The Invaluable Nature Of The Three Point Shot

Christian Petersen

Momentum is a fickle thing and this season the value of three point shots -- on both ends of the floor -- have been the root cause for most if not all of the Phoenix Suns issues this season.

Back in 1979 when the NBA and ABA merged they instilled the ability to gain more points for a shot made from further out. The level of difficulty is obviously there for longer shots so naturally the extra point is earned.

The longest shot in the league and the closest shot are arguably the most important throughout a game in terms of creating momentum and ending it, which has been the root of the Phoenix Suns problems this season.

From my philosophy you take away the paint. Then you close out and contest. What has been hurting is us is that they (the three-point shots) have been so wide open and our rotations have been bad at times. Teams live and die by the three and we want to make them live in-between. -- Forward Jared Dudley on three-point shots

This season the teams that have made the three with consistency, and even more importantly, defend it with the same vigor have been successful.

Right now of the sixteen potential playoff teams (based on today's standings) there are 10 teams in the Top 15 in three-point makes, 9 in defending the three-point line, and 12 in three-point differential. The three-point line is not the defining factor in a playoff team, there are far too many intangibles that go into that formula, but it is clearly an important element in winning the game-by-game battles that lead a team to the playoffs.

Of those teams the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks, and Brooklyn Nets are in the Top 15 in all of those "three-point factors."

For the Suns in particular the three-point shot has been a barometer of their success. The team has won the battle beyond the arc in 12 games this season (tying three times as well) showing the importance to this team. During the seven game losing streak that was a major contributor to the lack of success.

The team is 11-18 by the way.

Numbers do not lie. The team is 18th in the league in makes (191), opponent makes (205), and differential (-14) proving that middle of the pack mentality that the Suns have adopted statistically this season.

In wins the Suns are making 2.09 more threes than their opponent per game and almost two more threes a game. On paper that is simplistic, but in wins the team is scoring 104.1 and they are scoring 93.17 per game in losses. Those missing three pointers are six points lost leading to losses rather than victories.

Wins
Suns Opponents
2 4
12 10
6 9
7 7
7 5
11 13
6 2
5 2
6 3
8 3
17 6
87 64

Made threes by the Suns and their opponents in wins

Those are fairly respectable numbers and if they can find consistency behind the arc on both ends then they can change their fortunes, but in the losses the numbers are right there to see plain as day.

Losses
Suns Opponents
5 4
5 9
7 15
4 2
6 6
5 8
5 8
4 9
6 12
6 8
8 12
6 4
8 4
9 7
5 5
5 7
3 11
8 9
105 140

Made threes by the Suns and their opponents in losses

How can that change? Rotations and fixing the ever growing issue of inconsistent defense on the perimeter are clearly the issues, but the issues seem to be different game-by-game. Some games they are over committing to the non-shooters, others they are rotating to the wrong spots on the floor, and overall they are making mental mistakes throughout the game.

We talked about that today, we need to tighten up our rotations and we got to know personnel of who we are rotating to. What we ask them to do is very, very simple. We have to make sure we execute that. We have to make sure that if I am rotating out to (Steve) Novak that I get there maybe a step and a half earlier than as opposed to a Kenneth Faried. -- Alvin Gentry on the rotations

The team is watching film and seeing different issues every game. They are the type of employees that show up late one day, then take too many breaks the next, and then give a lackluster effort on top of it. When the manager goes to assess the poor performance, what do they point out?

That is the thing we talked about in the film session. We can't come in and show the same mistakes over, and over, and over again being committed by different people. We have to show these mistakes and then next week it has to be something else that we are showing that we are trying to correct. -- Gentry on the miscues

Well Monday you were late, Wednesday you took too many breaks, and then Thursday you were not engaged leading to an overall bad week come Friday. That is the position Gentry is in right now as they constantly watch film on this and yet the results are the same. It is not always Shannon Brown, or Jared Dudley, or just one player making the mistakes, but it is someone new in a new way every game. The side screen-and-roll has been a death knell for the team.

The team is giving up 1.173 PPP (points per possession) on pick-and-roll situations in man defense. With that they are 30th in the league (that has 30 teams) and 60.1% shooting from the field. A lot of those shots are threes off of the poor rotations.

As Jay-Z so eloquently stated, "difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week." On what level is are the Suns issues then? Are they just difficult or impossible? Are they fixable in a day, a week, a season, or more?

In the past five years -- when led by Steve Nash and Channing Frye albeit, the Suns were around the top of the league in three-point differential getting teams out of their normal routine and rushing threes. Now they are on the other end of that style.

The defensive scheme may be simple, but the group is simply not getting it and because of that they are struggling to win games behind the three-point line that is becoming crucial for good teams to be great teams.

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