Basketball is a game in a continuous state of evolution. As coaches and players look to squeeze out every possible advantage, strategies change, often drastically. Few strategic evolutions have impacted as profoundly as the rise of the three-point shot. Three-pointers were once a relative afterthought reserved for desperate moments but are now an indispensable cornerstone of the game.
Modern basketball coaches orchestrate plays that harness the power of long-range shooting. They capitalize on the spacing it creates, allowing them to dismantle defenses and create high-scoring chances. Players across all positions are honing their skills beyond the arc, transforming themselves into multifaceted threats capable of changing the game’s flow.
The Three-Point Revolution
The National Basketball Association (NBA) introduced the three-point line for the 1979-80 season. Then-Washington Bullets coach, Dick Motta, said at the time, “The three-point field goal will definitely make things interesting.” It took several years for Motta’s prediction to come true. During the first season of three-pointers, teams averaged a mere 2.8 attempts from beyond the arc per game. Fast-forward to the 2022-23 season, and the Golden State Warriors, regular favorites with the best NBA online betting sites, averaged 43.1 three-pointer attempts per game!
Over the years, three-point shooting has gone from an act of desperation to a critical component of a team’s offense. The rise in the popularity of three-point shots birthed the era of the sharpshooter, with luminaries such as Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, and Steph Curry sinking several three-point shots in any given game.
Teams strategically position shooters beyond the arc, creating space that disorientates defenses and opening lanes for drives and inside plays. The evolution has reshaped offensive strategies, favoring long-range shooting prowess.
You only need to look at the league leaders over time to see how vital three-point shooting has become. In 1979-80, Fred Brown, a guard for the Seattle SuperSonics, attempted 88 three-point field goals and made 39. Compare that to the Brooklyn Nets’ Joe Harris in 2020-21, who attempted 444 shots from distance and made 211. Harris attempted over five times as many three-pointers than Brown and scored 516 more points from those shots.
Analytics and Player Value
Data reigns supreme in many sports, basketball included. Gone are the days when traditional metrics like points, rebounds, and assists were used to measure a player’s prowess. These days, the ability to connect from beyond the arc has become a crucial marker, a metric that distinguishes the exceptional talent from the merely competent.
Analysts often focus on a player’s three-point ability when evaluating them. Players’ impacts are now tied to their three-point shooting proficiency, with teams coveting players who can stretch defenses with accuracy from long range. There was a time when three-point specialists were the most sought-after players in the NBA. However, the era of specialists has given way to a demand for all-around ability, with players from all positions now tasked with shooting from range. Centers and power forwards are refining their three-point stroke, while guards and small forwards are no longer confined to mid-range jumpers.
Defensive Adjustments and Challenges
The proliferation of the three-point shot is not only altering offensive strategies but spurring a transformation in defensive tactics. Defenses face the daunting challenge of thwarting this new offensive attack without compromising their interior protection.
As three-point attempts increased, defenders couldn’t afford to focus solely on guarding the paint because they had to extend their coverage to contest shots beyond the arc. Teams began devising intricate defensive schemes and employed agile defenders capable of guarding the perimeter while maintaining inside coverage.
Coaches began strategizing rotations and switches to minimize open looks from three-point territory without conceding easy access to the rim. Defending the pick-and-roll, once primarily focused on preventing drives to the basket, now demanded a delicate balance of guarding against both inside and outside threats and kick-out passes to shooters waiting in the wings.
The three-point revolution has created a perpetual chess match between offense and defense. No sooner have offensive strategies adapted and diversified, so too do defensive tactics. Coaches and players engage in a strategic tug-of-war where each adjustment is met with a counter, and a defensive adaptation meets each innovation.
The NBA’s Top Three-Point Shooters
Many basketball fans consider Steph Curry as the best three-point shooter. Curry has over 3,500 three-pointers during his career; claiming that statement is difficult. However, Luke Kennard has topped the charts for the past two seasons.
In 2021-22, Kennard attempted 423 shots from distance across 70 games, making 190 of them for a 44.92% success rate. Kennard was number one again in 2022-23, making 133 three-pointers from 269 attempts over 59 games for a 49.44% success rate. Kennard has become a deadly weapon from outside the paint.
The three-point revolution has ushered in an era where the long-range shot is not just a strategic option but a game-defining weapon. From humble beginnings as an afterthought to its current status as the cornerstone of offense, the three-pointer has redefined how top teams approach the game.
This evolution isn’t only about statistics; it’s a narrative of innovation and adaption. Coaches continually create plays around the three-point line in an attempt to exploit its spacing to dismantle defenses. Players across all positions are honing their skills beyond the arc, further transforming the dynamics of basketball. The ability to connect from long distance has become a pivotal marker of a player’s value.
Furthermore, the revolution has had a profound impact on the defensive side of the game. Defenders are now tasked with a balancing act of interior protection and perimeter coverage, forcing a recalibration of defensive strategies.
In essence, the three-point revolution has fundamentally reshaped basketball philosophy, tactics, and the players’ values.