Basketball across all levels is becoming more and more committed to the three-pointer.
Each season, NBA teams seem to break records for most three-pointers attempted in a season, and the movement is catching on in college basketball, too.
On Wednesday, after a 112-106 loss to Pittsburgh, Marshall head coach Dan D’Antoni (brother of Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, a three-point-heavy, offensive savant himself) gave a great (and slightly heated) response to a group of reporters about why three-pointers are the best shots in basketball.
When asked if Marshall didn’t score in the paint enough, D’Antoni asked a reporter if he’s ever watched the NBA. He then broke down the maths behind why threes are so popular (via Craig Meyer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
“You see those top three teams. Golden State — do they work it [inside]? My brother in Houston, the biggest turnaround in the league — do they work it in? You can go get any computer and run what the best shots are and it will tell you the post-up is the worst shot in basketball. If you want to run down and try to get it [in the paint] to shoot over somebody, then you’re beating analytics. The best shot in basketball is that corner three. The next-best shot in basketball is any other three. Other than free throws, which we try to do, when you get to the foul line, you score 1.5 points every time you go to the foul line in the pros. It just trickles down. It’s the same thing for college kids…”
When a reporter began to ask a question, D’Antoni cut him off, saying, “I haven’t finished my damn analytics story yet.” He continued:
“If you can get a layup and it’s clean — it’s not one that’s highly contested — it’s [worth] 1.8 points [per attempt]. It’s 1.3 from that corner, 1.27. Do you know what a post-up is, with a guy standing over top of you? It’s 0.78. So you run your team down there and we’ll see how long you can stay with teams that can play the other way. You’ve seen it in the NBA. The last two championships have been Cleveland and Golden State. What do they do? You don’t see anybody post up. They just spread that thing out and go.”
D’Antoni said he changed his coaching philosophy years ago, saying he used to coach like a “dummy” by trying to force post-ups.
Some could argue with D’Antoni’s analysis. The goal of basketball is to shoot as close as possible, hence why teams run post-ups. The three-pointer has become a weapon, in part, because defences evolved to protect the rim. Three-pointers can make teams pay for defending too far inside, or they can simply space the floor to create more room to get to the rim. Eventually, basketball will likely reverse course, when teams are so focused on defending the three-point line, someone will find an advantage inside.
Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to hear a coach admit to thinking fluidly and following what maths suggests, as opposed to digging into his position. As three-point-reliant teams like the Warriors and Cavaliers continue to win, the numbers will be hard for opponents to ignore.
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