Flip Saunders says he likes 3-point shooting. We like 3-point shooting. The NBA loves 3-point shooting.
One of the important things in wanting to shoot from the outside is making sure you have the personnel to do it. Last season under Flip, the Wolves took the fewest 3-pointers in the NBA. It was a divisive part of the Wolves’ attack because it feels outdated, and there is very little doubt that it is. You could also look at the rotations the Wolves were scraping together and wonder where the shooters were on the floor.
Certain players took a healthy number of attempts, but other players certainly did not take the chance. It left the Wolves’ attack feeling incomplete, but the entire season was incomplete due to a variety of reasons. As we start gearing up for Media Day and training camp, let’s take a look at whether or not this next Wolves roster has earned the right to prove Flip to be truthful regarding his love for 3-point shooting.
Kevin Martin: 5.0 3FGA per 36 (career), 38.5% 3FG (career), 5.3 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 39.3% 3FG (14-15)
Martin is by far the best 3-point shooter on this team and it’s not even close. In 11 years in the NBA, he’s had just three seasons in which he shot below league average from 3-point range and three seasons shooting above 40% from deep. He has the green light every time he’s got the ball and he’s not shy to take them. He could honestly probably chuck it up another two or three times per game, but he’s also very adept at driving away from closeouts and finding ways to get to the line.
He was a 39.3% shooter from deep on catch-and-shoot 3’s last season and hit 38.8% on open (4-6 feet of room) 3’s and 45.2% on wide-open (6+ feet) 3’s. Let it fly, Kevin.
Damjan Rudez: 5.8 3FGA per 36 (career), 40.6% 3FG (career), 5.8 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 40.6% 3FG (14-15)
The 3-point accuracy in Damjan Rudez’s rookie season with the Indiana Pacers last season was not a fluke. The 29-year old forward was a career 39.9% 3-point shooter in his European career, and brought that exact same accuracy to the NBA. He can just flat-out shoot the ball. His place on this roster still isn’t certain with the team possibly looking to move him in order to get down to 15 players by the start of the season, but if he does end up staying on the team, he’ll be a nice shooter off the bench.
Rudez made 43.0% of his catch-and-shoot 3’s last season and hit 39.3% and 43.4% of open and wide-open 3’s, respectively.
Nemanja Bjelica: 2.7 3FGA per game (European career), 36.2% 3FG (European career)
Nemanja Bjelica hasn’t been quite the steady shooter that Rudez was overseas, but Bjelica was a much more targeted offensive option and more of a complete offensive player. I imagine he’ll have the go-ahead on taking deep shots, especially open shots from downtown. Nobody you talk to really doubts his outside shooting ability and the last three seasons of his career overseas saw him hovering around 40% accuracy each season.
The Hopeful Shooters
Zach LaVine: 3.2 3FGA per 36 (career), 34.1% 3FG (career), 3.2 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 34.1% 3FG (14-15)
In the first four months of the season, Zach LaVine looked like a disaster from downtown. He made just 28.7% of his 3’s and was struggling all over the floor. Once we got to March, things changed. Zach looked like he found a rhythm out there, and his 3-point shot became quite useful. He shot 38.2% from deep in March and April with most of that damage coming in March. That was much more in-line with the 37.5% he shot at UCLA.
Especially if the Wolves end up getting to play him at the 2, you’d like to see him have a lot of freedom with catch-and-shoot opportunities. It’s a small sample size to judge off one year, but Zach only hit 26.9% of his pull-up 3’s, but was a deadly 40.2% on catch-and-shoot tries.
Andrew Wiggins: 1.5 3FGA per 36 (career), 31.0% 3FG (career), 1.5 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 31.0% 3FG (14-15)
In almost a reverse of the failures and success we saw with LaVine’s jumper, Andrew Wiggins looked to be a pretty good shooter from outside in the first half of the season. Then once he got to the second half, was asked to do much more, and played an insane amount of minutes, the outside shot just left him. He was taking nearly two 3’s per game through the month of January and hitting at a 36.6% clip. Over the final three months, Wiggins only took 36 3-pointers in 35 games and he made just 16.6%.
Wiggins was predictably terrible on pull-up 3’s (16.7%) and solid success on catch-and-shoot (35.2%). Playing with healthy lineups should help him, but I think hovering around 34-35% on about three attempts per game would be reasonable growth in his jumper this season.
Shabazz Muhammad: 1.9 3FGA per 36 (career), 37.1% 3FG (career), 2.1 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 39.2% 3FG (14-15)
In two seasons, Shabazz Muhammad hasn’t even played one season’s worth of games. He’s logged 75 career games, but seem to erase any pre-rookie doubt that he belongs in the NBA. The man can flat-out score. He also showed a pretty nice and accurate jumper last season, although it wasn’t used quite enough to know just how real the accuracy was. Every single 3-point shot he took was a catch-and-shoot opportunity and he was deadly with it. That’s the kind of shooting you want to see him doing. He’s not a guy who does a lot of dribbling and he’s incredibly efficient in the way he uses his chances. Maybe he won’t be a near 40% guy moving forward, but showing he’s reliable from deep is important. Let’s just see him get a complete season and fire up a couple of attempts per game.
