The “three-point revolution” is upon us in professional basketball, at least in the NBA. What is its value in the WNBA?
The evidence in the NBA
The three-pointer is as valuable as ever in men’s professional basketball. In the NBA, the four teams that reached the conference finals in the 2015 Playoffs – the Warriors, Rockets, Cavaliers and Hawks – all finished in the top seven in three-point attempts per game. Even more significantly, those four teams all finished in the top five in three-pointers made per game.
The Houston Rockets set a NBA record by making 933 three-pointers this season. That is an absurd number especially when you compare an NBA team’s average three-point attempts from 2015 and ten years ago in 2005.
In the 2004-05 NBA season, the average three-point makes in a season per team was 459 (5.59 per game) and the average attempts was 1,292 (15.76 per game). In the 2014-15 season, the average makes was 643 (7.84 per game) and the average attempts was 1,838 (22.41 per game).
That’s a 40.3% increase in the number of three-point makes per game and a 42.2% increase in the number of three-point attempts per game in the NBA over the last decade.
According to the facts and figures, the value of three-point shot has increased significantly over the past decade and is as valuable as ever in the NBA.
So is this also true in the WNBA? Let’s see.
The three best teams in the WNBA last season according to their regular season records were the WNBA Champion Phoenix Mercury (29-5), Minnesota Lynx (25-9) and the Atlanta Dream (19-15). Phoenix ranked fifth in the league in three-point attempts and tied for fourth in three-point makes.
Atlanta ranked seventh in attempts and seventh in makes for the 2014 campaign. The team that stands out the most is the Lynx, who finished with a 25-9 record, the second best in the league. Minnesota finished ninth out of 12 teams in three-point attempts and ninth in three-point makes as well.
The Tulsa Shock (12-22) and Seattle Storm (12-22) finished tied for the worst record in the 2014 WNBA regular season. Oddly enough, Tulsa ranked second in three-point attempts and third in three-point makes last season.
Furthermore, Seattle ranked third in three-point attempts and second in three-point makes. The San Antonio Stars, first in the league in both three-point attempts and makes, finished 16-18 and was the fourth best team in the Western Conference.
Here’s a ranking of three-point attempts and makes per team in the 2014 season:
|1. San Antonio (630)||1. San Antonio (226)|
|2. Tulsa (600)||2. Seattle (201)|
|3. Seattle (598)||3. Tulsa (183)|
|4. Washington (561)||4. Washington (178)|
|5. Phoenix (508)||5. Phoenix (178)|
|6. Indiana (506)||6. Indiana (175)|
|7. Atlanta (505)||7. Atlanta (153)|
|8. Connecticut (469)||8. Connecticut (151)|
|9. Minnesota Lynx (379)||9. Minnesota (128)|
|10. Chicago Sky (358)||10. Chicago (119)|
|11. New York Liberty (338)||11. New York (103)|
|12. Los Angeles Sparks (282)||12. Los Angeles (89)|
*Bold denotes teams that made it to the Conference Finals.
Furthermore, unlike the NBA over the last decade, the average number of three-point attempts and makes has not increased significantly in the WNBA. In 2005, the average three-point makes by a team for the season was 136 (4.0 per game) and attempts was 404 (11.88 per game).
In the 2014 WNBA season, the average three-point makes was 157 (4.62 per game) and the average attempts was 478 (14.06). That’s only a 15.5% increase in three-point makes and an 18.4% increase in three-point attempts over the last decade, nowhere near the increases in the NBA.
Here’s a breakdown of the numbers:
|3’s made per game (2005/ 2004-05)||3’s made per game (2014/2014-15)||Percent increase in makes||3’s attempted per game (2005/2004-05)||3’s attempted per game (2015/2014-15)||Percent increase in attempts|
Going against the trend
Obviously, the WNBA has not experienced the “three-point revolution” that the NBA has experienced over the past decade in terms of makes and attempts, both per season and per game. However, WNBA offenses seem to be doing just fine without it.
In 2005, the average WNBA team scored 67.3 points per game. In 2014, the points per game average had increased to 77.1, an increase of almost 10 points per game. On the flip side, the average NBA team scored 97.2 points per game in 2005 and 100.0 in 2015, an increase of less than three points per game.
Therefore, offensive point production has increased significantly more in the WNBA than the NBA, without teams attempting and making more three-pointers.
Hey NBA “three-point revolution”, it seems the WNBA doesn’t need you, at least for now.