In the last ten years (between the 2008-09 and 2017-18 seasons) the average number of three-pointers attempted by teams per game has increased 59.9 percent. That’s over ten more three-point shot attempts a game per team. The rapid growth in the popularity of the three-point shot has taken the game by storm and shows no signs of slowing down with a team average of 31.7 three-point shot attempts taken per game (as of the morning of October 25).
Along with the increase in three-point attempts, we have seen an increase in points scored per game and a decrease in two-point shot attempts. This shows us that the way basketball is played has drastically changed. The traditional big man who thrived off of minimal movement and exclusively scoring in the paint is starting to disappear or be forced to adjust to a faster more versatile playing style. Andre Drummond for example, the player to record the worst free throw shooting percentage in NBA history (35.5 percent in 2015-16), has taken more three-point shots in the Pistons first three games this season than he did in his first three years in the NBA.
How did this happen? There used to be a time when players like Ray Allen and Kyle Korver were few and far between. How did three-point shooting go from being a specialty to being a necessity? Well, there are a few main stages that have contributed to the shooting change in the NBA, and surprise, it starts with the Golden State Warriors.
Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely teams shooting high volumes of three-pointers before the Curry and Thompson stole the show. The Orlando Magic, for example, put up 27.3 three-pointers per game in the 2008-09 season where they ultimately fell to Kobe’s Lakers in game five of the NBA finals. But the 2012-13 NBA season is where the splash brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, began to build a brand of excellence and success based wonderous three-point shooting.
Curry and Thompson went on to have five consecutive 50 plus win seasons as well as breaking the regular season win record with 73 in the 2015-16 season. In this time span, the two original splash brothers averaged no less than fourteen three-point attempts per game between the two of them. Now, Curry and Thompson hold the top five spots on the leaderboard for three-point field goals scored in a season (Curry has the record at 402 in 2015-2016).
The Warriors continued to brand success with the three-pointer every year. As if two accurate, high volume shooters weren’t enough, they added another All-Star to the roster in 2016, Kevin Durant, who fit right in shooting five or more three-pointers per game in his first two season with the Warriors. Golden State has now won three NBA Championships in the last four years with this playing style and other teams around the league took notice.
Houston, another team that has spurred the three-point revolution, moved to a high volume three-point offense around the same time as the Warriors in 2012-13 and have recently become one of the strongest offenses in the West. Last year, the Rockets became the first team in NBA history to average more three-pointers per game than two-point field goals and they nearly eliminated the Golden State Warriors from the playoffs in the Western Conference Finals.
As more teams find success with the three-ball, more teams try to replicate the playing style. As of the morning of October 25th, there are no NBA teams averaging less than twenty-one three-pointers attempted per game, and there are twenty-one teams averaging thirty or more attempts per game. Three-point shooting is on the rise and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon. One question this leaves us with is how likely are we to see four-point shots in NBA basketball?