How important is three point shooting?

If the Bulls have one weakness on paper entering this season, it's three point shooting.   It's quite possible that it won't be a weakness in reality if Deng or Rose can improve their three point shot, but based on what we've seen, the Bulls have a single reliable three point shooting on the roster.  Kyle Korver.

So how important is three point shooting?  I went back to look at all of the good teams (defined as 55+ wins or teams that won the title) in the past 10 years to see.

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Year Team Wins 3pm rank 3% rank
2001 Lakers* 56 439 11 0.407 1
2001 Spurs 58 445 10 0.344 20
2001 76ers 56 262 28 0.326 26
2002 Spurs 58 621 2 0.378 10
2002 Lakers* 57 610 6 0.354 15
2002 Kings 61 438 11 0.362 9
2002 Mavericks 58 426 12 0.367 4
2003 Spurs* 60 449 11 0.354 11
2003 Mavericks 60 636 2 0.381 4
2003 Kings 59 491 7 0.381 3
2004 Timberwolves 58 326 27 0.363 5
2004 Pacers 61 449 9 0.351 9
2004 Spurs 57 406 17 0.358 6
2004 Lakers 56 365 22 0.327 25
2004 Kings 55 601 2 0.401 1
2004 Pistons* 54 333 24 0.344 15
2005 Heat 59 475 14 0.377 3
2005 Spurs* 59 507 12 0.363 9
2005 Suns 62 796 1 0.393 1
2006 Pistons 64 557 7 0.384 3
2006 Spurs 63 524 10 0.385 2
2006 Mavericks 60 416 21 0.374 8
2006 Heat* 52 497 13 0.345 20
2007 Suns 61 785 1 0.399 1
2007 Mavericks 67 535 8 0.381 3
2007 Spurs* 58 595 6 0.381 4
2008 Celtics* 66 596 8 0.381 5
2008 Pistons 59 487 22 0.366 13
2008 Lakers 57 662 5 0.378 6
2008 Suns 55 694 4 0.393 1
2008 Hornets 56 630 6 0.389 3
2008 Spurs 56 594 9 0.369 11
2008 Rockets 55 583 10 0.342 26
2009 Celtics 62 538 19 0.397 1
2009 Cavaliers 66 656 3 0.381 7
2009 Magic 59 817 2 0.393 2
2009 Lakers* 65 547 17 0.361 19
2010 Cavaliers 61 602 8 0.381 2
2010 Magic 59 841 1 0.375 4
2010 Lakers 57 532 13 0.341 24
2010 Mavericks 55 558 10 0.372 5

A few interesting things to note, the importance of three point shooting increased considerably in the NBA over time.  When you look at 2001, 445 and 439 makes were 10th and 11th in the league.   In 2008, the Pistons were 22nd with 487.  This jump seemed to start to really take hold around 2004 moving forward. 

Looking at the numbers, it's not as important how many threes you take as how efficiently you shoot them.   While most good teams are in the top 10 in attempts, what's more important is how efficient you are at making those threes (average historically is 8.5, and it's dragged down considerably by 2001 and 2002 which are the oldest data points). 

While compiling this data, I noted there are many teams who jacked up tons of threes without translating to much success, and they were teams who typically hit a high volume of threes on mediocre efficiency (Knicks under D'Antoni, Warriors, etc.. ).  I'm not sure if that makes the news any better for the Bulls though as they're likely to struggle in both areas.

While Korver will hopefully shoot over 40% from the three point line, the Bulls as a team don't seem likely to shoot over 35%, and to become a great team, the Bulls would really be bucking the odds with that type of shooting.   The teams who've done it have typically been outliers (2004 Pistons, 2008 Rockets) or had absolutely scorers who drew craploads of fouls (Wade, Kobe, Iverson).

What does this mean for the Bulls going into this season?   Their best bet for efficient three point shooting is to design an offense that generates a lot of corner three looks for Deng, Rose, and Watson, as well as looks from anywhere for Korver which would maximize the efficiency with the players they have.  However, given that denying the corner three is one of the prime objectives of many defenses this is easier said than done.

If the Bulls fail to get generate efficient three point shooting, which seems likely, they'll need to compensate in other areas.  I'll discuss how they can do that tomorrow.


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  • Interesting statistics. I'm sure you'll discuss it tomorrow, but we're going to be one of the best rebounding teams in the league and we'll excel on defense. That makes up for the extra booth in scoring 3's give you, in my opinion.

