May 2, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (7) shoots over Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams (8) during the second quarter of game six of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

3-ball shooting grows in importance - are Raptors up to scratch? Part 1

Mar 19, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez (21) shoots the ball against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half at the Smoothie King Center. The Raptors won 107-100. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no shortage of analytics demonstrating the co-relation between a team’s 3-ball shooting success, and its likelihood of victory. The latest is a data-intensive post on the NBA’s website which admirably illustrates the need for winning teams to both take, and make, a bunch of threes. While the Toronto Raptors showed well in both categories (taking 1, 917 three-balls, which ranked us 11th, and making 713, for 9th, and you can tell from that data our shooting percentage was more than acceptable at 37.2%, tied with 4 other teams for 7th), I have to wonder two things: should we be trying to crank the attempts up even higher, and which players are likely to provide the extra takes (and hopefully, makes)?

Does it make sense for the Raps to make a concious effort to jack up even more long balls? After all, the Memphis Grizzlies were the NBA’s worst long-ball team last season, hitting an absurdly low 405, or 71 fewer than the 29th-place New Orleans Pelicans. Yet the Grizz posted a 50-32 record, and gave an excellent OKC Thunder team all it could handle in the first playoff round before bowing out. The Grizz’ offense was built around pushing the ball inside to their high-scoring big men, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The lesson: don’t go for fashionable long-ball shooting if you don’t have the players. The corollary: go for it if you do – and the Raps are in that position.

Toronto has a core of outside shooters among the starters, in Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan, who are all capable gunners from inside the arc. However, DeMar struggles mightily outside it, averaging 0.8 made 3s per game [PG], which is a disappointing 30.5% rate. TRoss shoot 39.5% (tied with veterans Avery Bradley and J.J. Redick and just behind Dirk Nowitzki) while averaging 5 attempts PG. Kyle averaged 6.3 long balls PG, the team’s most, and hit at a 38% rate.

Here’s my conclusion – Kyle and Terrence need to keep on keepin’ on. Shooting threes at a higher than 37% rate is favourable. DeMar has never been so much as respectable from distance, with this past season the first of his career with a rate above the 20s. Can he somehow spike to 35%? He’ll need to – our #5 & #6 makers of last season, Steve Novak and John Salmons, aren’t wearing our colours in ’14-’15. The third-most productive shooter from beyond the arc last season was Greivis Vasquez, and his contributions next year will be essential.

Greivis is the first bench player I’ve mentioned on this topic, but I haven’t explored how our rotation players can contribute. Nor have I said anything about the big men shooting threes, or how DeMar might get easier attempts. We’ll examine all of those issues in Part 2 of this discussion.

 

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