During last night’s barn/dome burner at Syracuse, I noticed Derrick Coleman getting some love from the broadcasters. Looking at his NBA stats from Basketball-Reference, I noticed two odd things:
- Coleman shot threes, but like Charles Barkley and Josh Smith he bricked many.
- Coleman shot worse from the shortened three-point line, the one that went from 23’9″ around the arc to a uniform 22 feet from 1995 to 1997, than he did from the modern-day line. From 1995 to 1997, he shot 67-for-260 (25.8 percent) from three. His other seasons combined: 259-for-845 (30.7 percent).
I did a little more searching on Basketball-Reference and found quite a few other players who had the same, weird drop off in three-point percentage from a shortened line. Others shot better when the arc went back to the normal 23’9″ (with the 22-foot corners staying) in 1998 while some experienced both the drop off from 1994 to 1995-1997 and the uptick the following season. Whatever the case, I made a table to show those players who met the criteria previously listed with an additional two requirements:
- Play at least 50 games in a season.
- Average at least one three-point attempt per game.
Seasons with the shortened three-point line are highlighted in blue and regular three-point lines highlighted in red. It’s a decent-sized list, so just use the bar on the right side to scroll up or down.
Here are some reasons off the top of my head on why players would struggle with a shorter three-point line:
- With a shorter arc, defenders had less distance to cover when running a shooter off it. Shooters who took an extra tenth of a second to get their shot off would be affected the most.
- Three-point specialists might not have been used to shooting a foot or two closer to the hoop.
- Some players are asked to create with the shot clock winding down. A closer three-point line may have led to more contested shots from beyond the arc versus 22-foot twos. That’s not a problem when three points are worth more than two, but the three-point percentage took a dip nonetheless.
- It was just variance running it’s course, though more often than not it reared its ugly head at the players in the table.
Other thoughts are certainly welcome.
Just for fun, I’ll end this post with a table featuring notable players who benefited from the shorter three-point line and then saw their three-point percentage (and possibly three-point attempts) decline after the 1997 season.
Opposite from the previous table, the shortened three-point line is highlighted in red and the modern-day line in blue:
Any excuses I made about players shooting worse from the shortened line might be crushed thanks to that second table. There’s a lot of what-ifs after looking at it. Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan, among others, would’ve had even more ridiculous point totals had the arc remained shortened. Clyde Drexler‘s another shooting guard who would’ve benefited.