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Is It Really The New Three Point Line?


The Orlando Sentinel published an article pointing out that three point shooting has only been marginally effected by the extended line.  On average perimeter shooting is down on 0.4% this season as opposed to last among the six power conferences.  The Sentinel also has a list of five teams who have "suffered the largest decrease" in three point shooting from last season to this one:

The assertion is these five teams are shooting worse from three because of the new line. Is it true? I am not convinced.

The first name that jumps out to me is Virginia now shooting about 7% worse from behind the arc than they did last season.  Is it the new three point line or the fact Sean Singletary and Adrian Joseph graduated taking two shooters who hit 36% or better from three point range off the team?  Mamdi Diane has seen his minutes reduced from last season and has been non-existent shooting long range shots.*  These factors might have something to do with it as does the fact Singletary was able to create a ton of open looks for others using dribble penetration.  UVa does not have that and is leaning on a freshman forward for the bulk of the scoring now.

The same thing is true with Texas.  DJ Augustin left Texas for the NBA taking away an elite PG who also hit 38% of his three pointers and likely opened up the perimeter game for his teammates.  The result?  Texas is shooting worse because they miss Augustin's shooting but also because the same shooters who were hitting them last season are missing them now.  It is possible the new line has affected them but I also think missing a PG like Augustin changes the dynamics of your offense, especially if the dribble penetration is missing.

Vanderbilt lost Shan Foster who dropped threes in at a 46% clip.  The Commodores also lost Alex Gordon who hit 40% of his threes. In Alabama's case the Tide lost three great three point shooters as well.

Depaul is the only one on the list that seems to have a dropoff with mostly the same personnel and even they are missing their most prolific three point shooter from last season, Draelon Burns, who shot 34% on a team high 156 attempts. Depaul also sucks and likely given to wild inconsistency from one season to the next.

The point here is sometimes it is not enough to look at a group of stats and say: "Hey these teams are missing threes because they pulled the line back!" Four of the five teams listed as allegedly being impacted by the deeper line also had elite players leave the team.  In two of those cases it was a top flight PG who not only hit threes at a decent rate but created open looks on drive and kicks.

In short, the Orlando Sentinel is being a tad lazy with their analysis here.  There is the notion that stats can be framed to prove almost anything.  This is such a case, at least where these five teams are concerned.  Taking the averages across six conferences likely presents an accurate picture.  However if you are going to start naming teams and say they have been impacted by a rule change, it is necessary to analyze the roster to see if they lost key shooters or if their offense was changed significantly by attrition.  UNC is actually a perfect example to use since all of the major three point shooters have returned.  UNC is presently 0.4% better than they were last season from behind the arc through the same point in the season.  The Heels are, on average, taking about two more threes per game than a season ago.

The moral of the story here is just because a newspaper puts a chart of numbers up does not necessarily mean the numbers say what they think it says.

*Edited to correct a mistake.