The Milwaukee Bucks won the championship while ranking 14th in the playoffs in 3-point percentage. In fact, the 32.1% the Bucks shot from beyond the arc in the postseason was the worst mark for any champion in the last 17 years (since the 2003-04 Pistons shot 30.4% – 10th in those playoffs).
That speaks to the dominance of Giannis Antetokounmpo at the basket. But it was also a big drop-off from the regular season, when the Bucks ranked fifth in 3-point percentage (38.9%). They didn’t shoot nearly that well in any of their four series, topping out at 35.3% in The Finals.
The Bucks went into the playoffs with six guys who shot the league average (36.7%) or better on at least 100 attempts from 3-point range in the regular season. Five of the six (including Donte DiVincenzo, who was hurt in Game 3 of the first round) saw big drop-offs in the playoffs. Yet Milwaukee still found a way to win.
There’s only one Giannis Antetokounmpo, of course. The other 29 teams don’t have him, and shooting still matters to the Bucks, too. While they’ve lost one of those six shooters (Bryn Forbes) this offseason, they’ve added two other guys – Grayson Allen and Semi Ojeleye – who shot the league average or better on at least 100 3-point attempts last season.
That gives them seven, tied for second most in the league, based on transactions (reported and completed) through Monday, Aug. 9.
There were 138 players (4.6 per team) who shot the league average or better on at least 100 3-point attempts last season. Here’s how they break down in regard to the teams they finished the season with and the teams with which they’re set to begin the 2021-22 season:
Players who shot 35.7% or better on 100+ 3PA in 2020-21
Old = End of 2020-21 season
Added = Via trade or free agency
Lost = Via trade or free agency
FA = Still-available free agents
New = On roster for 2021-22 (completed and reported deals as of Aug. 9)
The Denver Nuggets lead the way with eight, though one of the eight – Jamal Murray – will most or all of this season. They added Jeff Green (career-high 41.2% last season) to a group that also includes Will Barton, JaMychal Green, Nikola Jokic, Monte Morris, Michael Porter Jr. and Austin Rivers. The Bucks, Dallas Mavericks (added Sterling Brown and Reggie Bullock), LA Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers (added Georges Niang) all have seven of 138 players who shot the league average or better on at least 100 3-point attempts.
At the bottom of the list are the Orlando Magic, who don’t have any of the 138, having lost Otto Porter Jr. to Golden State in free agency and with James Ennis III still without a new contract.
Ennis (43.3% on 104 attempts) is one of five players who shot the league average or better on at least 100 3-point attempts last season and are still without a contract agreement. The other four are *Armoni Brooks (38.2% on 157 attempts), Lauri Markkanen (40.2% on 296 attempts), Garrison Mathews (38.4% on 198 attempts) and JJ Redick (37.1% on 178 attempts).
* Brooks was a two-way rookie with the Rockets last season, is a restricted free agent, and is on Houston’s Summer League roster. But there’s been no reports yet of a contract for next season.
Shooting = Efficiency
As you might expect, there was a pretty strong correlation (0.59 for you math majors) between the number of shooters a team had and where it ranked in offensive efficiency. The top 10 offenses all ended the season with at least five guys who shot 36.7% or better on at least 100 3-point attempts. Only three of the 17 teams that had five or more – Charlotte (6), New York (6) and Oklahoma City (5) – ranked in the bottom 10 offensively.
That’s good news for the Lakers, who ranked 24th offensively last season (10th before losing Anthony Davis and then LeBron James to injury) and have seen the biggest jump in the number of plus-shooters they employ, losing two (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso) and gaining five: Carmelo Anthony, Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn. Marc Gasol is the only one they retained.
There will be turnover
Now, a player who shot the league average or better last season isn’t guaranteed to do it again this season. In 2019-20, there were 133 players who shot the league average or better on at least 100 3-point attempts, and only 76 (57%) of them repeated the feat in 2020-21. They were joined by 62 players (including nine rookies) who didn’t do it the year before.
There will be some turnover again, though we don’t know where it will happen. The three players who saw the biggest drops in 3-point percentage from 2019-20 to last season (with at least 100 attempts both seasons) were all on the wrong side of 30 years old: Paul Millsap, Aron Baynes and Redick. But the fourth guy on the list – Shake Milton (from 43.0% to 35.0%) – is just 25 and played for the same team as he did the year before.
Biggest drop, 3-point percentage
Minimum 100 3PA in each season (202 total players)
Retention and improvement
There were three teams that finished last season without any of those 76 players who shot the league average or better on at least 100 3-point attempts in each of the last two years. They were the Pistons, Warriors and Magic, who traded one of the 76 (Evan Fournier) at the deadline.
None of those three teams have added a two-year shooter this offseason, though Golden State will obviously have two guys (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson) that would have been on the list had they been healthy. (Injuries also prevented Porter from getting 100 attempts in ’19-20.) Those three teams are joined by the Memphis Grizzlies, who had one of the 76 two-year guys (Grayson Allen), but traded him to Milwaukee.
The Clippers had the fourth highest 3-point percentage in NBA history (41.1%) last season and still lead the way with six players who have shot at or above the league average on at least 100 3-point attempts in each of the last two seasons: Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Kawhi Leonard and Marcus Morris (though Leonard is expected to miss most or all of this season).
The Jazz also had six, but lost one of them (Niang) in free agency. Niang joined the Sixers, who now join the Jazz with five of those 76 guys (Seth Curry, Danny Green, Tobias Harris and Furkan Korkmaz are the other four). Six teams – the Hawks, Nets, Mavs, Nuggets, Bucks and Blazers – have four. Those nine teams with four or more ranked 1-6, eighth, ninth and 13th in offensive efficiency last season. Philly was the only one of the group outside the top nine, which was infiltrated by the Phoenix Suns (seventh), who had three last season and traded one (Jevon Carter) for another (Landry Shamet).
Redick is the only available free agent who has shot the league average or better on at least 100 3-point attempts in each of the last two seasons, though, as noted above, he saw a big drop from 2019-20 (45.3%) to ’20-21 (37.1%).
Here are the players that saw the biggest jumps in 3-point percentage from ’19-20 to ’20-21. The Knicks had four guys – Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Derrick Rose and Reggie Bullock – in the top 13, but ranked 24th in the percentage of their shots (34.7%) that came from 3-point range, 29th in 2-point percentage (they shot 49.0% inside the arc) and 22nd in offensive efficiency.
Biggest jump, 3-point percentage
|James Ennis III||55||169||32.5%||45||104||43.3%||10.7%|
Minimum 100 3PA in each season (202 total players)
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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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