How the NBA boosted shooting efficiency in the era of Stephen Curry’s 3-point revolution

Prior to the 2009-10 NBA season, when Kevin Durant He debuted as a generational effective scorer, with four players averaging 30 or more points per game on 60%. Real shooting Or better: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Adrian Danley, or the three most prolific scorers in the league’s first 67 years and someone so skilled at making free throws that the spread has become on the line.”Dantley. “

During the first month of this season, eight players scored better than 30 points per game, and seven of them had a real shooting percentage above 60%. The person who didn’t Giannis Antikonmohe have Career path Career path The real shooting percentage is 60%. ninth player, Ja MorantThey can join their club in no time.

If the NBA hasn’t maxed out shooting efficiency the past 3 seasons have plateaued at a level we could never have imagined before the league’s 3-point boon, it will take another revolution to raise the bar again.

The Dallas Mavericks Scored 116.7 points per 100 possessions during the 2019-20 campaign, setting an NBA benchmark, According to Basketball Reference. Seven teams surpassed that mark for empty yards the following season. Another matched it last season, and three more are on track to match or surpass it this season. This list includes file Boston Celticscurrently scoring 119.5 points per 100 possessions.

Seven of the 12 teams on that list included Durant, Antetokounmpo, Luka DoncicAnd the Jason Tatum or Donovan Mitchell Five of the eight players mentioned above have averaged over 30 points a game this season:

If Curry maintains those numbers, his season will be ranked as such Most efficient high volume scoring season ever, two pieces better than his unanimous MVP campaign. Mitchell’s season would rank third, and together that combination would make up six of the 16 most efficient scoring seasons in history.

The rise of Stephen Curry has also raised the bar for NBA offenses.  (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

The rise of Stephen Curry has also raised the bar for NBA offenses. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

It’s no coincidence that Antetokounmpo, Embiid, Doncic, Durant and Tatum make up the top five in free-throw attempts this season, each averaging at least nine (more than Jordan did at any point in the ’90s).

Antetokounmpo, Doncic and Gilgios Alexander are in the top seven in the Field goal attempts per game are on edgeeach shooting better than 70% (roughly equal to Shaquille O’Neal’s main season).

Curry, Mitchell, and Tatum rank in the top nine for 3-point range attempts per game, with Curry and Mitchell each shooting 43% (and the three make more triples per game than Ray Allen ever did).

They’ve all perfected the most effective shots in the game and upped their size from each position to 11 – quite literally. Curry’s 11.5 attempts per game from 3-point range lead the league for the third straight season. (Just James Hardenwho reached 30 points per game and 60% true shooting thresholds three times from 2017-20, averaged in one season. Zion Williamson13.4 in 2020-21) since the NBA began tracking data in 1996. Doncic, Embiid and Antetokounmo could become the first trio to score at least 11 free throw attempts in the same season since Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson in 1965-66.

It’s not just that they take the right shots. The precision with which it is turned creates space to facilitate difficult shots. Teams are taxing on edge and perimeter defense, so the midrange opens up just enough to make those attempts manageable. Kobe Bryant had a league-high 12.2 midrange shots per game (nearly half his total night shots) during his 2005-2006 campaign, when he averaged 35.4 points, assisting only 42.4% of them. This is a massive effort to get 10 points in a match.

Nobody attempts more than nine mid-range shots per game this season. Only two players take more than seven players, and they both convert better than 50% of them. Only 13 players have hit more than four mid-range shots per game this season, and 11 of them have made more than 45% of those attempts.

This speaks to the level of skill and discipline at the league level. It’s not just stars either. Past seasons have seen a few mostly specialists shoot better than 45% on at least three 3-point attempts per game. Maybe you can name the top half of your head the list than 35 players have done so for more than half a season. JJ Reddick, Steve Nash, Kyle Korver, Joe HarrisDale Ellis, Hubert Davis, Stephen Curry, Seth Curry and Brent Barry are the only ones to do it multiple times. Other than them, Brandon Rush, Eric Piatkowski, Steve Novak, Troy Murphy or Anthony Morrow might be on fire for a year.

This season, 18 players are on their way to joining this club, albeit early in the season. The Celtics are proud of three of them: Grant WilliamsAnd the Alhorford And the Sam Hauser, who shoot a combined 46% on 12 3-point attempts per game. The Celtics armed the roster around Tatum. They defended their shooters, and Tatum attacked Edge. He approached Tatum, and licked his poison around the arc. (No duo in the NBA scores more points per possession than the 1.34 that the Celtics score when Tatum and Hauser share the court.) Try to defend both, and Jaylen Brown He’s stepping into the mid-range, shooting 60.5% this season.

Boston Celtics forward Jason Tatum reacts after being hit with a three-pointer against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena in Atlanta on November 16, 2022 (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)
Boston Celtics forward Jason Tatum hit a 3-pointer Atlanta Hawks on November 16, 2022. It averaged 31.9 ppg on 64.1% real shooting. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

How far can players and teams take this math? There is only so much speed and space to generate.

The past three seasons have had the highest average offensive ratings in NBA history, peaking early this year at 112.3. That’s four points better than the heyday of the 1980s, when the league played in the past at an average of 100 possessions per game. Regulations scores up to 120s and 130s on a nightly basis, and Sacramento Kings Scored 153 points against the Brooklyn Nets in Four Seasons on Tuesday, when their speed per game (109 possessions) would have set a record if averaged over an entire season.

Obviously, the increase in 3-point attempts had a profound effect on this efficiency. The team’s average tries per game didn’t reach double figures until 1995 and only topped 20 in 2013. That number rose steadily each year until 2020, when it settled around 34 per game, just as we stand this season. The average league conversion rate over three points has remained around 35%-36% for the past 25 years.

The last time the average number of 3-point attempts remained constant was from 2007 to 2012, when teams kicked 18 tries per game. At the time, it was Houston then missiles Executive Daryl Morey stepped up basketball brand We see it a lot today. He led his teams in scoring with 45 tries per game from 2018-20. The Rockets peaked at 114.9 points per 100 possessions when they shot 35.6% from distance in 2018-19, and their offensive rating dropped to 112.5 when their 3-point shooting percentage as a team dropped to 34.5%.

There is evidence of declining returns on wide open 3-pointers as the Rockets’ attempts increased from 26.6 in 2013-14 to 45.4 in 2018-19. Defenses reached the Houston chart, and Harden had to work harder as the central core of the offense. There’s only so far you can get over the limit, and we shouldn’t be surprised that the league average has leveled off at Houston’s rushing average tries.

There is similar evidence that speed has limits before efficiency can be charged. No team has kept pace over 103 possessions per game, shot at least 36% from a distance and scored better than 1.13 points per possession (an offense that would rank outside the top 10 this season). Recovering a handful of possessions per game, 33 teams have recovered those marks — 30 of them since the 73-win Warriors did it in 2015-16. A record eight teams are on track to surpass those numbers this season.

We may have hit the ceiling of the Speed ​​and Space era, and that resulted in a record 30-point scorer and the highest offensive rating in NBA history. Or maybe the players will continue to acquire more skills than they already have. This basically requires someone to become a combination of Antetokounmpo and Curry – hitting those 11 shots each at the rim, the 3-point line and the free throw line at the 70/45/90 split, which translates to the game’s first 40-point scorer. per game since Chamberlain.

Whether it’s possible or not, the NBA’s offense—and the stars who drive it—has never looked better.

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Ben Rohrbach Writer for Yahoo Sports. Do you have advice? Email it at Or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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