Swapped a few e-mails with loyal reader Eric last week on the subject of 3-point shooting and the affect of the extended line. Here’s the crux of his question:
I was wondering if you think that the extended 3-point line is having an affect on the Terps shooting woes. Essentially, the top 3-point shooting teams in the ACC are shooting the same percentage as last year, whereas the bottom six teams regressed by about 4 percent. Who would have thought that one foot would make this much difference (so far)? It seems as if the mediocre shooters have been exposed and their shooting percentages have dropped while the good shooters haven’t been affected.
It’s an interesting question to address now, since we have half a season’s worth of data to work with rather than a weekend (which is when some people wanted to assess the impact of the adjusted 3-point line).
My guess at the start of the season was four-pronged.
1) Bigs with more dubious shots would attempts fewer 3s (don’t know the answer to that)
2) The fluctuation in team’s 3-point percentage would be dependent on personnel changes (might just be right)
3) Courts would look sort of silly with two 3-point lines so close together (they do)
4) There would probably be a slight decline in overall numbers given the added distance (which is merely a statement of the obvious).
But those claims can only go so far. So how about a comparison, at least within the ACC, of 3-point shooting from then (2007-08) and now (2008-09)?
Overall, four teams got better, eight teams got worse. If you consider a change of 1 percent to be negligible (and since at this stage, that’s a difference of two-to-four 3-pointers made, that seems fair) and take out the teams that fall into that range, one team got better and seven got worse.
So it would seem the new 3-point line had some sort of an impact.
But let’s take this team by team to figure out the real deal, in order of improvement this season:
Wake Forest (+.021): If Jeff Teague was shooting 39.5 percent from 3-point land as he did last year rather than his ridiculous 52.3 percent, the Demon Deacons would have declined from outside.
N.C. State (+.009): Quirky stats —- both Courtney Fells and Trevor Ferguson are precisely matching their 3-point shooting from last season. Meanwhile, Javier Gonzalez has not shot nearly as much. But Brandon Costner improved by 6 percent —- enough to account for the Wolfpack’s improvement and offset whatever declines exist elsewhere.
North Carolina (+.007): The Tar Heels attempted 580 threes last year. The players who took 561 of those returned. A year’s worth of improvement probably is a perfect counterweight to the deeper line, and as a result Carolina is about the same as a year ago.
Virginia Tech (+.003): The simplified version —- A.D. Vassallo and Malcolm Delaney declined slightly, Deron Washington‘s shaky outside shooting is gone and Jeff Allen is much improved. The Allen-Delaney-Vassallo troika has attempted 218 of the Hokies’ 288 outside shots.
Clemson (-.010): Perimeter assassin Terrence Oglesby is better. K.C. Rivers is a bit worse. In reality, taking out the above average Cliff Hammonds is the best argument for the slight decline, especially since he helped open opportunites for Rivers last season.
Miami (-.015): Here’s guessing Brian Asbury was the most adversely affected by the 3-point line change, going from a 38 percent shooter to 16 percent from the outside. If Asbury is removed from the equation, the Hurricanes have a statistically insignificant decline of .003 —- or just one extra miss over the course of 17 games.
Boston College (-.019): Let’s pin this mainly on the line, since the declines of Rakim Sanders and Corey Raji from outside outweigh Tyrese Rice‘s improvement. And in words I never thought I’d type, the Eagles would appear to miss John Oates‘ ability to float out to the perimeter and hit an open 3-pointer (almost certainly against Maryland, no less).
Maryland (-.025): There’s a general downward theme with the Terps, whether its by a scant margin (Greivis Vasquez) or a significant one (Landon Milbourne). The numbers certainly suggest the Terps are affected by the line, especially since the four non-returning players combined to shoot 22-for-79 (27.8 percent) last year.
Florida State (-.030): The Seminoles lost three decent outside shooters in Jason Rich, Isaiah Swann and Ralph Mims. Take them out of last year’s stats and Florida State shot 33.2 percent —- which means much of this year’s decline can be explained away as personnel changes.
Duke (-.041): The Blue Devils’ 3-point percentage last year minus DeMarcus Nelson (graduated), Taylor King (transferred) and Greg Paulus: .352. Duke’s 3-point percentage this year minus the benched Paulus: .337. Maybe the line accounts for some of the difference, but the Blue Devils are trotting out different people as well.
Georgia Tech (-.046): Hate to keep harping on personnel, but here’s another instance. Georgia Tech last season minus Anthony Morrow and Matt Causey: .314. Georgia Tech this year: .326. The Yellow Jackets would have declined minus Morrow and Causey, regardless of where the line was.
Virginia (-.068): Maybe this one is on the line. At the least, a ginormous slump has something to do with it. Take out Mamadi Diane‘s 41.4 percent last year, and Virginia is at 35.5 percent. Take out the senior’s 2-for-29 this season, and the Cavaliers are at 32.6 percent. The difference is reduced to .029, which can be written off to some extent by the loss of Sean Singletary and Adrian Joseph. But Diane’s are a huge piece of the equation.
So to finally answer the original question, the 3-point line change probably is affecting Maryland as much as any other team in the ACC. But for most teams, there appears to be a legitimate underlying reason for a change rather than simply pointing to a tweaked rule.
—- Patrick Stevens