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Review of cutting down inefficient 3-point habits

23 Jan

Final idea with last dataset and posts inspired by certain players is presented to you thanks to LeBron James.
Before this season he attempted over 2500 three-point shots and made 33% of them which considering his ability to get to the rim seems like a waste of possessions. He reportedly vowed to cut down on long ball this season and so far it holds true: right now he averages only around 2 three-point attempts per game with a career mark over 4. It got me thinking, will he be able to keep it up? What are his chances?
Which other players did try to cut down inefficient three-point habits? Have they succeed or failed?

Let’s try to find out, I started again with a file from basketballreference.com and then I searched for pair of seasons next to each other where:
– player played at least 1000 minutes in both years,
– he attempted at least 70 threes in a previous season,
– in both seasons his career three point percentage was below 33,34%,
– player’s career rate of three point attempts per 36 minutes dropped at least by 6% from minimum 1,2.
[It will happen to LeBron if he continues current pace]

I used to-date-career point of view because I was interested in career’s path changes and I wanted to weed out as many fluke seasons as possible especially those at the beginning of player’s career or those which happened mostly due to injuries.

Also because list wasn’t long and I was interested in multiple things at once I decided to review each of them individually. Here are the results [in alphabetical order of player’s surname]:

In 1993 Mahmoud Abdul-rauf (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 2,45 to 2,25
He returned to the old habit next season but to his credit in 5th season he improved efficiency to 38+% so maybe it was a transitional year for him? Interestingly his eFG% was at the same level in both seasons.

In 1983 Mark Aguirre (his 3rd season) lowered his career rate from 1,24 to 1,02
He stayed at this level for the next 4 years and then he got back to old habit.
Note that his three best eFG% seasons happened during that window.

In 2004 Carmelo Anthony (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 2,57 to 2,39
In 2005 Carmelo Anthony (his 3rd season) lowered his career rate from 2,39 to 2,21
Those two seasons has become the lowest marks in his career so far so this change didn’t last long.
To his credit in 5th season he improved efficiency to 35% though 2005 is still his 2nd best season in eFG%.

In 2004 Carlos Arroyo (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 1,91 to 1,47
In 2009 Carlos Arroyo (his 8th season) lowered his career rate from 1,47 to 1,32
In 2003 he set his career high in attempts so either it was a fluke on high end or he learnt to shoot threes only occasionally and spike in attempts in 7th season coincident with improved efficiency. Congratulations?

In 2000 Ron Artest (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 3,07 to 2,65
He cut down on inefficient threes after rookie year but it is still the lowest mark of his career to date [also in eFG%!]. To his credit in 8th[!] season he improved efficiency up to 35%.

In 1990 Mookie Blaylock (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 2,27 to 1,60
In 1991 Mookie Blaylock (his 3rd season) lowered his career rate from 1,60 to 1,27
Next year he improved three point efficiency up to 37%!
So either his first three seasons were a fluke or he learnt how to shoot them in 4th one.

In 1999 Kobe Bryant (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 3,25 to 2,85
In 2001 Kobe Bryant (his 6th season) lowered his career rate from 2,78 to 2,50
Very strange career from that point of view.
In his first two years he hit 37% and 34% of threes respectively, in the following four his efficiency plummeted but the same thing happened to his attempts per minute. In 7th he hit 38% with increased number of shots but he followed it up with two more seasons at around 33% mark. Later he added 4 good seasons in a row… and two bad ones. In other words, it’s all over the map so I have no idea how to judge this but for what’s it worth his 6th season is still the lowest mark.

In 2003 Caron Butler (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 1,35 to 1,10
He returned to the old way in the next year.
Interestingly it was a career-low year in eFG% and even though he had two seasons above 33% he probably would be better off without those shots. Not a good news to the Clippers by the way.

In 1997 Sam Cassell (his 5th season) lowered his career rate from 4,05 to 3,20
In 2000 Sam Cassell (his 8th season) lowered his career rate from 2,68 to 2,43
VERY strange case. He had 7 seasons with 3P% above 33 and he attempted at least 160 threes in each of them. In other 8 when his efficiency was significantly lower he attempted less than 110 shots.
I’m tempted to say “this is a very smart player” but it is possible that other factors were involved.

In 2009 Wilson Chandler (his 3rd season) lowered his career rate from 3,62 to 3,10
It was his career year in eFG% and he returned to previous level of shooting threes… but he also improved his efficiency up to 35%.

In 1996 Calbert Cheaney (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 2,51 to 1,96
Spectacular example. In first three seasons [213 games] he attempted 490 threes and made 32,4% of them.
In the next 10 years [612 games] he attempted a total of 224 threes! Though his eFG% varied his two best eFG% seasons happened in latter stage.

