CHARLOTTE – The NBA 3-point shot has evolved over the last few seasons, not just in terms of higher volume, but also in terms of greater depth.
The rise of 3-point shooting across the league has led players to want to separate themselves from the pack, prompting many to extend their range to remarkable distances.
Rarely, over the years, did a player ever step out more than two feet beyond the arc to shoot a ball, but nowadays elite shooters are pulling up from 25, 30, and even 35 feet.
“I think that’s the Steph Curry effect,” Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens pointed out Monday morning ahead of his team’s shootaround in Charlotte. “When you pick up Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, Kemba Walker, if you pick them up at 22 feet, you’re dead. You better pick them up higher than that, because they’re so good going off the dribble into their shot from 25, 26 feet and in.”
Curry revolutionized the shooting game by becoming the first player to regularly attempt gutsy, deep 3s. However, he’s no longer the only one. A small selection of elite shooters have joined Curry, including, as Stevens mentioned, Irving and Walker, who will face off tonight at Spectrum Center.
Walker is one of the highest-volume deep shooters in the game, heaving up a whopping 8.3 attempts from 25 feet and beyond, at an impressive 38.4 percent clip. Only James Harden, at 8.6 attempts per game, is shooting a greater number from that depth.
Irving, meanwhile, has been a bit more conservative on his deep 3s, but he’s certainly been accurate on those shots. Boston’s sharpshooting point guard is averaging 3.4 attempts per game from 25 feet out, while connecting at a 39.2 percent rate.
Some of Walker and Irving’s attempts will even come from beyond 30 feet if left unguarded.
“It’s not a normal shot that’s in my repertoire, but I can go do it when I so choose,” Irving said of the Curry-esque 3. “I think the closer you can get to the 3-point line probably the better, but obviously there are some skilled individuals that can shoot out that far.”
While there are only a handful of players who can hit those 30 footers at the moment, it appears as if more young guns are trending in that direction. Atlanta Hawks rookie Trae Young, for example, has launched a number of logo-distance triples already this season, and he’s proven to be able to knock them down.
Annual team statistics also indicate that players are beginning to step out further and further as time progresses.
During the 2016-17 season, the Houston Rockets attempted 23.7 shots per game from 25 feet and out, becoming the first team in NBA history to average at least 20 such shots per contest. The following year, they repeated that feat, while being joined by three other squads. This season, 10 teams are attempting at least 20 shots per game from 25 feet and beyond, including both the Celtics and the Hornets.
Boston’s mark of 21.5 such attempts per game is more than double its average from five seasons ago (10.6), and more than four times what it was a decade ago (5.2).
Stevens doesn’t believe this trend will slow anytime soon, believing that players will only continue to extend their range further. As a result, he also anticipates that opposing offenses will become more and more difficult to stop as time goes on.
“When you think about how people now shoot it so freely off the dribble, how they shoot it off the move, how bigs can be going away from the basket to set their feet and make a 23-footer, I just think range is going to continue to be expanded, and it’s going to be an even bigger emphasis to defend it,” said Stevens. “And I think that one of the things that makes it so hard is lay-ups are up as well, compared to 10 or 15 years ago, because you have to guard so much more space, and it’s really hard to do it. So, I’d be shocked if it stopped anytime soon.”
It certainly shouldn’t stop tonight, as two of the deepest sharpshooting teams in the league – with two of the gutsiest shooters around – are set to face off at Spectrum Center.
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