Is This the Best NBA Three-Point Contest Group in the Last 15 Years?
On February 5, 2015, the NBA announced the participants for its Three-Point Contest. The list of participants includes eight NBA players, seven of whom are in the top 15 in three-point field goals made through the 50 game mark of the season.
The selection of this year’s contestants, almost all of whom have displayed impressive shooting statistics ranking them among the best in the NBA, prompts an intriguing question: is this the most talented group of three-point competitors complied in the history of the event? As this question circulates among the NBA community, I decided to approach the topic by collectively analyzing each year’s participating player’s statistics through the first 50 games, dating back to the 2000-2001 NBA season.
Three-Point Field Goal Percentage
With all the hype surrounding the players involved in the upcoming three-point contest (which includes Kyle Korver , a three-point specialist on pace to end the season with the highest three-point percentage in NBA history, as well as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, a young duo leading the Golden State Warriors to one of the best teams in franchise history), one would think that this star-studded group has to make up the most competitive collection over the past 15 years. Judging purely on three-point field goal percentage, that would not be the case. Rather this year’s group would be third on that list, shooting 42.4 percent from the three-point line.
The best average percentage is held by the 2007-2008 contestants, shooting an average of 45.1 percent. This percentage could have been even higher if it weren't for Dirk Nowitzki, who was shooting 29.8 percent, the lowest three-point percentage among all participants in the last 15 years. Behind this high percentage was reigning winner, Jason Kapono, shooting 51 percent, as well as four others, all shooting between 46.0 and 47.2 percent.
Overall, these percentages place five of the six competitors from 2007-2008 in the top 11 best three-point percentages among all participants during the 15-year time frame. In second, the 2001-2002 group shot an average of 42.7 percent, and slightly behind and coming in third is the 2014-2015 group at 42.4 percent. In fourth is the 2012-2013 group, headlined by three power forwards, Matt Bonner, Steve Novak, and Ryan Anderson, shooting 42.3 percent. And rounding out the top five is the 2006-2007 group, shooting 41.7 percent, again being led by Jason Kapono, who was shooting 55.5 percent at the time.
In addition to not having the best collective average three-point field goal percentage, the 2014-2015 group doesn't even possess the highest individual percentage through 50 games. Even with Kyle Korver’s impressive shooting display this season, it seems as if we have all forgotten about Jason Kapono’s season prior to the NBA All-Star weekend in 2006-2007. During that 50 game span, Kapono knocked down 55.5 percent of his three point field goals attempted, which is higher than Korver, who was shooting 53.2 percent. However, Korver did so on 5.8 attempts per game. Kapono attempted just 3.1 per game.
Additionally, while analyzing the individual three-point percentages among the participants of each group, the median percentage among the 2014-2015 group is the lowest among the top-five groups in terms of percentage. In the table below, it's easy to see that the four groups ahead of the 2014-2015 group had more players shooting higher percentages. Five players in the 2007-2008 contest (Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, Daniel Gibson, Jason Kapono, and Richard Hamilton), had a higher three-point field goal percentage than 2014-2015 participant, Klay Thompson, who has the second-highest percentage behind Kyle Korver.
Arguing for the 2014-2015 Group
Although the 2014-2015 group doesn't have the best average three-point percentage, this year’s group does consist of some of the best overall players. Among the eight players participating in the 2014-2015 contest, five have been named to NBA’s Player of the Week and three to the NBA’s Player of the Month. This group also includes at least one player in the top five in each of the following NBA statistics through the 50th game: total points, player efficiency rating (PER), minutes played, free throws, steals, assists, box plus/minus, and offensive rating. The 2007-2008 group, which leads all groups in three-point field goal percentage, didn't have one player earn the weekly and monthly honor at all throughout the whole season. Although these awards do not directly portray the player’s stats, it does give a sense of how they were playing among the NBA’s best, insisting that the 2014-2015 group includes some highly impactful players.
One might also point out the noticeable difference among three-pointers made and attempted, much of which can be contributed to the offensive adjustments over the past 15 years. Yes, the 2007-2008 group did display the best average three-point percentage, but they shot the fewest amount of three-pointers through 50 games of all groups during the last 15 seasons, making 484 threes on 1,072 attempts. Meanwhile, the 2014-2015 group has doubled those numbers, already having made 999 three-pointers on 2,358 attempts.
The NBA is partially right when insisting that this year’s three-point contest participants make up one of the best fields in NBA history. This year’s contest includes point leaders, assist leaders, win share leaders, and numerous other statistical leaders.
However, it's hard to ignore the most important and relevant statistic that will have a huge impact on a contest that consists of only three-point shots: three-point field goal percentage. With a higher average three-point percentage and the highest median percentage, the 2007-2008 group includes the most competitive list of participants. Not only does the 2007-2008 group exceed the statistics of this years group, 2001-2002 and 2007-2008 also portray a more competitive group of three-point shooters.
Come February 14th, the 2014-2015 group has a chance to prove the statistics wrong and show that they aren't just great all-around players, but sharpshooting three-point shooters.