In 1986 Steve Colter (his 3rd season) lowered his career rate from 1,70 to 1,35
The same thing happened here… but with a different effect. He stopped shooting threes but his eFG% plummeted. He was very close to cut off point in efficiency and he had one season above it so maybe it was a case when a player shouldn’t have change his style…

In 1993 Todd Day (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 3,43 to 2,95
The lowest rate of his career and he returned to the old level of attempts in the next year.
His efficiency improved significantly though.

In 2005 Luol Deng (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 2,53 to 1,65
In 2006 Luol Deng (his 3rd season) lowered his career rate from 1,65 to 0,99
In each season his eFG% improved. In 4th and 5th season his 3P% improved with low number of attempts until finally he flashed new skill with larger number of attempts in 2009 and 2010.

In 2005 Keyon Dooling (his 6th season) lowered his career rate from 2,72 to 2,46
Returned to the old habit… but in 9th season improved 3P% up to 42%!
It became his career high in eFG%.

In 2007 Monta Ellis (his 3rd season) lowered his career rate from 2,30 to 1,51
This season is still his career high in eFG%. Later he increased his attempts but also efficiency above 33,33%.

In 2008 Raymond Felton (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 3,43 to 3,15
First two seasons were above 33% and he shot a lot, in the next had two his attempts and efficiency plummeted but in the 5th season he recorded a career high in 3P% and eFG% on low number of attempts.
In 2010 he returned to shooting a lot at 35%. Did he learn how to choose his spots?

In 2006 Joey Graham (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 1,98 to 1,46
He stopped shooting threes but it didn’t matter for his career length, he is out the league now.

In 2002 Eddie Griffin (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 5,18 to 4,42
In 2005 Eddie Griffin (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 4,56 to 4,07
He cut down on attempts in his second season with each team, once eFG% improved, once plummeted.
It’s hard to tell what would be the effect on his career because he died.

In 1995 Tom Gugliotta (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 2,07 to 1,82
In 1996 Tom Gugliotta (his 5th season) lowered his career rate from 1,82 to 1,65
In 1997 Tom Gugliotta (his 6th season) lowered his career rate from 1,65 to 1,52
Extreme case.
469 long bombs in the first three seasons with accuracy below 30%. 179 attempts in the next two with similar percentage and he basically stopped shooting them [84 in the final 8 years of his career]. His eFG% varied but his three best seasons in this category happened after initial wave of three point shots so even though it seemed like a very good decision I’m not sure why did he attempt so many of them in the first place.

In 2003 Richard Hamilton (his 5th season) lowered his career rate from 1,58 to 1,41
As with Kobe Bryant it’s all over the map. He had 6 very good seasons, one average… and 5 very bad years. And they are not next to each other. I have no idea what’s going on here.

In 1999 Anfernee Hardaway (his 7th season) lowered his career rate from 3,09 to 2,88
He maintained lower rate for the rest of his career and his 3P% actually reached new height.
Was it a better shot selection or necessary change due to the injuries?

In 2005 Devin Harris (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 4,02 to 2,24
Returned to the old levels and to date his efficiency hasn’t reached 34%.
In hindsight it looks like Mavs ordered him to stop shooting and he set a career high in eFG%.

In 1983 Craig Hodges (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 1,60 to 1,36
In 3rd season he improved significantly in three-point percentage so either his first two years were a fluke or he just learnt to shoot.

In 2000 Larry Hughes (his 3th season) lowered his career rate from 1,92 to 1,76
Increased efficiency in 5th and frequency in 6th season.

In 1990 Mark Jackson (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 2,19 to 2,02
In 4th and 5th season he attempted the least amount of threes in his career and it was his 5th best season in eFG%. Overall he played 17 seasons and he had only 4 years with 3P% above 34% but to his credit he attempted more threes in seasons with good efficiency than in those weak years.
Looking at the numbers I’m not even sure whenever we can say he could or couldn’t shoot threes!
He had 4 seasons [not next to each other!] with 743 attempts when he made over 40% of them so it’s not a sample size issue, right? But what the hell happened in other seasons? Really confusing case.

In 1982 Frank Johnson (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 1,40 to 1,16
For a change it’s an obvious example. He shot 140 threes in his first two seasons… and then a total of 103 for the rest 8 years of his career. Also his eFG% improved significantly after second year.

In 1997 Jason Kidd (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 3,84 to 3,51
He had a lower rate for a couple of years [all with Phoenix so either it was their idea or roster allowed Kidd to make a change] but returned to the old levels in 8th season [and first with Nets] but later he had a few very good seasons efficiency-wise [when he set his career-high in eFG%].

