The last time Salt Lake City hosted the NBA All-Star Game in 1993, Mark Price of the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 3-point contest – then known as the AT&T Long Distance Shootout – with a final round score of 18 out of a possible 30 to edge out Terry Porter of the Portland Trail Blazers.
A lot has changed around the 3-point shot over the past three decades – both during the season and at All-Star. With the midseason classic back in Salt Lake City and the Starry 3-Point Contest set for Saturday, let’s take a look at the numbers.
In 1993, the league average for 3-pointers attempted was 9.0 per team. There are eight players this season – including three in this contest in Damian Lillard (11.2 3PA per game), Jayson Tatum (9.3) and Buddy Hield (9.0) – that either match or beat that team average by themselves. The average number of 3-pointers attempted by a team in 2023 is 34.1 per game – nearly quadrupling the mark from 1993.
Not only will we see plenty of 3-point shots during Sunday’s 72nd NBA All-Star Game, eight of the top long-distance shooters in the league will compete in the Starry 3-Point Contest as part of All-Star Saturday Night. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on TNT with the 3-point contest being the second event of the night.
Similar to the rising numbers in overall 3-point shooting, the numbers in the 3-point contest have risen in recent years, with the maximum score now at 40 points rather than 30 the last time Utah hosted the 3-point contest.
The traditional 3-point contest consists of five racks spaced evenly around the 3-point line with five balls each – four regular orange balls worth one point each, and one multi-colored money ball worth two points. That’s a maximum score of six points per rack and 30 for the contest.
When the eight shooters in this year’s contest take the court, they will have a maximum score of 40 points available. Four of the racks used in today’s contest are the same as the traditional contest – four orange balls worth one point each and one multi-colored money ball worth two points. Then things get a little more interesting.
First, there is the all money ball rack, which consists of five money balls, each worth two points and can be placed by the shooter at any one of the five shot locations. This gives an intriguing element of strategy to the contest that goes beyond being a knock-down shooter.
Second, there are two “Starry” balls, placed well behind the 3-point line on each side of the middle rack. Each of these shots – from roughly 30 feet away from the basket – is worth three points, which means a round can change in a hurry. If a player struggles early, but hits both “Starry” balls and clears his all money ball rack, then he’s right back in the competition.
So, let’s take a closer look at these two outlier rules and see how this year’s field can use them to their advantage.
THE STARRY SHOT
Let’s begin with the long-range shot – a shot that players like Lillard, Stephen Curry and Trae Young have made famous. Shooting from 30-feet away from the basket is no longer a desperation shot trying to beat the shot clock or game clock; it is a piece of team offensive strategy as it provides extra vertical spacing on the floor for all players to take advantage of.
Considering that Lillard has made (27) and attempted (87) far more 3-pointers from between 30-34 feet than the rest of the field combined – 15 makes in 56 attempts among the other seven competitors – it’s safe to say Lillard has one of the best chances to cash in on the “Starry” shots.
Shots between 30-34 feet from basket this season
But there are four other players to keep an eye on from real long distance, a group led by Kevin Huerter, who has made five of his nine attempts from that distance for a 55.6% shooting percentage that tops any player in this contest. Buddy Hield (3-of-6), Lauri Markkanen (3-of-7) and Tyrese Haliburton (3-of-21) have all made three triples from this distance during the season.
THE ALL MONEY BALL RACKS
The addition of the all money ball rack, which dates back to 2018, adds a layer of strategy to the contest. The decision of where to place the most valuable rack on the floor can make or break a shooter’s round.
A common strategy is to place the rack in one of two corner locations. And this makes sense as the corner 3 at 22 feet from the basket is the shortest 3-point shot, nearly two feet less than other three racks that are all above the break at 23-feet-9 inches. But there are two key risks that come with placing the all money ball rack in a corner – it is either your first rack or your last rack.
All shooters talk about being in a good rhythm when they’re shooting and sometimes it can take a few attempts before a player settles into their rhythm and gets rolling. Do you risk placing the most important rack on the court at the starting corner and maybe miss a few early shots while finding your rhythm? Or are you a player that is locked in from the first shot and ready to roll?
If you’re worried about putting the all money ball rack in the first corner because you may start out cold and need to warm up, then what about putting it in the final corner? While the first 22 shots of the contest (four racks and two Starry shots) should give any shooter plenty of time to find a rhythm, there is the risk that you can be up against the clock by the time you reach the last rack. Each competitor is given 70 seconds to complete all the shots – 10 more than Price and other shooters had back in the day when there were no additional long shots in the contest. Is that enough time to get to the final rack and not have to rush to get all five shots up?
Below is a look at each shooter’s 3-point shot chart from this season. Based on these charts, we’ll suggest an all money ball rack location that is based on a combination of shot accuracy and shot volume. We’ll then have to see what each player decides on Saturday night in Salt Lake City.
