NBA teams are on pace to set a record in 3-point attempts per game for the 10th consecutive season, as analytically driven game plans and shot profiles have led to historic offensive efficiency. The Dallas Mavericks set the all-time NBA record with 115.9 points per 100 possessions last season -- six teams are above that mark this season, and that's largely due to the proliferation of the 3-point shot.
Most of the league's top teams are toward the top in both 3-point percentage and attempts per game, with a few notable exceptions such as the Los Angeles Lakers. The Philadelphia 76ers are another outlier, 13th in the league in 3-point percentage and 28th in attempts. Despite the addition of 3-point shooters Seth Curry and Danny Green, much of the 76ers offense comes from inside the arc thanks to MVP candidate center Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris.
Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, who has long been on the forefront of the NBA's analytics movement, admits that his team is the anomaly. In a recent appearance on the "Rights to Ricky Sanchez" podcast, Morey cautioned that the game is becoming increasingly one-dimensional with "only one path to victory." He went on to suggest that the difference between a 3-pointer and a 2-pointer is just too great, and that ideally the deep shot would be worth slightly fewer points.
"If you have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and even Tobias (Harris) who's an elite sort of 15-foot-and-in player, you know, you can still win that way, but it's just so rare," Morey said, via Radio.com. "There's so many more people who can shoot 3s wide-open than there are who can be efficient 15 feet and in. So ... it's just too big of a bonus, right? You wanted the 3-pointer so people would have to space the floor and get more dynamic play, which has worked, but they just gave it too much, you know. It should be two-and-a-half (points), I mean that's really the bottom line."
While it's unlikely the NBA will make the reduction to a 2.5-pointer, Morey has a point. Not only are teams launching more 3s than ever this season, but they're also making them at an all-time high clip of 36.8 percent, according to Basketball-Reference. The previous record of 36.7 was set in 2008-09 when teams averaged 18 3-point attempts per game. This season, that has nearly doubled to 34.8 attempts per game, and yet the efficiency has gone up.
The idea of the 3-pointer was built on the premise that a shot from farther away is more difficult than a closer shot. That's clearly been disproven, which has led to a boon of 3-point specialists at every position. Morey also mentioned the extreme efficiency of corner 3-pointers, which are only 22 feet away (as opposed to 23 feet, 9 inches from the top of the key) and are readily available off of drive-and-kick scenarios. He thinks eventually the NBA will eventually have to change the dimensions of the court but said it could take a long time.
"I expect that to happen," Morey said of adjusting corner 3-pointers. " ... A corner 3 is basically the same as getting a rim shot, a medium-guarded rim shot, which is sort of insane when you factor in fouls and everything else. So yeah, it's too big of a positive. I mean, I would be fine if we could reconstruct arenas, having the court be wider, push the line back and keep the corner 3. Well, it's just you'd have to change out arenas and ... I mean, it would take like 25 years."
As the style of play becomes more and more homogenous with an emphasis on 3-pointers and layups/dunks, it will be interesting to see if, and how, the NBA tweaks the rules to make the game less predictable.