DATA DEPENDENT: Stacking up today’s 3-point artists against those of the past 25 years.

This week we’re going for a quick Data Dependent taking a look at the mighty three-pointer in the NBA. Nowadays, it seems like everyone’s offensive setup entails sticking players around the arc while a ball handling guard drives to the basket waiting to see which defensive players help out. The ball’s kicked out to the free three shooter. Shoot the ball. Rinse. Repeat.

Everyone’s shooting threes and the eyeball test indicates that players are making more of them than ever before. Hell, even centers are heaving up shots from beyond the arc with regularity. Steph and Klay’s Warriors. Harden’s Houston Rockets. It’s the Golden Era of the Three-ball. 

Right?

Let’s look at the numbers, albeit only up to 1996. Blame nba.com for that one.

First average number of attempts leaders…

YEARTEAM3PA
1996Miami Heat22.7
1997Houston Rockets20.4
1998Sacramento Kings18.9
1999Sacramento Kings20.2
2000Boston Celtics19.9
2001Boston Celtics23.7
2002Boton Celtics26.3
2003Seattle SuperSonics23.6
2004Phoenix Suns24.7
2005Phoenix Suns25.6
2006Golden State Warriors24
2007Golden State Warriors26.6
2008New York Knicks27.9
2009Orlando Magic27.3
2010Orlando Magic25.6
2011Orlando Magic27
2012New York Knicks28.9
2013Houston Rockets26.6
2014Houston Rockets32.7
2015Golden State Warriors31.6
2016Houston Rockets40.3
2017Houston Rockets42.3
2018Houston Rockets45.4
2019Houston Rockets45.3
2020Utah Jazz42.3
League leaders 3-point attempts per game.

And now, the more important number, three-point percentage…

YEARTEAM3P%
1996Charlotte Hornets42.8
1997Seattle SuperSonics39.5
1998Milwaukee Bucks37.3
1999Indiana Pacers39.2
2000San Antonio Spurs40.7
2001Washington Wizards38.8
2002Milwaukee Bucks38.3
2003Sacramento Kings40.1
2004Phoenix Suns39.3
2005Phoenix Suns39.9
2006Phoenix Suns39.9
2007Phoenix Suns39.3
2008Boston Celtics39.7
2009Phoenix Suns41.2
2010San Antonio Spurs39.7
2011San Antonio Spurs39.3
2012Golden State Warriors40.3
2013San Antonio Spurs39.7
2014Golden State Warriors39.8
2015Golden State Warriors41.6
2016San Antonio Spurs39.1
2017Golden State Warriors39.1
2018San Antonio Spurs39.2
2019Utah Jazz38
2020LA Clippers42.2
League leaders 3PT% per game by year.

Turns out the shooting hasn’t improved all that much in the past quarter century. Oddly enough, the 2014-2020 Warriors pretty much shot the league average for the 25 years charted, except for 2015, a non-Championship year mind you.

The 2009 Suns shot really well with Steve Nash, Hason Richardson, Channing Frye, Goran Dragic, and Jared Dudley contributing from beyond the arc.

In fact, the best complete year for three point shooting was in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets led by Glenn Rice (an underappreciated shooter these days) and Dell Curry (aka father of Steph and Seth). They finished the season shooting a hefty 42.8% from beyond the arc.

The jury is still out for the Los Angeles Clippers and the entire 2020 season.

So are today’s greatest-ever-most-athletic-NBA players much better three point shooters than previous generations?

Short answer. No.

Long answer. Nope.


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