Tha Sports Junkies 101

The Sixers Live And Die By The Three

Sixers JJ Redick Thedanger23 via Flickr



The Sixers Live and Die By the Three

Wave of Change

When the wave of change approaches, one must decide how to respond. The choices are to dig one’s feet in the sand and attempt to withstand the change or to throw on scuba gear and adapt. In regard to the three-point shooting tidal wave that is now enveloping the NBA, the Sixers are mostly in the latter group.

Looking at this trend and how it relates to the Sixers, the old adage comes to mind: “If everyone were jumping off a bridge would you do it?” Well, no…yes…maybe? Perhaps the best answers are “Is it worth it?”, and “Does it work?” If jumping off the bridge is going to make me 6’2 and win me a Pulitzer, then of course! If it’s a 400 foot dive into instant-death, then I may reconsider. It’s all about the results. Are the Sixers well served taking as many long-range shots as they do?  No, but there’s more to it than that. Like a jump from a bridge that’ll break your leg but still has a pot of gold underneath it, the answer is not so black and white.

Less is More

The new-age mantra goes something like, “Threes are worth more than long twos, so step back and take the shot that awards an extra point.” With that in mind, the league is up to an average of 28.6 3PA per game this season. Philly’s mean attempts have been a shot above the NBA’s, at 29.7. Despite this, the Sixers have had great success when bucking the trend. Specifically, the team is 8-2 when they take 26 or less 3PA per game. Additionally, Ben Simmons is more aggressive and effective during those games. That is clear by his free throw attempt increase to 8.7 from his 5.0 norm. 19.3 PPG are also up from a 16.9 season average. Digging in and losing the scuba gear is starting to sound like a decent option.

Also… More is Less?

The case against the three grows, as the Sixers’ record is worse when they shoot more of them. Evidently, the team has lost seven of eleven games when shooting 33 or more threes. Their four highest three-point shooting games this year feature an even worse 1-3 record.

Granted, the above examples deal with the extremes, but does the case hold up when looking at more general, overall numbers? Well, you may want to move away from your beachfront property altogether. During loses, the team has shot nearly four more threes than in wins. Sounds like the three-ball is an abhorrent part of the game plan and should be removed immediately, right?

Not so Fast

While it’s undeniable that the team fares better when shooting less threes, it’d be foolish to assume that they don’t need them to be a great team. The three-ball is an important part of the modern NBA. It helps create driving lanes and gives big men plenty of space to operate in the paint. With a team building around a driver, in Simmons and a low post aficionado, in Joel Embiid, said space is crucial. Moving away from the three does not make this a winning team.  It’d be hard to imagine this team without the deep shooting of JJ Redick or Robert Covington this season. The team does shoot above the league average from three in victories, at 37.2%, after all. That crushes their 31.6 3P% in loses by a sizeable margin.
In conclusion, taking high percentage threes within the flow of an offense works. It is when the team reaches the high-end of the 3PA spectrum, that a drop off occurs. With that being said, maybe some snorkeling gear would do, as the wave doesn’t look to be receding anytime soon. Scuba equipment is too expensive anyway.

All stats were obtained from