The other day, I was listening to an episode of Bill Simmons’s podcast Book of Basketball 2.0 where he talked to Daryl Morey and his time with the Rockets (especially the 2017-18 season). While listening to this episode, I randomly came up with the experiment that this article is about:
Can I make two NBA teams, one that shoots 50 threes a game and one that shoots less than 15?
More importantly, can those teams both be good?
50+ threes a game and less than 15 are both extremes. Both are unlikely to happen in the NBA for a while. But in my virtual NBA world, hopefully it will.
That’s right, we’re back on NBA2K21. I did a fantasy draft where I picked for both of my teams. The other 28 teams in the NBA are controlled by the computer. After the draft, I made some trades to make my teams fit the experiment even better. So before I start my experiment, I’ll show you my rosters.
Philadelphia 76ers: Non-Shooting Team
My goal here was to put together a team of players who don’t make threes, but also a team of players who don’t take threes. I bet there’s one player who came to mind when you read that, and he’s on the team.
PG: Ben Simmons (Obvious choice)
SG: Gary Harris (He’s been a bad shooter this year, but he plays good defense)
SF: DeMar DeRozan (He’s been taking/making more threes this year, but still not enough to be a shooter)
PF: Jonathan Isaac (Inconsistent shooter/offensive player. He plays elite defense.)
C: Jarrett Allen
C: Richuan Holmes
PG: Elfrid Payton (takes some threes, but not many. Good playmaker and solid defender)
PF: Jarred Vanderbilt
SG: Matisse Thybulle (Takes threes, but really doesn’t make them)
SF: DeAndre Bembry
PG: Michael Carter-Williams
SF: Andre Roberson
SF: Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Looked like a shooter the other day, but he’s not)
SG: Gary Payton II
C: Drew Eubanks
For this team, I wanted good defense. The offense will be alright, but the defense should be top ten in the league. I struggled to find guards and wings who couldn’t shoot but could play minutes, so not everybody on this team can’t shoot at all. The point was to have all below average shooters.
Houston Rockets: The Chuckers
I simply made a team of players who are good shooters. Therefore, I have the best shooter ever.
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Buddy Hield
SF: Joe Ingles
PF: Marcus Morris Sr.
C: Christian Wood
PF: Bojan Bogdanovic
PG: Jalen Brunson
SG: Seth Curry
SF: James Ennis
C: Mike Muscala
SG: J.J. Redick
SF: Sterling Brown (Sterling has been balling this season. He’s shooting 40% from three. I love it)
SF: Kyle Korver
C: Meyers Leonard
PF: Dean Wade
This team’s defense isn’t excellent, but it shouldn’t matter because if everything goes right, they’ll score the most points per game in the NBA.
So those are the rosters. For Philly, I’m running a grit & grind system. Houston is running a seven seconds or less system. I’m gonna start simulating the season, and see how things go.
The Rockets are top five in scoring, but I expect them to jump to number one. But that’s not important right now because so far, the team is shooting 51 threes a game. That’s 8 more than the next team. They’re also leading the league in percentage. They are 14-15, but that’s alright. The goal of this experiment is to see how good a team that shoots 50 threes a game can be, and if they’re bad, then that makes a point.
The 76ers are 19-11, and second in the East. That’s wild, because they’re shooting 7 threes a game. That’s less than I thought they would! They have a top three defense, just like I expected, which is definitely why they’re good. They also lead the NBA in team FG%, which makes sense because they take a ton of twos.
Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Ben Simmons, and Christian Wood were all All-Stars. That’s a good sign.
The Rockets got hot. They are now 35-21, thich is tied for the fourth best record in the league. They are now leading the league in scoring, which makes sense. They are still shooting 50 threes a game, and still lead the league in percentage.
The 76ers are still second in the East, and have the second best record in the NBA. They have the best defense in the NBA. They only shot 6.6 threes a game. That’s crazy! They are now the far-and-away league leaders in team FG%, shooting 54%. The next best team shoots 50%.
End of Season
The Rockets finished 47-35. That’s 3rd in the West, and 6th in the NBA. They led the league in PPG. And, most importantly, they finished the year shooting 50.4 threes a game, while leading the league in percentage. They had 9 players shoot higher than 40% from three.
The 76ers finished 53-29, which is the best record in the NBA. They had the best defense. They only shot 6 threes a game. The funny part is they only had the fifth worst 3PT percentage in the NBA. They had 3 players shoot 60%+ from the field.
The Rockets lost in a seven game series in the second round. Likely because they shot an insane 53.3 threes a game in the playoffs. But the 76ers won the championship.
So, in conclusion, a team that doesn’t shoot threes will play really well as long as they have a good defense. After all, a shot in the paint is more efficient than a three point shot.
A team that shoots a ton of threes can be a good regular season team, but may fall apart in the playoffs (that’s a conclusion that’s already been made because that’s what happened to the Rockets in 2017-18).
So both of the teams did what I wanted them to, which was fun. I had fun doing this experiment. I don’t expect to see a team shoot six threes a game anytime soon, but who knows. Maybe some GM will read this article and try it out.
(This will actually never happen in real life, because a team that doesn’t shoot threes would have no spacing, making them easy to guard. That wouldn’t lead to much success.)