NBA Power Rankings Update: Bombs Away
When the NBA introduced the three-point shot in 1979-80, many resented its inclusion into the game, viewing it as a gimmick.
Brought over from the ABA, which also thankfully introduced us to the slam dunk, the NBA widely ignored the shot was until the mid-1990's. Even then it wasn't seen as an integral part of the game as it is today. Only 10 of the top 50 three-point shooting seasons come before 2000. In fact, eight of the top 15 seasons for made threes came in just the last three seasons.
The three-point shot has not just revolutionized the game, but also it has become the game, despite Gregg Popovich's hatred. How well or poorly teams are making threes reflect into their overall standing. So this week, we are taking a look at six teams who have put up some important numbers regarding the long-distance shot.
Our power rankings here at numberFire are not subjective or influenced by the latest hype; we put our faith and trust in our algorithms. Each week, we’ll list all 30 teams in the Association from worst to best based on our nERD metric, which is a predictive measure to help define what the team's winning percentage ultimately will be.
30. Philadelphia 76ers (nERD: 8.8, Record: 2-10, Last Week: 30)
29. Orlando Magic (nERD: 27.6, Record: 5-7, Last Week: 29)
28. Memphis Grizzlies (nERD: 32.9, Record: 6-5, Last Week: 22)
The Memphis Grizzlies have been the model of inconsistency this season. Through 10 games, the team had been unable to win two games in a row. Wins this week in back-to-back road contests over the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers is an impressive feat alone. For a team averaging under 99 points per game this season, scoring an average of 106.5 points against the top two defenses in the league is shocking, to say the least. The way the Griz did it goes against all that we believe about the grit and grind crew, by using the three-point bomb
In their last two games, Memphis has gone 23-for-47 from deep, a nearly 50% mark. For a team that routinely ranked dead last in three-point attempts the past eight-plus seasons, ranking 11th with 25.8 tries this year is mind-blowing. Besides the career-best 49.1% shooting of Mike Conley, big man Marc Gasol has been the biggest revelation for the team. After largely ignoring the shot, going 12-for-66 in his first 569 games, the center has suddenly become deadly beyond the arc, making 16-of-40 attempts in only 11 games this year. Including this game-winner.
27. Washington Wizards (nERD: 33.5, Record: 3-8, Last Week: 28)
26. New Orleans Pelicans (nERD: 33.7, Record: 2-10, Last Week: 24)
25. New York Knicks (nERD: 34.8, Record: 5-7, Last Week: 27)
24. Phoenix Suns (nERD: 34.9, Record: 3-9, Last Week: 26)
The makeup of the Phoenix Suns roster is designed to be an explosive offense. So there should be no surprise that Phoenix's guard heavy roster is leading the league in pace and shot attempts per game this season. Firing up shots at a blistering rate naturally will pile up the points. The Suns are averaging 108.0 points per game and have broken the 100-point barrier in 10 of 12 games. However, if the Suns ever found a way to make a shot from deep, they could creep into the top five of points per game.
The team as a whole is 29th in the NBA as they are shooting a tick over 30% from three. The problem is their three-headed backcourt of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Brandon Knight is a combined 39-of-139 from beyond the arc for 28%. Losers of five of their last six, the Suns have a tough road ahead of them as they have four more games in a daunting six-game road trip.
23. Sacramento Kings (nERD: 35.1, Record: 4-8, Last Week: 25)
22. Denver Nuggets (nERD: 37.3, Record: 4-7, Last Week: 18)
21. Brooklyn Nets (nERD: 37.7, Record: 4-7, Last Week: 23)
20. Dallas Mavericks (nERD: 38.1, Record: 2-8, Last Week: 20)
19. Portland Trail Blazers (nERD: 40.6, Record: 7-6, Last Week: 17)
When the Portland Trail Blazers shocked the world and made the playoffs last season, they did so by living and dying by the three. Their backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum attempted the third-most threes by a pair of teammates, making the second-most. Only the Golden State Warriors' dynamic duo made more. This year has been no different.