    Can't wait to start the season.

  • In reply to johnbegone:

    Good, make that great point. Someone, maybe, bleacher report recently did a top ten big 3 players list. They compared the stats of the top 3 players on each team. The Bulls with Noah, Deng and Boozer were #1 in rebounds by a sgnificant margin.

    I happen to be in argreement with Pat Reilly on this one, Rebounds equal Rings, probably at a higher correlation than 3 point shooting.

  • Its very important.

    Mostly becuase we have a penetrating team. Rose and Deng and Boozer get most of theyre points at the rim. Noah cant shoot and we need more than Korver. Plain and simple.

    I am still hoping for Delonte. We will see tho.

  • In reply to 1096ballenf:

    Yea. Delonte or Rudy would be good.

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    In reply to 1096ballenf:

    From what we've heard so far the normal half-court sets will only attempt to open up the occasional corner 3. This year it looks like our 3pt shooting is going to be very situational, with a lot of it coming off the bench. That would be an improvement over, say Hinrich launching hot potatos at the end of the clock or Pargo jacking it up like he was paid by the shot.

    I wonder about rebounding #s this year Doug. Not because this will be a bad rebounding team though, far from it. But because this team's starting 5 is actually set to shoot a ridiculous percentage from the field. Hinrich is a career 41.5% shooter, 43.4% on twos. We go from him, to Brewer who is 52.1% for his career, 54.7% on twos!

    Do we really need the starters to shoot that many 3's when we've got a 2 guard shooting over 50% from the field?

    If the 3pt numbers you gave above are for an 82 game season, not including the playoffs then those teams from 2005 on have averaged about 7/19 per night from behind the arc. And that's with the Magic and Suns doing their best to blowing the curve. It'd be less if those numbers include the playoffs. I'm not sure we'd really want this group to put up 19 three-pointers a night. If they did , I'm sure they would find a way to hit 6 or 7 of them so we should be fine. But really, this team is going to put up staggering numbers in FG% and then rebounding and 2nd chance pts. They're built to do most of their damage around the basket.

  • In reply to 1096ballenf:

    1. Offensive Rebounding is the key to hit good percentage three-pointers. When the defense has collapsed to stop a non three-pointer, getting a offensive rebound at that time increases the percentage of three point shooting if someone is wide open.
    2. Also, more than scoring three pointers like GS, NY as you all depends on the moment. If we score in the last half of the fourth quarter,in the last 2 minutes or in over-time, it usually puts a dagger or panic in the opposing team.
    3. There are two ways to look at 3-pointers...a)The first one is the constant penetrating and shooting like Orlando. b)Make enough 3 pointers like the Bulls probably want to do to space the floor and give more opportunities in the paint and stop double teams

  • In reply to 1096ballenf:

    I didn't have a lot of time to analyze the stats( I have to go mow the lawn before it gets hot as hell out). I just checked the Celtics, Lakers, and our own/the Bulls stats.

    Both the Celtics and L.A. shot around .335 to .340 but the disparity between their percentage made and opponents was over ten in both cases.

    The Bulls meanwhile were minus 18(yikes). And there attempts were around 350 instead of the 500 and change of the Celtics and L.A. Kobe led the champs with 300 attempts(which seems the number you see popping up again and again for leading scorers). He shot 35%.

    Derrick, as the leading scorer and hopefully superstar emerging needs 300 attempts(roughly/nearly four a game) to equal his peers. I could certainly see him raising his percentage as he becomes accustomed to shooting them in volume/incorporating them into his game. He's wide open for them often as defenders sag for the drive. I'd say/hope 35% for Feb-April would be a possibility, and an important level for the post season.

    It's criminal that a shooter as capable as Luol Deng only attempted 82 threes last season. Someone better make it clear to him that a team's second leading scorer and probably best shooter at the wing can not let the team's offense down by shunning the three. Lu needs at least 250-70 attempts for production's sake, and to simply get more adept at taking them/incorporating them successfully into his game.

    Defensively Thib's obviously knows what it takes to stay covering strong side three shooters/defending other team's perimeter/three shooters well.

    With a post big in Boozer to draw double teams, Derrick emerging as an elite scorer, Watson shooting 40% for a season(granted in only 120 attempts), Deng as a flat out shooter committing to/incorporating the three, not to mention Korver the Bulls should be a much improved team.

