Move the 3-point line back! Because...reasons and probably Steph Curry

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Why not?

The 3-point shooting nowadays is obviously out of control. It's insane how it's dictating how basketball is played. Look at all these teams making 3-pointers like it's nothing. I mean, right? No need to even do any research; the shot is too easy, time to move the line back! Plus, Mark Cuban suggested it!

Except...maybe just a peek at the numbers will suffice.

Hm, maybe we need more than a peek. Maybe we actually need to like, analyze things.

Obviously there's the same running element of New School vs. Old School inherent in any calls for rule changes surrounding the 3 point line. What's probably being lost in it is the evolution of the shot itself in terms of skill; sure, almost everyone realizes the shot is being attempted far more frequently than the past and that teams are often basing parts of their offense around shooters competent from that range, but is it really "too easy?"

When we look through the years, a couple of things stand out:

  • In the 79-80 season, the first season where a collective 3-point % shows, it was at 28%, or in layman's terms, the league was shooting a bit better than Charles Barkley's career clip of .266 (proving that while the league might evolve, Barkley himself does not). However, teams only shot 2.8 attempts per game as opposed to what will be a record high this season (23.7 attempts at this point).
  • The next several years saw a bit of fluctuation in % and attempts but not much -- that is, until the 86-87 season, which saw a jump in attempts per game to 4.7 and saw the first league-wide rate of 30% or more at .301.
The rest, as they say, is something kinda like historical and whatnot. From there, the league steadily increased its attempts and % almost linearly until the 94-95 season. That season featured:
  • By far the highest 3-point % conversion rate to date at .359. For comparison, this year it's at .353.
  • By far the highest # of attempts per game to date at 15.3. The prior year was 9.9, and again, this year it's at 23.7.
Why the jump? Did the league become more competent? Well, the league definitely was becoming more competent over the years as they did convert the shot at an over 33% rate in the two seasons prior, but the 94-95 season was the first season they moved in the 3 point line from 23'9" along the arc to 22 feet uniformly (the arc was the same distance as it was from the sides where the line was straight). So that explains the leap in successful conversion and the # of attempts fairly neatly.

The line was moved back to its original dimensions for the 97-98 season, but interestingly, while the attempts per game took what probably was a predictable dip from a historical high of 16.8 the year prior down to 12.7, the competency didn't suffer greatly as the league was still converting at a .346 clip. Clearly the league was now more accustomed to shooting from distance.

As an aside, the poster children for the surge during the years where the line was shorter are probably the Houston Rockets who won two championships when the line was shorter (and Michael Jordan was retired) featuring several 3-point shooters the likes of Kenny Smith, Vernon Maxwell, Sam Cassell, Mario Elie (Warriors connection, baby!), Clyde Drexler and Robert Horry while playing an inside-out game with Hakeem Olajuwon. They led the league in 3-point attempts ahead of the Golden State Warriors, who as folks here may know were already hoisting a decent amount of three point attempts even prior to the line being moved in.

From there it was generally a repeat of what had already been happening. The league steadily increased its attempts per game and general competency at shooting three pointers again until the 07-08 season saw the previous high of 16.8 significantly beaten at 18.1, which also saw the league break the 36% plateau for the first time.

So when you get some perspective, it's hard to make the case of the shot itself being "too easy" as the current .353 rate this season would be tied for 15th best overall in league history. Now, certainly the league is more competent overall as the increase in volume while maintaining the general rate is definitive proof of that, but adapting is what athletes do -- what proof is there that if the line is moved back as a deterrent for the less competent to not shoot it that the league wouldn't simply adapt again and become competent from a greater distance?

My personal opinion is that this is, at its core, an overreaction to Steph Curry and his shattering of his own record by what will likely be a very, very large margin. I think many are looking at how "easily" Curry is breaking his own mark and applying that to the league as a whole -- however, when you look at everyone below him the proof is less evident. League leaders in 3-pointers made are:
  1. Steph Curry: 288 (!!!!!)
  2. Klay Thompson: 179 (!!)
  3. James Harden: 165 (...whatever)
Yes, quite the massive gap. On a simple level, I believe I would acknowledge an issue with the shot being too easy if say, multiple players were breaking the "old" record of 269 threes in a season originally set by Ray Allen but while there will be multiple players over 200 threes made, that is partially a function of the increase in attempts along with a few other shooters in the league being very, very good (pace has also increasing the last several years). If it would be silly to consider a rule change simply because of Curry's exploits, it would only be slightly less silly to do it on the exploits of 4 or 5 players.

Thanks for reading!

This FanPost is a submission from a member of the mighty Golden State of Mind community. While we're all here to throw up that W, these words do not necessarily reflect the views of the GSoM Crew. Still, chances are the preceding post is Unstoppable Baby!