Fantasy Basketball: Three-point shooting trend watch highlights slow starts for Stephen Curry, J.J. Redick

The NBA is in the middle of a three-point boom. Not exactly breaking news, I know. But that boom is booming at an unprecedented rate, and the Fantasy universe is struggling to keep pace.

The league is on track to make almost 3,000 more threes this season – nearly a 10% increase over last season. And last season also saw a jump of almost 3,000 more threes than the year before. Long story short: NBA teams are averaging just over one additional made three per team per game in each of the past two seasons.

To convert that into Fantasy terms, in any given week, there are roughly 200 more three-pointers made around the NBA than there would have been two seasons ago. In some cases, all those extra threes will make it easier for savvy managers to come back from large deficits. In others, however, it could mean that teams can pull ahead more quickly, especially after key injuries. In any case, these extra threes require some attention to make sure we are giving our teams the best chance at Fantasy success.

Overall Trends

While there are more total threes, not many more players are making them. Last season, 153 players averaged at least 1.0 made threes (min. 30 games played). This season, 160 players who are on pace to play at least 30 games are averaging at least 1.0 made threes.

That means that most of the increase in three-point production is coming from a smaller subset of players. The overall trend is not that every player is making slightly more threes, but rather that the players who make them are making a lot more of them.

Playing with the data, the real growth this season has come from players who make more than 1.4 triples per game. The number of players making at least that many is almost unchanged – up from 101 last season to 106 this season. In 2016-17, those top-100(ish) three-point shooters are making significantly more shots than last year, and they account for a large portion of this year's growth. That's good news for Fantasy managers looking to improve in threes. With only 156 players rostered in a 12-team standard league, many of whom are not long-range shooters, there will probably be high-impact shooters available on waivers all season long.

The positional trend is exactly what you probably expect – there are more big men shooting threes than ever before. In the past, power forwards and centers were not expected to shoot threes. If they did, it was a nice bonus, but a team could stay competitive when it didn't get any threes from its big men. That era is close to ending, if it hasn't already. In order to stay competitive in threes, teams are probably going to need some contributions from power forward and center. That doesn't mean you have to avoid big men like Clint Capela or DeAndre Jordan, though managers should be careful not to overload on that type of players. 

Trade Targets

With one-third of the season now complete, here are some trade ideas based on players whose three-point production seems out of line with expectations.

Note: Buy or sell here is based primarily on a player's three-point production. Buy means I anticipate an improvement in their three-point production, and sell means I anticipate a decline.

SELL: Jayson Tatum, Celtics; Al-Farouq Aminu, Trail Blazers; E'Twaun Moore, Pelicans; Buddy Hield, Kings; Joe Ingles, Jazz; Otto Porter, Wizards; Tony Snell, Bucks

NBA players typically don't shoot better than 45 percent from behind the arc. It happens occasionally, but pretty much only for the likes of Steph Curry and Kyle Korver. These seven players are all shooting better than 45 percent from three right now, but it is incredibly unlikely that any of them maintain this pace. It's worth testing the trade market on all of them. If you decide to keep them, develop a contingency plan for where you'll get your extra threes when these players inevitably begi n to cool off.

Buy: Steph Curry, Warriors

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Stephen Curry GS • PG • 30
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Easier said than done, I know. And you'd have to give up a boatload to get him. But managers are frequently cautious when a player returns from injury, so his owners are likely to be more receptive than they might have been a few weeks ago. Curry is averaging the worst three-point field goal percent of his career, by a considerable margin, and his attempts are also down. He's already a top-five Fantasy option, but he could get better over the final two-thirds of the season.

SELL: Robert Covington, 76ers

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Robert Covington PHI • SF • 33
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Covington is having a great season, and he's currently producing at a top-25 level. He was a top-40 player last year, and the only areas in which he's improved relate to shooting efficiency. Some of his improvement comes from better spacing and surrounding talent, and it is likely that he's taken individual strides to improve his shot. But his three-point shooting has risen from 33.3 percent to 42.7 – that's jumping from Andrew Wiggins-level to Klay Thompson-level over the course of a single offseason, and it's probably unsustainable.

BUY: J.J. Redick, 76ers

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JJ Redick PHI • SG • 17
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That extra spacing that's helping Covington – well, Redick should be benefiting from it too. Instead, Redick's current three-point percentage is the third-lowest mark of his 12-year career, and his worst in five seasons. Redick is carrying a larger offensive load than he ever has on his previous teams, but even still, his shooting drop-off is surprising, especially given the level of talent around him.

Other BUY options: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers; Jrue Holiday, Pelicans; Khris Middleton, Bucks

Other SELL options: Aaron Gordon, Magic; Austin Rivers, Clippers; Will Barton, Nuggets

Waiver Targets

  • Wayne Ellington, Heat: Ellington is averaging more threes per-36 minutes than James Harden and the Splash Brothers. And though he is posting a career-best three-point field goal percentage, his 42.9 percent mark is only slightly ahead of his previous high (42.4%). The Heat's backcourt depth chart is a constantly evolving mystery, but any time Ellington is playing consistent minutes, he is one of the best sources of threes in the league.
  • Ersan Ilyasova, Hawks: John Collins (shoulder) returned Thursday night, but with Dewayne Dedmon still out, Ilyasova retained his increased minutes share. Ilyasova is only valuable until Dedmon returns, which might be as soon as the end of the month. Until then, however, he will be a strong source of threes from the power forward spot. He has 15 made threes over his last six games.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu, Trail Blazers: Aminu was listed above as a sell target, but that was based on the assumption that he was already owned. If he is available for free, he should absolutely be acquired. He has five made triples in three of his past four games.  
  • Other recommendations: Allen Crabbe, Nets; Trey Lyles, Nuggets; Milos Teodosic, Clippers; Frank Ntilikina, Knicks
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