(scroll down for shot charts, notes and money ball rack predictions, easier to view image and text with each player having a dedicated page in this document)
Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers
- Key 3-point stats: 138-346 (39.9%)
- Ranks 37th in NBA in 3-point percentage
- Ranks 23rd in NBA in 3-pointers made, tied for 31st in attempts
- Youngest player in the field (22), teammates with oldest (Hield, 30)
Money Ball Rack Pick: That right corner 3 is tempting as Haliburton knocks it down at over 52%, but on only 23 attempts this season. The left wing would be my recommendation as he shoots 46.7% — 11 percentage points higher than the league average – from that zone on high volume (92 attempts).
Tyler Herro, Miami Heat
- Key 3-point stats: 135-366 (36.9%)
- Ranks 78th in NBA in 3-point percentage
- Ranks 29th in NBA in 3-pointers made, tied for 25th in attempts
- Has made the fewest above the break 3s of any player in competition (112)
Money Ball Rack Pick: While Herro shoots slightly higher percentages from the corners – 41.2% from the left and 40.9% from the right – he does the vast majority of his 3-point shooting from above the break (84.6% of his attempts). That means the recommendation goes to the straight-on 3 from the top of the key, where Herro shoots nearly 38% on the season.
Buddy Hield, Indiana Pacers
- Key 3-point stats: 230-540 (42.6%)
- Ranks 8th in NBA in 3-point percentage
- Ranks 1st in NBA in 3-pointers made and attempts
- Ranks 4th in NBA in corner 3s made (50) on 49% shooting
- Ranks 1st in NBA in above the break 3s made (179) on 40.9% shooting
Money Ball Rack Pick: There’s a reason they call this man Buddy Buckets. With all those green zones, Hield has plenty of areas to choose from for his all money ball rack. I don’t often recommend the corners, but that 55.3% is too tempting to pass up.
Kevin Huerter, Sacramento Kings
- Key 3-point stats: 143-365 (39.2%)
- Ranks 47th in NBA in 3-point percentage
- Ranks 22nd in NBA in 3-pointers made, 28th in attempts
- One of two players in field (Randle) to shoot better above the break than the corners (+3%)
Money Ball Rack Pick: This is one of the easier picks to make as Huerter shoots nearly 42% – 6.2 percentage points above league average from the left wing. Many of those attempts come off dribble hand-offs from Domantas Sabonis, but these will have to come off the rack.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
- Key 3-point stats: 191-513 (37.2%)
- Ranks 73rd in NBA in 3-point percentage
- Ranks 4th in NBA in 3-pointers made, 3rd in attempts
- Ranks 2nd in NBA in above the break 3s made (177) on 37.2% shooting
Money Ball Rack Pick: Lillard’s corner 3 numbers are a bit daunting to examine as the sample size is very small in both zones, with a total of just 36 attempts from below the break. While that right corner is tempting at nearly 53%, it’s only on 17 attempts – that’s the equivalent to one attempt every three games. Instead, I’ll choose the left wing, where Lillard has high volume (192 attempts) and is shooting 39.1%. Plus it comes right before or after (depending on which corner he begins with) from the Starry Zone, which is where it could be Dame Time.
Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz
- Key 3-point stats: 164-398 (41.2%)
- Ranks 22nd in NBA in 3-point percentage
- Ranks 9th in NBA in 3-pointers made, 20th in attempts
- Ranks 5th in NBA in corner 3s made (49) on 54.4% shooting
Money Ball Rack Pick: Let’s not make this one difficult. Markkanen is shooting a blistering 61.5% on 52 attempts from the left corner. That is incredible efficiency on a decent amount of volume for a player that is not just camped out in the corners waiting for kick-outs from teammates.
Julius Randle, New York Knicks
- Key 3-point stats: 161-477 (33.8%)
- Ranks123rd in NBA in 3-point percentage
- Ranks 11th in NBA in 3-pointers made, 7th in attempts
- Ranks 12th in NBA in above the break 3s made (136) on 34.1% shooting
Money Ball Rack Pick: This one has to be right wing, where Randle is shooting by far his best percentage so far this season at 45.1% on 122 attempts. The big question for Randle in this competition is can he carry that level of efficiency to other areas of the court as he is well below league average in two of the five zones.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
- Key 3-point stats: 183-512 (35.7%)
- Ranks 94th in NBA in 3-point percentage
- Ranks 6th in NBA in 3-pointers made, 4th in attempted
- Ranks 6th in NBA in above the break 3s made (162) on 34.5% shooting
Money Ball Rack Pick: With only 42 total shots from the corners, I’m going to recommend moving Tatum’s money ball rack to the right wing, where he is shooting 39% (4.6% over league average) on 154 shots so far this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tatum picked the right corner, where he’s made 52.6% of his 19 attempts on the season.