Predicting the NBA’s worst three-point shooting teams this season
0 out of 5
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Shooting has been the most important skill in basketball for as long as the game has existed. With each passing season in the NBA, that statement is easy to defend.
As the three-point attempt rate (the percentage of total shots from beyond the arc) continues to hover around 40 percent (compared to 22.2 percent in 2009-10 and 16.7 percent in 1999-00), teams can’t take too many deep jumpers and start each game in a hole they’ve put themselves in.
All else being equal in a given matchup, the team that wins the three-point battle usually gets the W. It doesn’t always rely entirely on three-point percentage. Volume is also important.
As a guide to today’s predictions, here’s a tried-and-true formula from a former Bleacher Report writer: Adam Fromall “Adjusted Shooting” tables are now available in Basketball Reference. For today’s application, we’ll call it “three to three points above average.”
If you take a team’s points per shot in three-point attempts, subtract the league-average points per three-pointer during the relevant period, and then multiply by the number of team attempts, you get a good feel for the squad’s vision—the range skill that drives efficiency and volume.
Bottom squads are often considered to be on the wrong end of that equation.
1 in 5
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Above average points out of three: -7.1
The Indiana Pacers rank 20th in the category above, rather than 30th, but have one of the best high-volume three-point shooters ever on the roster.
According to Shams Charania, Sam Amick and Jovan Buha of the Athletics, it seems like a foregone conclusion that they will trade Buddy Hield.
With Indiana angling for good lottery prospects and a chance to add Victor Wembanyama to a young lineup that includes Tyreese Halliburton and Benedict Mathur, Hield could defeat that goal every day he’s on the team.
With Hield gone (or shut down), the Pacers lack high-end three-point shooters beyond Halliburton and Mathur. They will start moving down this leaderboard.
2 out of 5
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Above average points out of three: +6.1
The Chicago Bulls are above average in this department, but that has at least a little to do with the last-place team dragging down the average so far (more on that squad later).
An unbearably hot start from Goran Dragic (56.3 percent from three), Zach LaVine (57.9) and Ayo Dosunmu (45.0) also contribute.
Once they cool off, Nikola Vucevic’s decline as a jump shooter (31.1 percent from deep since 2021-22) and DeMar DeRozan’s affinity for the mid-range (he averaged just 1.5 three-point attempts per game in his career) drag the Bulls down.
Of course, that could be somewhat offset by Lonzo Ball’s return from knee surgery, but that date is still up in the air.
Oklahoma City Thunder
3 out of 5
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Above average points out of three: -28.4
At minus-279.3, the Oklahoma City Thunder were dead last on this stat last season. While Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is off to a deep start in 2022-23, there isn’t enough shooting across the rest of the roster to avoid a bottom-five finish.
Lugantz Dort and Josh Gidde are second and fourth on the team in three-point attempts per game, respectively. Their combined career three-point percentage is 31.4 (league average 35.6).
Aleksej Pokuszewski (28.6 percent of his career), Kenrich Williams (34.5) and Darius Bazley (30.6) are also getting a lot of attempts without an average percentage.
Of course, losing all of the above in 2022-23 would increase OKC’s chances of landing in Wembanyama. So this is another team where poor shooting hasn’t been an issue yet.
4 out of 5
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Above average points out of three: -26.9
Paulo Banchero has shown confidence in being a solid No. 1 scorer and point forward, but his three-point percentage may take some time to improve.
As a freshman at Duke, Banchero shot 33.8 percent from the small-college three-point line. Not surprisingly, his rookie mark in the NBA was even lower (32.0).
Jalen Suggs’ deep below-average track record will probably overshadow his hot start (or at least lower his percentage from 44.4).
Once Markelle Fultz makes a comeback from a broken toe, Orlando will have another long-range shooter to work with in the orbit.
There is some upside on the outside with Franz Wagner and Cole Anthony, but not enough to offset all of the above, especially if Orlando moves Terrence Rose to a contender in a rebuild-friendly trade.
Los Angeles Lakers
5 out of 5
Andrew D. via Getty Images Bernstein/NBAE
Above average points out of three: -59.3
Remember that league-worst mark from OKC in 2021-22? The Los Angeles Lakers are on pace to overcome that.
Now, LA probably won’t portray this badly all season. It seems impossible to stay at 23.7 percent for much longer.
But even if the Lakers trade Russell Westbrook or use their frequently discussed 2027 and 2029 picks for some talented shooters, they won’t have enough firepower to climb out of the hole they’ve already dug themselves.
Lonnie Walker IV, Patrick Beverley and Austin Reaves were all below average last season. Kendrick Nunn has definitely missed 2022-23 with a knee injury. Anthony Davis is the worst jump shooter in the NBA.
Kirk Goldsberry @Kirkgoldsberry
Anthony Davis has been the least efficient jump shooter in the NBA over the past 2+ seasons.
Of the 178 players who have attempted at least 500 jump shots since the start of the 2020-21 season, Davis logged the fewest. eFG% on those shots at 35.99 – no other player is under 40 pic.twitter.com/Ug4DD5QQiB
That puts a lot of pressure on LeBron James (below average for his career) to bear weight from three. He’s usually at his best when reliable catch-and-shoot threats have the option to spray, and LA doesn’t have those.
And then there’s Westbrook, one of the worst shooters of all time. Westbrook’s 30.4 three-point percentage ranks last among 55 players with the fewest career three-point attempts. That doesn’t tell the whole story.
This season, he’s made just 12.5 percent of his triples. In the five years before 2022-23, his mark was 29.3.
If he stays with the team, it’s hard to imagine him cutting off quick attempts, and the Lakers would be guaranteed a spot in this bottom five.
Statistics by Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.