Triple Confusion Reigns in Today’s NBA

Guest post by Abacus Reveals

Just when you think you’ve got the answer, they change the question.

Is the spirit of the late great Rowdy Roddy Piper “booking” the NBA these days?

Season by season, the league seems to become more and more obsessed with three-point shooting. It was only a decade ago that, for the first time, 20 percent of NBA field goal attempts were launched from 23’ 9” or more. The 2014-15 usage rate was nudging 27 percent, and this year’s sits above 28 so far.

With so much added efficiency hurtling rimward, it’s come to behoove a team to perform well and rank highly in both shooting and defending treys. Seven squads saw fit to finish last season among the Top Ten in 3FG% and opponent 3FG% -- every last one of them participated in the playoffs.

Over the last ten years, 37 teams (representing 22 different franchises) have pulled off such a Double Top Ten – a mere four failed to qualify for post season play.

Through fourteen weeks of the 2015-16 schedule, the Warriors and Spurs respectively stand atop both charts – as well as alone in accomplishing this Triple Double.

But there’s something else that stands out about this season’s numbers. A full third of the NBA – ten teams – ranks among the ten best three-point units at one end of the floor and among the ten worst at the other end. By comparison, only the Thunder and Spurs earned this dubious distinction last year. (Perhaps San Antonio’s No. 24 finish defensively foretold of their early playoff exit.)

To be out-performed in any area of play by 20+ other teams screams of vulnerability, hardly hints of competitive mettle. But this happens to be true of 19 different teams in one or the other element of “Three-fficiency” – both elements in the case of the Nets – after 14 weeks and close to 50 games.

Cleveland (No. 11, off/No. 9, def) and the Clippers (No. 4/No. 12) stay in close proximity to these upper echelons.  The Bulls (No. 14/No. 6), Pacers (No. 16/No. 5) and Thunder (No. 9/No. 14) flirt with the fringes of this fraternity.

Are these (along with the Alamo Boys and GSW, of course) the league’s sole contenders?

Does playoff success bode for a team (Toronto, Washington) among the worst in Three-D … or for a team (Miami, Boston) among the worst in Three-O?

Never before – except for the Aberration Era when they decreased the degree of difficulty by 21” for three mid-90s seasons – has the usage of the three-point field goal undergone such significant or steady growth. Last season, for the first time ever, an NBA team averaged 30 three-point attempts per game.

A usage rate of 22 percent in 2010-11 (as well as the three prior seasons) has risen by one percent each subsequent season to this year’s rate of 28 percent – the average team’s attempts have similarly increased by one each of those seasons to the current rate of 23 per game.
One guy who preferred the 3 point line being moved in

Pro sports are notorious for their “copycat” nature, teams and players alike. And while imitation may well be the sincerest form of flattery, competitive advantage is more likely to be gained by stemming the tide rather than going with the flow … the right innovation trumps imitation.

Another sports truism purports that everything old is new again.

One cannot help but notice, in this age of Pace and Space, the exotic assortment of “post” knick-knacks Coach Popovich has assembled on his personnel mantle down there in Central Texas.


As was the case with Red Auerbach’s “persona,” ol’ Pop has this aura about him that calls to mind another Roddy Piper catchphrase:

I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass … and I’m all out of bubblegum. 

One Final Numerical Nugget

Through 54 games, the Celtics have attempted more FG’s than the opposition in all but thirteen.

When they attempt more FG’s and more FT’s, their record is only 6-5.

When they attempt more FG’s but not more FT’s, they are 19-11.

When they attempt more FT’s but not more FG’s, they’ve lost six of eight outings.

By percentage, the best situation for the Stevens Squad is when the other guys are busier from both the field and the line – they’ve won four of five such games.

Another Hmmm!

I believe it was Einstein who said:

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.