Stacking and ranking Cleveland among the league's best three-point shooting teams
When talking about the NBA’s premier three-point shooting teams, the Golden State Warriors are usually the first group mentioned, usually followed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. But are either of those teams really the best in the league from deep? Let’s take a closer look:
Purely looking at percentages, the San Antonio Spurs are actually the most accurate from deep, shooting 39.4% so far this season. The Cavaliers come in second at 38.9%, and the Warriors a whole percentage point behind, in third at 37.9%. Washington and the LA Clippers fill out the top 5, at 37.8% and 37.5%, respectively.
From this table, we can see that the Spurs as a team are the most accurate from distance, however they shoot the least by far. The Rockets, on the other hand, shoot the most, but have the lowest percentage. The Cavaliers shoot more than GSW and make more as well. So while SAS has the highest percentage, when taking into account volume of shots, the Cavs take the win in overall team shooting. But what about each team’s specific players? For statistical purposes, we’ll only be including players who attempt at least three shots per game from deep. Let’s delve even deeper:
So despite having the highest overall three-point percentage in the league, the Spurs only have four players shooting at least three times a game. What San Antonio has as much as or perhaps even more so than these top five shooting teams are schemes to create shots. Very efficient, but an extremely small sample size and low ceiling.
The Cavaliers have twice the number of players meeting the criteria as the Spurs, and yet are only one half percentage point behind overall. And this is including JR Smith’s uncharacteristic slow start before his injury. The additions of Kyle Korver and Deron Williams has stretched the Cavaliers offense even more dangerously, giving Cleveland the most variety of dynamic and spot up shooters.
For all the press the Warriors get for their three-point shooting skill, their stats aren’t pretty. Make no mistake: Golden State boasts three of the top five shooters in the World. However, in order to stack up that kind shooting, the Warriors sacrificed the depth that created a similar playbook to that of San Antonio. The lack of balance is representative by only five players who shoot three or more times per game, and just one making more than 40%.
Washington is an interesting case, and it’s phenomenal for the franchise to become a top-five three-point shooting team this year. Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. are having career years. In addition, the Wizards’ post-All-Star break acquisition, Bojan Bogdanovic, has a vital role from the perimeter while the team’s bench scoring squats in 29th place. Ultimately, Washington has comparable volume to San Antonio but far worse efficiency. This effectively removes them from contention for best three-point shooting team.
LA’s numbers aren’t terrible, but they just don’t have the numbers to contend in this situation.
Houston takes a lot of threes, and makes a lot as well. As showcased in their recent home victory over the Cavaliers, the D’Antoni offense completely sacrifices its midrange game to give James Harden, Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverly, Eric Gordon, and now Lou Williams their shots from deep. However, the Rockets attempt six more per game on average compared to Cleveland, but only make one more.
So, taking into account both volume and efficiency, it’s reasonable to say that the Cleveland Cavaliers are the best three-point shooting team in the league, followed by the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, and Washington Wizards.