3 Point Share

Published: November 11, 2013

I was perusing nba.com/stats today and I stumbled upon an alarming statistic. The Pelicans are 2nd to last in field goal percentage in the restricted area, shooting a paltry 51.3%. A team with Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis, and Tyreke Evans should be nowhere near last in this regard. Davis is one of the league’s most talented finishers at the rim and Gordon and Evans are known for their ability to get to the basket. Yet the statistics speak volumes about the offense right now. Quite simply, teams are collapsing on the Pelicans’ penetration and the team is resorting to taking mid-range jumpers. Sometimes it’s working and sometimes it’s not, but it has looked ugly, to say the least.

Ryan Schwan addressed this at length in last night’s podcast with Michael McNamara and you can listen to it here.

Here is the data that I had to work with.

Team Percentage of Shots from 3 Restricted Area FG%
Los Angeles Clippers 30% 66.5%
Miami Heat 29% 66.1%
Atlanta Hawks 27% 64.6%
Detroit Pistons 27% 64.2%
San Antonio Spurs 22% 63.6%
Houston Rockets 33% 62.7%
Philadelphia 76ers 25% 62.1%
Sacramento Kings 26% 61.3%
Phoenix Suns 28% 61.1%
Chicago Bulls 20% 60.5%
Golden State Warriors 32% 60.2%
Memphis Grizzlies 19% 59.9%
Brooklyn Nets 23% 59.0%
Minnesota Timberwolves 25% 58.8%
Washington Wizards 32% 58.6%
Boston Celtics 21% 57.8%
Orlando Magic 23% 57.7%
Utah Jazz 22% 57.7%
Dallas Mavericks 26% 57.3%
Charlotte Bobcats 20% 57.3%
New York Knicks 29% 57.0%
Toronto Raptors 25% 56.9%
Indiana Pacers 27% 56.8%
Milwaukee Bucks 24% 56.1%
Portland Trail Blazers 28% 55.5%
Los Angeles Lakers 30% 54.9%
Oklahoma City Thunder 23% 54.6%
Denver Nuggets 23% 52.6%
New Orleans Pelicans 15% 51.3%
Cleveland Cavaliers 24% 50.8%


It’s hard to sift through all of that information and derive anything meaningful by just glancing at it, so here is an Excel scatterplot (complete with a trendline) that shows the data.

3 Point Share


See that little square in the lower left corner all by himself? That’s the New Orleans Pelicans, who shoot a league low 14.7 percentage of their field goal attempts from 3 point land.

14.7 freaking percent in an NBA era where teams have all but accepted that the 3 point shot is necessary to create the kind of offense that succeeds in today’s game. To put that in perspective, that is 2.5 standard deviations from the mean team percentage of 25.3%.

That’s the purpose of this article- not to highlight that there is an unmistakable relationship between all teams’ rates of 3 pointers to their ability to finish close to the basket, but to highlight that Pelicans are taking so few 3s relative to the rest of the league. 

Does personnel factor in? Sure. Most NBA small forwards have some capacity to hit 3 pointers, and Al Farouq Aminu has cut out that part of his game. Tyreke Evans is a poor shooter and Gordon’s best asset is his ability to attack the basket, though he has shown that he is capable of hitting 3s in catch and shoot situations. Davis and Jason Smith don’t shoot 3s, and Greg Stiemsma and Lance Thomas barely even take shots, period. Jrue Holiday and Brian Roberts do a lot of ball-handling, thereby limiting their spot-up opportunities. Ryan Anderson is injured. But there is no excuse to be shooting this low a percentage: the nearest team is the Memphis Grizzlies (known for their terrible perimeter shooting), and they are a full 4 percent higher.

I’m not saying we need to start jacking 3s like the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors, but it is undoubtedly true that the Pelicans’ extremely low volume of 3 pointers taken is having an effect on the offense, particularly in the field goal percentage in the restricted area. And it’s not like they haven’t been successful when they shoot either.. the Pelicans lead the league in 3 point percentage at 43.8%. Ryan Anderson’s return will do wonders for volume, as he can hoist 3s in a moment’s notice and takes a very high volume of 3 pointers, but this team needs to start taking more 3s with or without him.. and it needs to start doing it now.



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