2020 NBA Draft

Daryl Morey gets shooters situated around Simmons, Embiid

During his first draft at the helm of the 76ers, Daryl Morey quickly reoriented the Sixers' surrounding talent toward 3-point shooters.

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have anchored the Sixers’ swirling lineups.

Unless you have LeBron James and Anthony Davis on your team and dominating in the paint, shooting is critical. Heck, even if you have James and Davis, it helps to have some guys who who can space the floor and knock it down from deep.

A lot of things — turnovers, free throw rate, offensive rebounding — affect overall efficiency. But shooting is the most important factor there is. Not surprisingly, there’s a strong correlation between how well a team shoots from 3-point range and how efficiently it scores.

Even if a team doesn’t shoot particularly well, it can improve efficiency by increasing its 3-point volume. Just ask Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Morey, whose Houston Rockets led the league in 3-point rate (3PA/FGA) in each of the last seven seasons, taking over 50% of their shots from beyond the arc in each of the last three. The Rockets didn’t rank any higher than 12th in 3-point percentage over those seven years, but still ranked in the top seven in offensive efficiency in six of the seven.

The Sixers, believe it or not, have ranked in the top 10 in 3-point percentage in each of the last three seasons. But the volume hasn’t been there. Their two stars are both at their best in the paint and they’ve had enough high-volume shooters around them.

In the 2020 playoffs (when they got swept in the first round), the Sixers ranked last in 3-point percentage (26.4%) and 15th in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range (36.0%). They were missing the guy — Ben Simmons — who ranked third in the league with 226 assists on 3-pointers, 48% of the 469 3s his teammates made while he was on the floor.

But they were also missing real shooters. Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris are capable from downtown, but they aren’t 3-point shooters by nature. Among 190 players with at least 200 field goal attempts from outside the paint last season, Horford (1.80), Richardson (1.66) and Harris (1.59) ranked 141st, 147th and 152nd in their ratio of 3-point attempts to mid-range attempts. And neither moved without the ball like JJ Redick in the Sixers’ offense two seasons ago.

All three are good players, but context is everything. The context in Philly is that the two franchise players — Simmons and Joel Embiid — are beasts in the paint who need to be complemented with as much shooting as possible.

So Morey got to work on Wednesday. Horford is gone, reportedly heading to Oklahoma City in a deal that yielded Danny Green and Terrance Ferguson. With the Lakers last season, Green took 69% of his shots from 3-point range, the 10th-highest rate among 248 players with at least 300 field goal attempts.

Richardson is also gone, heading to Dallas in a trade that brings Seth Curry to Philly. Curry ranked third in 3-point percentage (45.2%) and the 48.1% he shot on catch-and-shoot 3s was the best mark among 209 players who attempted at least 100.

Ferguson (29.2%) was near the bottom of that list, but does at least give the Sixers some additional wing depth. That will allow Harris to play mostly at power forward.

There were 133 players who shot better than the league average (35.8%) on at least 100 3-point attempts last season. The Sixers finished the season with six of those guys, two of them — Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III — free agents.

On Wednesday, they added two more without losing any. Before we hit free agency, the Sixers are one of two teams with six of those 133 guys — Curry, Green, Harris, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton and Mike Scott — under contract for next season.

The Sixers did lose some defense in the two trades they made, and there are still questions about just how well Simmons and Embiid fit together offensively. But as long as they have both, their defense will hold up, and there are now fewer questions about how the rest of the team fits around them.

“Having a truly elite shooter,” Morey said late Wednesday, “really changes the dynamic for Ben and Joel.”

The Sixers probably aren’t going to take half of their shots from 3-point range this season. But they’ll climb the ranks in regard to 3-point rate, with more of a “let it fly” attitude from the supporting cast.


More shooters on the move

In total, 10 of those 133 players who shot 35.8% or better on at least 100 3-point attempts have been traded. The other team that’s added two is the Phoenix Suns, who got Chris Paul (36.5% on 304 attempts) and Abdel Nader (37.5% on 128 attempts) from Oklahoma City.

The Thunder had five of the 133, traded three (Paul, Nader and Dennis Schroder) and are likely to lose a fourth (Danilo Gallinari) via free agency. Their fifth was Mike Muscala, who has a player option for next season.

The other five members of the group expected to be on the move (not all deals are official):

  • Trevor Ariza (from Portland to Detroit via Houston)
  • George Hill (from Milwaukee to New Orleans)
  • Luke Kennard (from Detroit to the Clippers)
  • Ricky Rubio (from Phoenix to Minnesota via Oklahoma City)
  • Landry Shamet (from the Clippers to Brooklyn)

Interestingly, the other team with six of the 133 above-average 3-point shooters under contract for next season is the San Antonio Spurs, with LaMarcus Aldridge, Trey Lyles, Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV and Derrick White. Alas, only two of those six guys (Mills and White) fired off more than 175 3-point attempts last season. The Spurs ranked 28th in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range (in the bottom seven for the fifth straight season).

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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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