last season. As it’s been with the Rockets, tempo has been a big reason why. Their 169 triples in transition were tops among all teams and they were also among the elite for ISO treys.
They are really one of a few teams who get their treys based on system as much as personnel. Interestingly, the Rockets hate mid-range jumpers more than Elmer Fudd hates Bugs Bunny and Sylvester hates Tweety Bird combined. The Rockets had looney total of just 251 mid-range makes, which is basically half of the 29th-ranked Sixers’ 501. This would be interesting if they get Melo — a notorious mid-range taker.
No matter what the Rockets do in free agency, any player they bring on will undoubtedly have more chances to take more 3-pointers.
Los Angeles Lakers
OK, we can probably just skip this one. The Lakers only have four players under contract and three of them only played in a combined 21 games in the NBA last season: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Julius Randle. Plus, their coach is gone and they don’t even have a new one yet. Mike D’Antoni’s system has been built on tempo and the trey. They’re going to look very different next season. Although, Nash gets a lot of treys on PNR.
Golden State Warriors
Holy pick-and-roll triples. Of their league-leading 136 PNR treys, 99 of them came from Stephen Curry while he also hit more than half of their ISO 3s at 28. The Warriors have a whole new coaching staff, but there really is no way they’ll be taking the ball out of Stephen Curry’s hands. Despite how he actually got worse on 3-point percentage on ISO, PNR and spot up compared to his record-breaking 2012-13, he should still be able to be among the elite. He’s the heavy favorite for 3-pointers next year.
We’ll assume Klay Thompson stays put here, which seems like a coin flip. He was a spot-up fanatic and made more catch-and-shoot triples than any other player last season. In fact, only Dirk Nowitzki had more catch-and-shoot buckets overall, but most of Dirk’s were from inside the arc. Steve Kerr was one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the history of the NBA and he’ll likely be implementing even more catch-and-shoot treys for Klay. He’s almost a lock to be in the top five for triples.
Who else? Well no other player made more than 1.0 triples per game for the Warriors last year. Andre Iguodala was red hot to start the year, but after the break he only made 28.6 percent from deep for just 0.6 treys per game in that span. He may have a tough time matching his 1.0 from 2013-14. One other interesting thing is that the Warriors were dead last in passes per game. It’s all Steph and Klay, yo.
The Blazers have one of the more balanced beyond-the-arc attacks in the NBA. It’s a credit to their players as well as one of the best coaches at drawing up plays in Terry Stotts.
Damian Lillard’s offense continued to grow in his second season and he did a lot of it on his own. He hit more than half of the Blazers’ ISO and PNR treys. Plus, his 47.6 effective field goal percentage on ISO is in elite company.
Only Stephen Curry hit more total pull-up treys than Lillard, but strangely he ranked just 20th on triples coming via assist (minimum=20 minutes per game). That really shows the versatility of his game and how he’s also able to get free without the ball. Lillard ranked third in triples last year and there’s no indication he’ll be falling off in his third year.
Wesley Matthews was the only player in the NBA to play in more than 80 games and hit more than 2.0 catch-and-shoot triples. It’s even more impressive for him to hit that many with 64.0 percent of his deep attempts coming from above the break.
The Blazers were the only team in the NBA to have three players rank in the top 25 for total 3-pointers, so Nicolas Batum was no slouch either. Of course, it helps that all three of these guys played in 82 games last season. Batum's output was a lot like Wes’ with most of his production from deep coming with a dribble. He’s in a great system and should duplicate another marvelous season.
We’ll see what happens to the Blazers in the offseason, but they’re a great landing spot for any shooter.
Two words: Kyle Korver. He didn’t get enough shots to qualify for the effective field goal percentage crown, but he would have ranked second to only DeAndre Jordan. Korver was absolutely deadly with his daggers, leading the NBA in 3-point percentage at 47.2. He led the NBA with 2.6 catch-and-shoot treys per game and those makes alone would have put him in the top five for 3-pointers per game. He had 43 makes off screens last year, which is more than several teams. He’ll be in the running to repeat in percentage and is arguably the best pure shooter in the league.
Besides him, there’s not too much to like here. DeMarre Carroll ranked second on the team for treys, but he might be losing some minutes to Thabo Sefolosha. The Hawks ranked 23rd in player efficiency allowed to opposing small forwards, so that may be why they opted to overpay Thabo despite his horrific showing in the postseason. Plus, he a had career low in field goal percentage while his 3-point percentage was his second-lowest in his eight-year career. Thabo can be ignored in fantasy leagues.
Paul Millsap did benefit a bit from coach Mike Budenholzer’s system with is 1.0 triples per game. He may also be playing a bit further from the basket to space the floor and allow Al Horford to have more space. He should be a solid target in the first 30 picks of drafts.