    But percentage more then high needs to be a plus margin of ten or more better then opponents. Just as important is the mindset/committment which means 500 threes or bust i.e they/the players don't get it. It's up to Thib's to make them get it as Phil or any other good coach has done.

    To me an increased volume of threes at a 500 or damn near pace will be a good barometer of Thib's acumen/control as a head coach as well as the Bulls overall success. "Derrick drives, fires to Deng in the corner, KA-BOOM!" Repeat.

  • In reply to 1096ballenf:

    So everyone is discounting the reports from Rose himself that his 3-point shot is improved?

  • In reply to FrankS:

    yes, everyone, EVERYONE, is completely discounting it.

  • In reply to 1096ballenf:

    Also, this is completely off topic(sorry), but media outletts keep reporting that Carmelo is refusing to reup with the Nuggets. Post LebronGate doesn't the writing on the wall mean Melo wil go to join CP3 or Amare and another stud?

    Doesn't it become incumbent upon Denver to trade Melo now even though teams only get one year gaurunteed. I still think you'll have franchises with stars already in place will convince themselves he will reup with them/the place he lands. And what will Denver be able to get for him?

  • That's why i wanted Roger Mason but arent we forgetting about CJ Watson?

  • He shot 40% from the three the year before Stephen Curry came and lit the place up with 3's every nite.

  • Go away...

  • I am not answering your question. To add to your point,3 pt shooting seems easier to defend in the playoffs than the regular season because of the time to plan. If you look at Orlando, they win a lot of reg season games based on 3 pt shooting but seems to get shut down by good defensive teams in the last 2 years and I don't think LA,Bos are better 3-pt shooting teams than Orlando.

  • And suddenly it becomes abundantly clear why JJ Redick was one of the first FA's the bulls tried to sign...


    Do the Bulls need another Superstar (aka MELO) or another 3pt. shooter?

    Melo is a closer and clutch finisher. No offense to DROSE, but he shown that quality yet.

    Plus, FT's are just as important as 3pt. shooting. Melo gets to the line and Rose doesn't.

    Just a thought.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    This is a tough one. Didn't realize Melo was a free agent. I don't know though, I'd probably rather have Bogans or Mason.


    I believe he is going to the Knicks. Check ESPN rumor section.

  • In reply to MrHappy:

    I guess the Bulls either think that Portland will eventually concede and trade Rudy for a future 1st round pick or they are probably waiting for a trade during the season. I think that's a good idea because we need to give the current rotation time to see how they play. If something doesn't work, they could go the trade route and do a shake-up. If they get Rudy, they are adding talent for both the present and the future. I think Mason, Bogans, Weaver are all probably not good enough on their board to take a roster spot now. But you never know...looks like Krause has implanted some of his sleuth techniques into Gar/Pax...

  • In reply to MrHappy:


    He's heading back to the Lakers.

  • I'm in the "hate" camp on that deal. No way should give up solid interior D for a guy who is all offense and NO defense. We would be the '09 and '10 Cavs...regular season champs and nothing else.

  • I think they are working behind the scenes. But since nothing is reported/leaked it seems like they are sitting back twittling their thumbs.

  • I agree the Bulls definitely need a another three shooter. Roger Mason would have been a guy out there who would have fit that need.

  • the fact that he shot 40% for any one season gives me reason to believe that in a properly structured offense, one designed to create open 3 point looks, he will be able to deliver a high shooting percentage.

    I look for Watson to be our sleeper free agent surprise.

  • While I agree that the Bulls would benefit from becoming a better 3 point shooting team(which is why I was among the legion of Morrow fans)I also wonder if just becoming a better team will increase the 3 point shooting percentage(kind of a chicken and the egg thing).

    Also, it seems to me that the Suns alone skewed your analysis toward 3 point shooting teams, yet while they won games, they never even made it to the finals.

    I's like to see the analysis of all teams that made the finals or the conference finals if you want a bigger sample. That to me is a better definition of success.

  • Everything points to the Bulls vastly improving as a 3 point shooting team, if not necessarily being an elite one. At a minimum, I expect it to no longer be a glaring weakness.

  • Given the lack of guys who can play center at all, I would be reluctant to give up a guy like Noah.

    I think that more people would come onboard with that deal if it were actually a live deal on the table. As a pure hypothetical, we are all kind of connected with Noah right now.

    The biggest reason I hesitate to give up Noah is that I am not sold that Carmelo has championship character. He may turn out to be nothing more than a mercenary scorer type of player.


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