It’s never easy to speak praise about anything KU related, but Jesse Newell does a great job covering the Jayhawks for the KC-Star —d if you weren’t paying attention (and I’m 99% positive if you’re reading this you weren’t). Recently, Newell had a post discussing the Jayhawks and their percentage of made NBA-level three’s.
He used Will Schreefer’s shot chart info from The Stepien to deep dive into the percentages so I decided to follow his links and see what I could find out about Missouri players. I hoped to be able to search for Jordan Barnett, Jontay Porter, and Kassius Robinson but the latter managed to avoid detection in Schreefer’s tool.
But I did find Jontay and Jordan, so let’s see their shot chart breakdowns look.
Jordan Barnett leaves a whole to fill on the wing
Why I think Barnett translates to an NBA player is because of his length, athleticism and the fact he shoots it well from deep. This chart simply confirms what my eyes were telling me, and that Barnett has extended range.
On NBA three’s alone he shot 40.86% on 93 attempts. Which isn’t a small sample size. In fact it’s an appropriate sample size. That’s nearly 1.23 ppp on NBA three point shots.
The college average for NBA three’s was around 35%, or around 1.04 ppp... so Jordan Barnett was nearly .19 ppp more than the average, which doesn’t sound like a ton until you factor in Missouri was playing at a pace of around 65.7 possessions and suddenly Barnett was 12.483 points better than average.
So, clearly teams aren’t playing the entire game or season simply off shooting each possession from behind the NBA three point line... but the point stands.
This also echoes the point both Matt and myself have made about replacing Missouri’s three point shooting going into next year. Barnett’s catch and shoot ability will be tough to replicate.
Maybe if Jontay Porter comes back, he’ll be even better next year.
Jontay had an up and down season shooting the ball but seemed to find his way a bit more late than he was early.
The NBA range for Jontay wasn’t the prettiest last season especially when you consider shooting the ball is considered one of the big keys to Porter’s game. At the combine he was the best at the catch and shoot drills, which intimates his struggles from deep are merely a reflection of his adjustment to the college game and something that would even out with more exposure.
If Porter decides to return to school he will need to shoot better than the 36.7% he shot from deep last season, and he’ll need to show NBA scouts his range translates. In every way Barnett proved his range translates, Jontay would have that opportunity to be even better from deep.
Porter’s ppp on NBA threes is a paltry .842, which is well below where he’ll want to be.
From Newell’s article:
Making defenders guard out to 25 feet also, in theory, should give an offense more space to operate. KU coach Bill Self often talks about the importance of getting the ball “flat” — or from corner to corner — to force a defense to guard 50 feet horizontally. It would follow logic, then, that getting a team to guard you further out vertically would cause additional defensive stress as well.
I’m partial to this point, because one of the reasons Mizzou’s offense was so good last year is because they forced teams to defend very far away from the basket which opened up driving lanes. This was essential to their offensive success since they didn’t have ball dominant guards who could get to the rim at will. Instead they relied upon spacing out the defense in order to accomplish the same goal.
And this all makes me start to re-evaluate how I’ve viewed deep threes my entire life.
While watching basketball, it’s only natural to gripe when a guy misses a long three, thinking there might have been a better attempt available later in the shot clock. Part of this belief, I think, comes from other sports, where closer is almost always better.
In football, getting past the goal line is worth six points, while getting close but not there is potentially worth three. In soccer, launching every shot from outside the box is obviously not the most efficient way to score.
Basketball is just different, though. Shooting from distance can be worth an additional point, as complicated as that can be to rationalize in our own minds.
NBA threes, based on the data above, appear to be decent shots in the college game. And a few teams appear to be taking advantage of that quirk.
Last season, Missouri was one of the few teams taking advantage. But Newell’s post brings to mind Dan D’Antoni’s analytics rant from a few years back:
Dan D'Antoni is a national treasure that must be preserved at all costs. "I haven't finished my damn analytics story yet." pic.twitter.com/ze3QUkQYxx— Craig Meyer (@CraigMeyerPG) December 29, 2016
Basketball isn’t evolving. It’s evolved. Missouri took advantage of the evolution last season with two elite wing shooters, and should Porter decide to return he’ll lessen the blow of Barnett and Robertson’s expiring eligibility. But even without the three, I’d expect Missouri to continue their reliance on the three point shot in the new, forever changed landscape of college basketball.
As you watch the NBA wrap up it’s season and you see Dan D’antoni’s brother Mike build up the Houston Rockets the same way his brother built up Marshall. You see the Golden State Warriors take over the league the last few years and it’s evident. Deep 3-point shooting has changed defenses more than anything.