In 2009 Corey Maggette (his 11th season) lowered his career rate from 2,34 to 2,19
By far career high in eFG% and he attempted more threes in the next season… and I doubt it’s just a coincidence that he lowered long-ball attempts in a contract year…

In 1989 Dan Majerle (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 2,18 to 1,62
Increased efficiency in 4th and frequency in 5th season.

In 1984 Jeff Malone (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 1,35 to 1,15
He attempted 146 three-point shots in the first two seasons [and made only 39] and later he had 175 tries for the rest 10 years of his career. eFG% stayed at the same level though.

In 1999 Stephon Marbury (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 3,87 to 3,60
He continued to shoot a lot of threes even though his efficiency wasn’t good until his 9th season when he reached 35% mark [and set career high in eFG%] and after that he added two more solid years.

In 1997 Donyell Marshall (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 3,99 to 3,51
In 2000 Donyell Marshall (his 7th season) lowered his career rate from 3,10 to 2,89
In 2001 Donyell Marshall (his 8th season) lowered his career rate from 2,89 to 2,64
His three point attempts seem related to the team.
He shot few long-balls with Warriors [in seasons below 1300 minutes], Jazz [those two seasons are 2nd and 3rd best in terms of eFG%] and Bulls but a lot of them for the rest of his career.
So I guess he did what he was asked to do.

In 1997 Jamal Mashburn (his 5th season) lowered his career rate from 4,22 to 3,95
5th and 6th season remained a career-low for him in terms of attempts per game per 36 minutes but he started to shoot threes efficiently after that.

In 1989 Vernon Maxwell (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 2,25 to 2,08
By far a career-low for him and he started to shoot a lot of threes with middling efficiency after that season [around 34% in best years – interestingly he had also career high in eFG% then].

In 2002 Jeff McInnis (his 6th season) lowered his career rate from 2,37 to 2,14
He became a Blazer for this season and he got back to old habit next season though he had two good years efficiency-wise.

In 1991 Chris Morris (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 2,77 to 2,49
In 1992 Chris Morris (his 5th season) lowered his career rate from 2,49 to 2,24
Career lows for him and he returned to shooting more threes in 1993. Only once after that he reached eFG% level achieved in 1991 and 1992.

In 1995 Lamond Murray (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 3,06 to 2,74
He improved efficiency in the next year but surprisingly his attempts stayed at a similar rate until 5th season.

In 2006 Ronald Murray (his 5th season) lowered his career rate from 3,33 to 3,04
This season became a career-low in this category though later he had one year at 36% with 242 attempts.

In 2001 Tyrone Nesby (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 3,89 to 3,27
It was also his last season in the league ;-)
His eFG% improved but it was probably too late to matter.

In 1989 Johnny Newman (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 3,18 to 2,87
In 1991 Johnny Newman (his 6th season) lowered his career rate from 2,43 to 2,21
He had three years in a row with low number of attempts [all in Charlotte] and he set a new career high in eFG% in one of them. In 9th season he improved 3P% up to 36% and it stayed with him for the rest 7 years of his career.

In 2002 Moochie Norris (his 6th season) lowered his career rate from 2,15 to 1,93
It was his final year with the Rockets… and it was also his last season above 1000 minutes.
Too little too late?

In 2007 Lamar Odom (his 9th season) lowered his career rate from 2,55 to 2,40
It was his career high in eFG% until last year when his three point shots fell at 38% clip.
He also returned to old levels of attempts.

In 2004 Tony Parker (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 2,98 to 2,74
In 2005 Tony Parker (his 5th season) lowered his career rate from 2,74 to 2,27
He maintained lower level of attempts to date and his career high in eFG% happened in aforementioned 2005. Interestingly just before this season he signed a lucrative extension.

In 1992 Pooh Richardson (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 1,52 to 1,29
He became a member of Pacers and he stopped shooting threes in two years with them.
Interestingly his eFG% was actually worse then in previous seasons and in 6th and 7th season he returned to old habit but with significantly improved 3P%.

In 1995 Jalen Rose (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 2,28 to 2,03
In the next few years his attempts and efficiency varied [2nd had the highest eFG%] but in 6th season he reached new levels on both fronts.

In 1998 Arvydas Sabonis (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 2,17 to 1,88
Interesting case. He attempted over 2 threes per game In first two years and made 37% of them… then in 3rd season his efficiency plummeted to 26% so Sabonis stopped shooting them for the rest of career.
Was it a smart move? I don’t know and at this point age could have been a huge factor.

In 2007 John Salmons (his 6th season) lowered his career rate from 2,31 to 2,16
Fluke year, in the next season he attempted a lot of threes and his efficiency skyrocketed.

In 1997 Malik Sealy (his 6th season) lowered his career rate from 2,29 to 2,02
In hindsight it looks like he attempted a lot of threes only with the Clippers [in 3 seasons there] and it wasn’t a good idea because his two best years in terms of eFG% happened with other teams.

