The title of this article is one of the most obvious you’ll ever see: three is greater than two. It’s a simple fact. In recent years though the NBA has started picking up on this more than ever before. The best teams are undoubtedly good from beyond the arc and know when to take the long J or wait for something a little closer to the basket.
Last year the top five teams in 3-point percentage also made the playoffs. Two of those five teams made it to the finals. It’s also interesting to note that a team doesn’t usually lead the league in percentage by casting up the most shots. Of those same five teams with the best percentage, only one was also in the top five for 3-point attempts (the Knicks if you were wondering).
But we’re here to talk about the Utah Jazz who so far this season aren’t in the top five of very much. This year they’re in the bottom third of the league shooting 33.9 percent from outside. On average they put up 17.7 threes a game and only sink six of those. The purple and gold team from L.A. lead everybody making 10 threes an outing.
Jazz are far from that, but have been getting much closer to respectable numbers as of late. Through the end of November (18 games) the Jazz averaged 30.8 % and shot 18.4 threes per game. In 8 games this month they’ve improved greatly, shooting 41.9% from long range on much fewer attempts casting up just 16.1 (two less) per game.
So why the sudden improvement and what does it mean for the team?
For starters, it means the Jazz are much more competitive. In wins this year Utah has shot 47.5 percent from deep… In losses 29.2. Even in the most recent game against the San Antonio Spurs, the Jazz were dominated throughout but in the third quarter Utah made 3/6 threes – that was the only quarter in which Utah outscored the Spurs.
The sudden boost from long range means the Jazz are winning. In December utah is 3-5, before that they were 3-15. As the shots fall, head coach Ty Corbin believes it does a lot to help his offense.
“It makes it look good when that ball goes in the hole,” Corbin said. “It makes the guys feel better about how they’re playing… it’s contagious.”
It might be contagious but it also might stem from good point guard play. While Trey burke isn’t lights out from three connecting on 34.5 percent of his attempts, it’s easy to tell the offense runs smoother with him on the floor. He’s helping everyone get better looks from long range.
If it really is contagious, you can thank Marvin Williams for bringing the good shooting to the locker room. Of guys that have taken 10 or more threes, only Williams is shooting over 40 percent. Richard Jefferson is just a smidgen off that pace and then after him there’s a noticeable drop to Diante Garrett at 35.3 percent.
For the jazz to stay competitive they need another legitimate threat from outside and they might have found it in Brandon Rush. For his career he’s over 41.3 percent and with the Jazz he’s made 4 of 8 attempts. With Rush it might be a matter of his health and the rest of his game determining if the Jazz can have him on the court to shoot threes.
While the Jazz likely won’t skyrocket into the top five in three point percentage this season, it’s encouraging to see significant improvement. This year was never going to be about winning a championship, it is about seeing what Utah will have in the future – and if the Jazz can keep shooting better than 41 percent from long range, the future will be bright.