It seemed like a joke at first, but it sounds like the Suns have at least a small chance to bring in LeBron James. I don’t want to spend too much time on it, but the Suns would become must-see TV with LeBron, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Transition buckets! OK, that’s it.
Anyway, the Suns were fantastic last season with a well-round offensive attack. Their 134 transition treys are no surprise with a league-leading 17.8 percent of their points coming off fast break .They also had the seventh-lowest percentage of points coming in the mid-range, which is pretty impressive considering their lack of an interior presence in the post.
Gerald Green and Channing Frye were revelations last season with both players coming in with at least 2.0 treys per game. In particular, Green was unbelievable at 40.0 percent from deep. He hit a whopping 52 triples in transition, which actually topped James Harden and was just six behind Stephen Curry.
Frye opted out of his deal with the Suns and it should be interesting to see how the Suns play it. Frye hit 41 triples as a roll man, which is an upper-echelon total and it had a lot to do with how the Suns’ O operated. If he’s headed elsewhere, it should be interesting to see how the Suns fare in PNR. They ranked second in the NBA for field goal percent for PNRs for both ball handlers and roll men.
Among players with at least 20 minutes per game, Eric Bledsoe led the league in field goals coming without an assist at 81.5 percent. He shot 10-of-20 on ISO treys last year and is coming off his best season from deep, so the room for improvement makes him one of the most alluring point guards to draft in fantasy leagues. I’m planning on targeting him in the late second round.
New York Knicks
Another team that gets thrown out the window for now. Mike Woodson’s Knicks set an NBA record back in 2012-13 for triples in a season by a team, but losing Steve Novak moved them out of the top five. Although, they led the NBA with 28.2 percent of their points coming off 3-pointers last season. The sad part is that they ranked just 20th in points per game.
New coach Derek Fisher has made it clear the team will be using the triangle offense. That would mean there will be more catch-and-shoot triples and less isolation plays. The Knicks were able to rank fifth in the NBA in catch-and-shoot treys, which has a lot to do with Tim Hardaway. If the Knicks can’t bring Melo back, he’d be a sneaky player to watch as an early-late round pick. Plus, Jose Calderon could be in for a big season in nine-category leagues. J.R. Smith should get his and would also see an uptick sans Melo. As for No. 7, we’ll wait and see what he does, but he’d likely have the most fantasy value on the Knicks.
He’s still Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks got the ol’ hometown discount and were able to sign the former MVP at a three-year, $30 million deal — an absolute steal. He put up first-round value last season and will continue to do his thing as one of the best power forwards in the NBA.
Jose Calderon led the Mavericks in triples and ranked seventh in the NBA for total treys on the season. He ranked fifth in 3-point percent and his 43.6 percent from above the rank was tops among players in the top 20 for those makes. Calderon has always been a marvelous shooter and it’s a big reason why the Knicks traded away Tyson Chandler. He’s a good bet to be a low-end PG1 in nine-category leagues.
Rick Carlisle’s teams are almost always in the top 10 for 3PMs, so any free agent they bring in could see an uptick.
The Raptors are one of the early winners in free agency for being able to bring back Kyle Lowry on a four-year, $48 million contract. Lowry put up first-round value in fantasy leagues and it was primarily because of his increased output in treys. He had a career-high 2.4 per game to lead his team and he did it a lot like Damian Lillard, making a mixture of shots off PNR and getting free without the ball.
Terrence Ross came in second on the team due to a sterling 39.5 percent from deep. His 5.0 trey attempts per game were more than half of his 9.3 FGA total, so it’ll be important for the Raptors to see him grow in his third year. He can be viewed as a specialist in the later rounds of fantasy leagues.
As for DeMar DeRozan, he still couldn’t hit many triples at just 30.5 percent. He was really bad off screens at just 4-of-19 and he ranked 155th in the NBA on all of his spot ups. He did a much better job of getting to the rim, so maybe the defense will soften up on him to give him some more clean looks. Fantasy owners shouldn’t be counting on him to crack the 1.0 plateau for 3-pointers per game next season.
The Nets had two players in the top 30 for 3-pointers with one obvious and one not so much. Joe Johnson ranked 17th with 162 makes while Mirza Teletovic came in at 27 with 136. Sadly, ISO Joe did not live up to his name. He only had 14 treys in ISO and 76.2 percent of all of his shots from deep came on catch-and-shoot attempts. Mirza had a whopping 97.1 percent of his treys come off an assist, so these two obviously own Deron Williams a nice seafood dinner.
Well, things could be a bit different next season. Jason Kidd is gone and Lionel Hollins steps in. In his last season with the Grizzlies, Hollins’ team ranked dead last in the NBA in 3-pointers. In his defense, the Grizzlies had some horrific shooters on that team, so it’s more of a matter of personnel than ideology. The Nets might not be quite a 3-point happy team next year, but there’s really no need to knock them down because of the coaching change.