In 2009 Josh Smith (his 6th season) lowered his career rate from 1,35 to 1,12
Another recent and famous case.
After attempting 471 long balls in first five years in the league he shot only SEVEN threes in 2009.
He probably wanted to make some kind of statetement because in the next season he returned to old habit. Interestingly his eFG% remained unchanged.

In 2000 Latrell Sprewell (his 9th season) lowered his career rate from 3,27 to 3,06
He was very close to my cut off point.
In the next year he returned to shooting more threes and his efficiency improved.

In 1997 Jerry Stackhouse (his 3rd season) lowered his career rate from 3,89 to 3,55
Became his 2nd lowest year in this category and career high in eFG% until 12th season.
His 3P% varied between good and bad without rhyme or reason so probably his shot selection was questionable at best.

In 2007 Sebastian Telfair (his 4th season) lowered his career rate from 2,84 to 2,62
It was his first year with Minnesota and he returned to old levels in the next year so he probably just wanted to fit in. Though I have to mention that he had two seasons with 3P% above 34% in his career.

In 1983 Isiah Thomas (his 3rd season) lowered his career rate from 1,20 to 1,05
It became a career low in attempts for him and a career high in 3P%[!].
So he probably should have stopped shooting threes.

In 2000 Kenny Thomas (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 2,44 to 2,13
In 2001 Kenny Thomas (his 3rd season) lowered his career rate from 2,13 to 1,36
In hindsight his rookie year was just strange – he attempted 122 threes and a total of 120 long balls during the rest 10 years of his career. And it was a good decision to stop shooting them because his eFG% improved significantly.

In 2008 Al Thornton (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 2,16 to 1,56
The same thing as with Kenny Thomas though his career lasted shorter.

In 1998 Keith Vanhorn (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 3,47 to 2,56
Fluke year, in the next season his attempts came back and he improved efficiency up to 36-39 range which he maintained for the rest of his career.

In 1996 Rasheed Wallace (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 1,65 to 1,13
He changed team and it became his career year in eFG%[!] even though he improved efficiency up to 35-36% in later years. It was also the time when he started to shoot a lot of threes.

In 1998 Chris Webber (his 6th season) lowered his career rate from 1,85 to 1,69
In 2000 Chris Webber (his 8th season) lowered his career rate from 1,60 to 1,40
Very interesting case. In his rookie season he attempted 14 threes and it became his best one in eFG% with huge minutes. He changed teams and started to shoot 2-3 per game which hurt his efficiency. In 6th season he again switched teams and stopped shooting threes… but his eFG% actually dropped even further. Was it an issue with the role? He injured knee later.

In 2009 Russell Westbrook (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 1,74 to 1,53
He attempted 25 less threes than in rookie year and his eFG% improved.
In 3rd season he increased efficiency up to 33% but attempts stayed at the same level.
In the current season he shoots slightly more long balls than ever with terrible percentage of makes so… it’s too early for any conclusions.

In 1990 Gerald Wilkins (his 6th season) lowered his career rate from 1,51 to 1,39
His attempts and efficiency varied greatly from season to season and I don’t know why.

In 2000 Jason Williams (his 3rd season) lowered his career rate from 6,53 to 5,98
Fluke year with attempts but he improved efficiency later in his career.

In 1992 Reggie Williams (his 6th season) lowered his career rate from 2,48 to 2,25
It was only his 4th best season in eFG% and in the next season he set a career high in three-point attempts so this change clearly didn’t work.

In 1993 Walt Williams (his 2nd season) lowered his career rate from 4,11 to 3,84
In third season his attempts and efficiency increased slightly and in 4th they skyrocketed.
Second one became his lowest mark in eFG%!

OK, so it wasn’t a short list ;-)
And it took me waaaay more time than I’ve anticipated but I think it was worth it.
Because I feel like a learnt something here.
When I started this topic I was 100% sure that every inefficient three point shooter should just stop attempting them. Immediately and automatically.
Now, I think it was a wrong point of view!

I reviewed 64 players who had at some point to-date career 3P% below 33,3% and they tried to lower their attempts [prime suspects to cut down long ball]. Of those players:
30 improved significantly their three-point accuracy!
A stunning number for my point of view and another 10 guys had at least some good years!

– only 23 improved their eFG% due to decreased number of inefficient 3-point attempts…
while 7 actually got worse in this category!

– only 12 maintained lower level of attempts [and most of those guys also belong to the positive group above]

– 10 cases were so over the map that I don’t know how to interpret them.

I may be wrong but I think the moral of this story is this… LeBron won’t maintain lower number of attempts for long time and he even shouldn’t have to try, he will need those threes later in his career and there’s a chance he will improve efficiency-wise.

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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Scrutiny

 

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