The Offbeat: The Impact of Threes

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

The Jazz have started to shoot threes. Take a look at how that's impacted the Jazz offense in the first 22 games.

Ah, the three point shot. Anathema to the Utah team for years, the Jazz have finally embraced the fact that threes are worth 50% more points than their inside-the-arc counterparts. The change is drastic:

  • The Jazz made the 28th most 3s in last year's lockout shortened season; this season, the Jazz are 10th.
  • They're set to surpass last year's made 3s total before this season is halfway over.
  • The stats are similar with regards to 3P%: last season, the Jazz shot just 32.3%(27th), this season, they're 9th at 37.4%.

This is really reflected in the Jazz' offensive performance. Take a look at the Jazz' Synergy stats: last year compared to this year. In particular, begin by looking at the top line, the Jazz' overall offensive performance.

Jazz_offense_2011-12

Jazz_offense_2012-13

Last year, the Jazz were 19th in the league in PPP, this year, they've bumped all the way up to 8th. Why?

Well, it's not FG%, which has barely moved at all: 45% compared to 44.9%. The Jazz drew fouls ever slightly more often last season, 7.5% of the time compared to 7.2% of the time. They got many more And 1s. Last season's team turned the ball over less, 12.2% compared to 12.6% of the time. And last year's team actually scored on slightly more of their overall possessions. Let's be clear, the differences in this paragraph are all largely negligible.

What isn't, however, is the 3 point shooting. It's the impact of those shots that has bumped the Jazz all the way from 19th to 8th offensively. While 19th understates the Jazz' offensive performance last year (Synergy and BR.com calculate possessions differently), the Jazz' offense last year is remarkably better than last year's, even with reduced contributions from the two featured players. That's deserving of tremendous credit to Ty Corbin and Kevin O'Lindsey.

What's furthermore interesting is how the Jazz are shooting so many more threes: you'll notice that there isn't a huge divergence between the Jazz' distribution of possessions between the two seasons. Utah still only passes out to a spot-up shooter 1.6% more of their possessions, but are shooting about 30% more threes! They're just being smarter about it: when they do pass to a spot-up shooter, those guys are ready behind the line. This kind of preference towards threes is actually seen across the board: on pick and roll plays, on transition plays, even on isolation plays.

Again, some credit should go to Corbin here, but we probably also have a smarter group of players this season that deserve some of the credit. Raja Bell would be proud, you know, if he wasn't a huge part of the problem. Still, this development makes for a more modern, and entirely more effective, Jazz offense.

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