Over the past few decades, the three-point shot has evolved into a crucial component of NBA strategy. It has had a significant influence on the game, changing the way teams play and the players they value. The influence of the three-point shot on NBA strategy will be examined in this article, along with how it has altered the game and what it could mean going forward.
History of the 3-Point Shot in the NBA
The three-point shot was first introduced in the NBA in the 1979-80 season. Initially, it was not widely used, with only a handful of players attempting it regularly. However, as the game slowly progressed over the years, an increasing number of players began to incorporate the three-point shot into their game. In the 1980s, players like Larry Bird, Dale Ellis, and Reggie Miller were known for their three-point shooting ability, and by the 1990s, the three-point shot had become a fairly significant part of NBA strategy.
The Impact of the 3-Point Shot on Scoring
The three point shot has figuratively had an immeasurable impact on scoring in today’s NBA. With the advent of heavy analytic data being incorporated into team strategy, it became increasingly obvious that relying more heavily on the three point shot was a justified risk. With each 3 point shot being worth 50% more than field goals attempted within the line, even an average outside shooter could potentially have an outsized impact on the game. Before the three-point shot was introduced, teams relied heavily on mid-range jump shots and shots near the basket. However, the three-point shot has allowed teams to spread the floor and create more space for their offense.
Today, teams are taking more three-point shots than ever before. In the recently completed 2022-2023 season, teams attempted an average of 34.2 three-point shots per game, up from just 18.0 attempts per game in the 2010-11 season. This increase in three-point attempts has led to an increase in scoring, with teams averaging 114.7 points per game in the 2022-2023 season, up from 99.6 points per game in the 2010-11 season.
The Importance of Three-Point Shooting in Today’s NBA
With the vast majority of teams incorporating the 3 point shot as a key part of their strategy, the 3 ball is becoming more of an equalizer than an advantage. Teams are now built around players who can shoot the three, and players who cannot shoot the three are often seen as less valuable. This has led to a shift in the type of players that teams are looking for.
Today, players like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, and James Harden are some of the most valuable players in the NBA because of their ability to shoot the three. These players have revolutionized the game, showing that a team can be built around a player who can shoot the three at a high percentage.
The Impact of the 3-Point Shot on Defense
The three-point shot has also had a significant impact on defense in the NBA. Defenses now have to cover more ground, making it harder to defend against the three-point shot. This has led to a change in defensive strategy, with teams often using a zone defense to cover more ground and prevent three-point attempts.
The three-point shot has also led to the rise of the stretch four and stretch five positions. These players are big men who can shoot the three, which makes it harder for defenses to defend against them. This has led to a change in the way that teams defend, with more teams now using smaller lineups to match up with these types of players.
Large leads are also no longer safe in the way they once were due to the consistent deployment of the 3 ball of offense. It is hardly an uncommon site to see a 20+ point lead vanish after a brief hot streak from beyond the arc by the trailing team.
The Future of the 3-Point Shot in the NBA
The three-point shot is likely to continue to be an essential part of NBA strategy in the future. As more and more players are brought up in a basketball culture that values the three-point shot, we can expect to see even more emphasis on this aspect of the game.
However, there are also some concerns about the impact of the three-point shot on the game. Some have argued that it has led to a decrease in ball movement and teamwork, as teams rely on isolation plays and three-point shooting rather than passing and movement.
The validity of this concern is questionable at best however, seeing as teams such as five of the teams that were top 10 in 3 point attempts were also top 10 in assists, namely the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz, Sacramento Kings, and the Indiana Pacers.