In Basketball, Good Things Come In Threes - And More Often

Matt Mobley Credits: GoBonnies

If you have paid any attention to NBA basketball over the past decade, you have probably noticed the recent trend in an increased volume of 3-point attempts among teams in the league.

“The amount of 3s being shot by teams has dramatically changed the way the game is played," said Tim Bontemps, a Washington Post NBA columnist. "With the introduction of big data into the sport, it’s become clear that the most efficient places to shoot are from behind the 3-point arc and at the rim. So, as you look at teams like Mike D’Antoni’s in Phoenix and now Houston, and how it’s gone through the rest of the league, the sport has become more and more reliant on 3s over time, which has changed the way the game is played and how teams defend against it.”

In an in-depth study, experts at  Harvard Sports Analysis Collective argued that the increase of outside shooting has in a sense eliminated the effect of home court advantage. Brendan Kent of Harvard Sports concluded that because most home-court advantages come from subconsciously biased referees, "the players have limited the referees from making as many calls since they are not driving the ball into the paint and creating contact, they are instead shooting from a distance where referees are not generally forced to call any fouls.”

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Whether this increase in shot attempts from beyond the arc has actually affected the game is up for debate. I’ll let you decide, and maybe we can look at the numbers of fouls called since the rate of 3-point attempts has risen. But that’s a whole different study.

Getting back to the question at hand, in the 2005-06 season your average NBA team took about 16 3-point field goals a game, which calculated to about 19.5 percent of the team's total shots. In the most recent season, your average NBA team attempted 27 3s a game, good enough for about 31 percent of the team's total shots. In essence 31 percent of all shots this year came from behind the arc, a league record.

The Houston Rockets took it to the next level this season by attempting 40 3s per game, just under 50 percent of their team’s total shots.

What is most interesting about these numbers is that you would expect a change in scoring with more high-scoring shots being taken. But that is not the case. Throughout the past 10 years, the league scoring rate remained steady at an average of 1 point per possession, regardless of where their shots are being taken.

Being a member of BonaNation, I did what any other Bona faithful would do after seeing all these numbers. I began crunching the numbers to see how this trend compares with the past season here at St. Bonaventure.

I knew the 3-point shooting phenomenon was not limited to the professional game and that it was happening in college too. The way the numbers mirrored each other was staggering.

In the past season, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team attempted 577 3-pointers. Anyone want to take a wild guess on what percentage of total shots that accumulates to? If you said 31 percent, you’ve got it.

The Bonnies shot 18 3s per contest this season, led by their standout backcourt Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, who each attempted a hair over seven 3s per game and averaged a combined 39.1 points per game.

“A lot of older coaches and old-school basketball fans aren’t really a fan of the 3-pointer, but to me it is simple," said Mobley. "Why would I choose to shoot a shot that I can get only get two points from if there’s one that I can get three points from? I don’t always do too well in math classes, but last time I checked three is still ahead of two on the number line.”

Looking back on past seasons, we begin to notice that the trend has not been the steady climb at Bona's as we have seen in most of the NBA teams.

During the Bonnies 2011-2012 tournament run season, the team’s 3-point volume was only 29 percent of the team's total shots. And if we take a look at last year’s Atlantic 10 regular season championship team, Marcus Posley and company set a team record shooting 37 percent of their shots from long range.

It is also important to note that in each of those seasons, St. Bonaventure had a better home-winning percentage than a road one, so maybe 3-point shooting volumes really have nothing to do with eliminating home-court advantage.

Or maybe there’s really just no place like the Reilly Center!

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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