I've been thinking about basketball a lot lately.
Specifically, I've been thinking about shooting percentage and, thanks to the wonderful gents from Free Darko, the positional revolution that Don Nelson always gets so much credit for. I've been thinking about the smallball that D'Antoni is credited with reviving. And I've been thinking about some of the new crop of stars, starting with not so newbies like Dirk and Ray Allen, continuing through to Lamar, and finishing up with Kevin Durant and Chris Paul (Don't think he belongs here?).
(Sidenote: If Don Nelson were truly a mad genius, that guy that everyone wants him to be, this is what we'd see from him. I don't believe we will, and I don't believe that it's really as good an idea as I'm going to present, but, damn! Just talking about this makes me want to see it, just to see how marvelously magnificent it would turn out.)
So, conventional wisdom says that we pound inside, that the two ball rules supreme and that the three is a silly shot. Percentages are lower, defenses can chase you off the line, etc. Well, I've been thinking about percentages a lot lately, and I've been watching a lot of basketball, playing a lot of basketball, and coaching a lot of basketball, and what I really want to see is a team that shoots almost nothing but threes. The only time, really, that I'd be OK with a two (on this theoretical team) would be on a fast break with an advantage - 3 on 2, 2 on 1, or an open court dunk. Otherwise, I say, let it fly.
I know this sounds like madness.
But just for the sake of argument, let me try to talk my way out of this. According to Basketball Reference, the average for the last 10 years worth of 2 pointers is 59.3%. This obviously doesn't include this year, since the season's not over yet. The same time-period averaging of three pointers brings a 47.6% total.
If you make 59.3% of your two-pointers in a 100 possession game, you're going to score 118.6 points. However, if you score 47.6% of your three-pointers in a 100 possession game, you're going to score 142.8 points. That's a pretty big gap.
Now, granted, not everyone's shooting that hot from three. So we have to make an adjustment. (However, it's worth pointing out that some people aren't shooting near 60% for 2, either.) What if 3-point shooting dropped to 40%? Still gets you an average of 120 points, just over the two ball mark.
Let's look at some helpful samples: Kevin Durant, whom Hollinger loves, and Shoals loves, and everyone seems to love, but who, somehow, has a negative plus/minus, only shot the 3 ball well in his second season, averaging 29% both his rookie season and this season. However, even with that bad average, his three-ball average still produces 10 more points per 100 possessions than does the field goal percentage! Lamar Odom just about breaks even in the two categories even though no one thinks of him as a particularly feared three point shooter. Dirk Nowitzki, though, is the obvious one to mention here, averaging out to almost 20 points better from beyond the arc.
Before I hear in comments that it "Just wouldn't work," let me say this: I know it wouldn't work. I know that the threat of the three-pointer would become almost meaningless if they never drove inside, never got to the line, never pushed the defense back on their heels. I know that. BUT. It doesn't change the fact that I want to see it. I want to see some team just completely abandon the center position, grab some freakishly long wings who stroke the three at a decent percentage and a point guard who can do so himself, and see them run it for a year. How many points would it produce? How many people would they piss off? I'm not talking about the Fun 'N Gun Suns here, because I'm not looking for Nash alley-oops to Stoudemire (or the dearly departed Matrix). I'm not talking about the Warriors and Baron's dunk on AK-47, although that was hot.
What I'm talking about is seriously gunning a system on the pure three ball. They'd lose a lot of games when the shots weren't falling. The averages would drop because they'd be shooting more of those shots that just aren't as easy. I know these things. But it doesn't mean that I don't think about it all the time and dream of seeing it someday.
What do you think?