Three-Point Shooting? In THIS NBA? Who would’ve thought?
The three-point shot has changed the NBA over the last decade and it seems like the most efficient three-point shooting teams are the ones who win it all. That is true, to a degree…
Three-point shooting prowess doesn’t necessarily translate to regular-season success as much as it does playoff success. For example, of the 16 teams currently eligible for the playoffs, only 10 of them have three-point shooting efficiency in the top half of the league. (63%)
Conversely, 13 of the 16 (81%) playoff teams are in the top half of the league in total field-goal percentage. Against all forms of competition, the best teams are clearly the ones who can score consistently, either with or without the three-point shot.
Logically this checks out, the more often you score, you’re more likely to end the game with more points than your opponents.
However, the point above clearly outlines why it’s so important to be a top three-point shooting team come playoff time. Hypothetically, if each team shot approximately the same number of field goal attempts per game and their total field goal percentage hovered around the same, the only separating factors left are three-point attempts and three-point percentage. (The hypothetical is valid because it’s true for the most part)
In the 2019 Playoffs, six of the eight teams that had the highest FG percentage made it past the first round, but seven of the eight teams that had the highest three-point FG percentage made it past the first round. While the difference seems minimal Portland, Golden State, and Toronto were three of the seven teams with the highest three-point FG percentages. Conversely, Golden State and Milwaukee were two of the six teams with the highest FG percentages.
It also goes without saying, spreading out the floor can allow for easier shots to be made closer to the basket off of screens and picks. That would explain why Golden State led the playoff teams in two-point shot efficiency (54%) and the Bucks and Raptors finished in the top five.
Portland made it to the WCF last season with the help of their 36 percent three-point shooting for the entire playoffs despite posting a defensive rating of 112.0, a net rating of -1.4, and a defensive turnover rate of 11.3 percent, which was in the bottom 25th percentile of all playoff teams.
This regular season, it was seen as a possibility that Dallas could make the playoffs because of their defense due to long athletes at all positions. However, not many anticipated the Mavericks would have the best offense in NBA history.
Compared to the 2018-2019 season, more teams have positive net ratings in the 2019-2020 season, but the offensive ratings are not as high as the season before. If the current trend were to continue, that could be good news for the Mavericks who were undoubtedly the best offensive team this season. With the way the team ended the season, there is ample reason to believe a trio of Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, and Tim Hardaway Jr could do serious damage in the playoffs.
Throw in the three-point shooting ability of Seth Curry and Dorian Finney-Smith and the Mavericks might have the offense needed to get past the strongest defenses in the league. (Except for the Los Angeles Clippers for reasons unknown)