In the Blazers' seven wins, they are making 12.0 threes per game at an over 40% clip. In the six losses, they don't fare as well, sinking only 30% while averaging 0.6 more attempts per game. If the team is going to be a threat in the West and become a top-six offense like last year, they need to improve on their 11th-ranked three-point shooting. Lucky for them, their next three games are against three of the worst three-point defenders: New Orleans Pelicans, Brooklyn Nets, and New York Knicks.
18. Indiana Pacers (nERD: 43.6, Record: 6-6, Last Week: 19)
17. Miami Heat (nERD: 46.9, Record: 3-8, Last Week: 15)
16. Los Angeles Lakers (nERD: 47.3, Record: 7-5, Last Week: 21)
15. Oklahoma City Thunder (nERD: 48.4, Record: 7-5, Last Week: 11)
14. Milwaukee Bucks (nERD: 50.4, Record: 5-6, Last Week: 16)
13. Houston Rockets (nERD: 53.0, Record: 7-5, Last Week: 14)
When the Houston Rockets hired "seven seconds or less" guru, Mike D'Antoni, the assumption was Houston would ratchet up the pace and threaten for the team scoring title. While the team is fourth in the NBA with a 108.9 point scoring average, the offense has in fact slowed down from last year as they take the 10th-fewest shots in the league. They also rank 13th in pace with 99.77 possessions per 48 minutes.
The key to the offense has not been speed but their success from behind the arc. By taking, and making, the most threes in the Association, Houston has boosted their efficiency. Three of their four leading scorers -- Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza -- take over 60% of their shot attempts from three. The trio is dropping them at a 40% rate too. Against the Blazers on Thursday, a 17-point victory, the Rockets' starting lineup went 11-for-21 from three.
12. Detroit Pistons (nERD: 54.5, Record: 6-6, Last Week: 10)
11. Boston Celtics (nERD: 55.9 Record: 6-5, Last Week: 13)
10. Minnesota Timberwolves (nERD: 57.8, Record: 4-7, Last Week: 12)
While their 4-7 record may not show it, the young Minnesota Timberwolves are starting to blossom under Tom Thibodeau. After a 1-5 start, Minnesota has three wins in their last five games. How have they done it? Offense, offense, and more offense. Since November 9, the team is averaging 114.1 points per game, fourth in the NBA. They also rank fourth in offensive rating on the year.
The renewed effectiveness on the offensive end comes down to one big factor. Minnesota has been draining threes at a league-high 40.4% clip. After shooting 30% from deep last season, Andrew Wiggins is making triples at an over 50% rate, and becoming a scoring machine in the process. Also making it rain is fellow 21-year-old Zach LaVine, who leads the team with an average of 2.9 threes per game, a vast improvement for a team that as a whole shot only 33.8% from downtown last season.
9. Chicago Bulls (nERD: 61.6, Record: 8-4, Last Week: 9)
8. Utah Jazz (nERD: 63.1, Record: 7-6, Last Week: 8)
7. Toronto Raptors (nERD: 67.4, Record: 7-4, Last Week: 6)
6. Golden State Warriors (nERD: 68.4, Record: 9-2, Last Week: 7)
The Warriors are currently the hottest team in the Western Conference as winners of five straight. With a league leading 117.4 points per game and an offensive rating of 113.7, the offense is rolling. Over their past three games, they are scorching with an average of 128.3 points per game. While Kevin Durant was the team's leading scorer for the first 10 games, in the past week-plus, the NBA's reigning two-time MVP has broken out from an early season mini-slump to tie KD for the team lead.
After having his NBA record 157-game streak with a made three-pointer snapped two weeks ago, by going 0-for-10 against the Lakers, Stephen Curry has made 32 of his 56 three-point attempts. That includes a record-break 13 made threes versus the Pelicans on November 7. During the winning streak, Curry is shooting an unbelievable 58% from the floor, 57% from deep, and 93% from the line. His true shooting percentage is a ridiculous 79.9% over his past five games.
5. San Antonio Spurs (nERD: 69.1, Record: 9-3, Last Week: 4)
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (nERD: 71.0, Record: 9-2, Last Week: 2)
3. Charlotte Hornets (nERD: 71.7, Record: 7-3, Last Week: 5)
2. Atlanta Hawks (nERD: 80.2, Record: 9-2, Last Week: 3)
1. Los Angeles Clippers (nERD: 96.0, Record: 10-2, Last Week: 1)