Analyzing the evolution of the NBA three-point shot: Where is it headed?

In the late 1970s, the NBA had just won the competition with its main competitor, the ABA. Due to the rapid expansion of that year, as many as 4 teams became part of the NBA. However, this is a bittersweet victory because the NBA is at its worst moment, with low arena attendance and domestic social problems affecting the impact and development of the event.

It was against this backdrop that the three-point line entered the league in 1979, along with other changes, with the intention of injecting life into the game and popularizing the spectacle.Today, Luis Cordero, student of Master’s degree in applying big data to football scoutingThe Sports Data Campus (Big Data International Campus), in partnership with Sevilla Football Club and certified by UCAM, has developed this evolution for us.

While it’s true that we can’t take all the credit for this measure, the NBA experienced its golden years and greatest boom as a sport in the 1980s, with the Lakers and their struggles with Bird’s Celtics or the young men entering the league. During those competitive years, players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Hakeem Olajuwon made the league an international phenomenon.

The Triple Crown was achieved in 1979, however the league did not achieve the Triple Crown until many years later. The late 1970s to the early 1990s were the era of highest scoring average and game pace, but the three-point field goal percentage was less than 8% of the team’s field goal percentage.

The percentage of three-pointers attempted from the three-point line this season as a percentage of total attempts.

The three-point shot has become more and more important in the game over the years, but as you can see from the chart, the total number of teams using this shot has grown more in the past 10 years than it has in the past 20 years. In our last article, we commented that the emergence of new technologies in the league and the advancement of statistics and their increasing importance in team decision-making are beginning to shape the new paradigm shift that is being established in the competition. As you can see from one of the charts below, eFG% (effective field goal percentage) measures a player or team’s shooting efficiency, considering that a three-point shot is worth 50% more than a shooting finger. Or to put it another way, a player who shoots 4-for-10 on 3-pointers (40%) has the same score as a player who shoots 6-for-10 on 2-pointers (60%).

%), so we know that the average success rate from beyond the three-point line is around 35%, and all two-point shots with an efficiency of no more than 50% are destined to disappear. The medium-sized shot is such a distance.

However, the changes we are seeing in the NBA now have also been greatly accelerated by the arrival of certain players (Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Trae Young, etc.), especially players like the Warriors The emergence of dominant teams like the Cavaliers or Rockets, their tactics and success have benefited from their mastery of the three-point shot, which has caused this model to be imitated by other teams.

After a brief review of the evolution of the three-point shot and its use in the NBA, we’ll answer the question we asked ourselves at the beginning: Where is it going?

You only have to sit down and watch a league game with the likes of Curry or Lillard to see at a glance how these players’ long-distance abilities affect an opponent’s defense:

But while in some cases, like the one shown above, the advantage a player like Stephen Curry generates through “gravity” is very clear, if we look at how play and tactics change as a result of the triple phenomenon, We see tempo rising again to levels not seen in the 80’s (+100 possessions per team in a game), using small ball as a repeating option in quintets, increased transitions and above due to players on the field being able to move with good distance With the threat posed by distance shooting, a greater understanding and utilization of spacing seems to be very important.

We don’t know what the future holds for us, whether the game will implement new changes such as the 4-point line, increased court size or the physical development of new players, but what is clear is that three-point shooting ability is no longer just another Quality, which is a basic requirement to be able to enter the league, trends indicate that either there is a change at the rules level, or the three-point shot is becoming a trend. The most common shot in the game, it follows that tactics and techniques should focus on maximizing the use of this resource.

*Graphics created by myself (source: Basketball Reference) and images taken from longomatch. *

Luis Cordero Ramirez, student of Master’s degree in applying big data to football scoutingfrom the Sports Data Campus (Big Data International Campus), conducted in partnership with Sevilla Football Club and certified by UCAM.


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