As Warriors fall behind NBA 3-point revolution, they're still far ahead

NBC Sports BayArea

As Warriors fall behind NBA 3-point revolution, they're still far ahead originally appeared on nbcsportsbayarea.com

OAKLAND -- The Warriors can see the direction in which NBA offenses are headed, and they have a simple response.

Go ahead.

The defending champs are practically shrugging and smirking as most other teams play faster and faster, shooting more and more 3-pointers, in hopes of catching up to them.

But don't expect them to participate.

"We're comfortable with what we're doing," Kevin Durant said.

"We're comfortable with what we do because we've had success with it," coach Steve Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area. "But we notice the trend elsewhere."

The trend, relatively speaking, is relentless pace and a barrage of of 3-pointers.

Though the Warriors, behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, receive much of the credit/blame for the 3-ball revolution, they've led the league in attempts beyond the arc only once over the last four seasons. They were No. 1 in 2015-16, averaging 31.6 attempts per game.

They're averaging 31.4 3-point shots per game this season, putting them 15th. They ranked 16th last season and fifth in 2016-17. They've been between 28.9 and 31.6 attempts per game in each of the last three seasons.

"We know that's our strength, shooting 3s," Durant says. "We know that a lot of teams are trying to catch up to what we do as far as knocking down 3-pointers. But we've got shooters like you've never seen on a basketball court before. That's why we've been able to knock down those shots. Our personnel is a little bit different."

Durant's message is, in essence, that even if teams shoot more 3-pointers, they're not likely to be as efficient with it.

Curry and Thompson own seven of the top 11 3-point makes in NBA history. They're both making more than 42 percent from deep. They've created the perception that the Warriors are a jump-shooting team, reliant on triples. They're not, but the image of Curry and Thompson raining 3s on the heads of opponents tends to linger.

"I never pay attention to how many we're getting," Kerr says. "I am noticing that most everybody else is getting up a lot more."

Truth is, the Warriors are shooting 10.5 fewer 3-pointers than No. 1 Houston (41.9 per game) and 9.6 fewer than No. 2 Milwaukee. Eighteen teams are putting up an average of at least 30 3-point shots per game. Eleven teams were at 30 or more last season, six the previous year. Only one team, Houston, shot more than 30 per game in 2014-15.

[POOLE: Warriors' biggest threats are in Eastern Conference early in NBA season]

Have at it, say the Warriors.

They'll leave most of the 3-point shooting to Curry, Thompson and Durant. Others will contribute, but the Warriors are not trying to spread defense by planting shooters at designated spots and running high screens. It puts pressure on a defense, but the Warriors' roster isn't built for that.

"That's just not what we do," Kerr says. "Steph and Klay are two of the best players in the league at moving without the ball. We shoot a lot of mid-range shots that come out of our flow and our offense. They're good shots for us because we shoot a percentage on them."

Durant goes a step further, pointing out that the Warriors pride themselves on efficiency and quality of shots, not quantity of shots. They're No. 1 by wide margins in 3-point percentage (42.3) and adjusted field-goal percentage (59.4).

"If teams want to take away the 3 from us, we can play inside the 3-point line a little better than we did before, or when we first got together," Durant says.

"We don't want to just shoot 3s just for the sake of it. We want to get good ones. But also try to find other things inside the 3-point line."

Yes, the Warriors are willing to take the shot that most teams shun -- the dreaded mid-range jumper. The champs are content to score the old-fashioned way. The 2-pointer. Any ball that goes in is a good shot.

They're also satisfied with their pace, which used to be faster than everyone else but now profoundly unexceptional.

Kerr says he doesn't even know where the Warriors rank in pace. There was a time when he used to watch it closely, but he doesn't feel he needs to now. For the record, the Warriors through 11 games rank 11th at 101.5.

"That's amazing because we were No. 1 in 2014-15, and I'll bet it was a similar pace to what we're playing right now," Kerr said. "I doubt it's much different. It's just that everybody else is speeding up."

Kerr is onto something. The Warriors were in fact No. 1 in pace four years ago, at 98.3. That was, at the time, considered an all-out sprint. It's what teams tried to emulate, as if roster composition was immaterial. That same 98.3 pace this season would put the Warriors in 24th place. Sixteen teams are at 100 or better.

"My first year here, we talked about pace all the time," Kerr recalled. "We said we want to get the ball up the floor, that we want to push it, make or miss. But now, with the continuity we have, if the other team gets a bucket, Draymond's getting the ball and pushing it, with Steph and Klay running the wings. We automatically play fast.

"But everybody else is now playing faster."

Keep going, fellas, say the Warriors. Flooring it every chance you get, even if it compromises your defense. Shoot more 3-pointers, even if you're not particularly accurate. Do all the things we started doing four years ago in hopes of catching up.

The Warriors wish the others luck but have no interest in joining the race. While most of the rest of the league fixates on fashion, they'd rather stick with style.


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