Adreian Payne: 0.4 3FGA per 36 (career), 11.1% 3FG (career), 0.4 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 11.1% 3FG (14-15)
I have no idea how you judge Adreian Payne’s rookie season in any fashion, so it’s tough to expect him to be or not to be a 3-point shooter in this league. The only thing I’ll go off of is his last two seasons at Michigan State when he made himself a threat from downtown. He hit 38.1% from 3 as a junior on a little over an attempt per game and then increased that to 42.3% from 3 on nearly 3.5 attempts per game. This looks like a potential 3-point shooter though, right?
Tayshaun Prince: 1.8 3FGA per 36 (career), 37.0% 3FG (career), 1.7 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 46.3% 3FG (14-15)
I’m skeptical of Prince’s 3-point accuracy, even over the course of his long career. I think his percentage surprises people because we expect him to be a non-shooter and when the Wolves signed him, some were pleasantly surprised by his numbers. As a catch-and-shoot option when he’s wide-open, I don’t have a problem with it. Open 3’s by competent shooters are fine. And over the course of his career, that’s what he’s mostly proven to be. I don’t really buy that he’s a shooter because he rarely shoots. He’s cracked two attempts per 36 minutes five times in his career and hasn’t done so since 2008. Shooters shoot and Prince just doesn’t. But if he sticks to being that guy the defense will choose to leave and makes them pay, I’ll count him as a maybe shooter.
It flies in the face of his career as a shooter, but I just don’t trust it for whatever hang-up I have.
Tyus Jones: 3.3 3FGA per 36 (Duke), 37.9% 3FG (Duke), 3.3 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 37.9% 3FG (14-15)
Tyus Jones’ accuracy in his championship year at Duke is encouraging, but it’s hard to just go off of one year and say he’ll definitely be a shooter. The main thing that gives me pause with his 3-point shooting translating to the NBA level is that so much of his success came from the corners. Duke ran the ball so much through Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow that it ended up with Tyus taking a lot of spot-up 3’s from the corners. He’s really good at those:
However, the problem with that is I just don’t see those opportunities presenting themselves with the Wolves from what we know. The Wolves tied with the Charlotte Hornets for fewest 3-point attempts per game from the corners. Jones showed he can shoot from the right wing and straight away, so if those numbers hold relatively true in the NBA, he’ll be fine. I still would like to see how that NBA 3-point line does or doesn’t affect him before we count him as a shooter.
Anthony Bennett: 1.8 3FGA per 36 (career), 26.3% 3FG (career), 0.9 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 30.4% 3FG (14-15)
It feels like Anthony Bennett was the tipping point of completely worrying about Flip Saunders and 3-point shooting with this team. We found out pretty early on prior to last season that Bennett did not have the green light when it came to taking 3-pointers. He’s supposed to be a stretch-4 as his ideal position, but he doesn’t really get that chance with the Wolves. He was an abysmal shooter with his stint on the Cleveland Cavaliers, and his percentage improved to “pretty bad” last season. With him only taking 23 attempts from deep in 57 games, I’m not sure how you judge it as an improvement or an outlier or what. He made 37.5% from 3 on almost three attempts per game at UNLV, but that may not mean anything.
I still say let him shoot open 3’s and try to see if you can get him going from straight away or the corners as part of a set offensive piece — maybe the fourth progression in a play. He’s probably a non-shooter but I thought I’d sneak him into this category of shooter.
Ricky Rubio: 2.1 3FGA per 36 (career), 31.4% 3FG (career), 2.3 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 25.5% 3FG (14-15)
Back in June, I wrote about the importance of Mike Penberthy and his impact on Ricky Rubio’s jumper. I want to preface this with the fact that I don’t believe Rubio is a 3-point shooter yet, but there is something very interesting about his outside shooting for his career. When Rubio has been healthy, he’s been an acceptable 3-point shooter. During his rookie season, Ricky made 34.0% of his 3’s, although he didn’t take a lot (94 attempts in 41 games). Then he tore his ACL. In his second season, he was still working back to full strength that entire campaign and ended up shooting 29.7% from deep (92 attempts in 57 games).
In Rubio’s third season, he played the entire 82-game schedule and got back up to 33.1%. For you analytics folks, that’s an effective field goal percentage of 49.6% and that’s pretty darn acceptable for a “bad shooter.” Then last season, he messed up his ankle in the fifth game and finished shooting 25.5% from 3 on 51 attempts in 22 games. If Rubio can remain healthy this year, I think he can get back to around 33-34% from 3. In his healthy 2013-14 campaign, Rubio was 35.15 on catch-and-shoot 3’s. That’s a big boost if he can do that.
Karl-Anthony Towns: 0.3 3FGA per 36 (Kentucky), 25.0% 3FG (Kentucky), 0.3 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 25.0% 3FG (14-15)
There are rumors that Karl-Anthony Towns has 3-point range and ability. He didn’t shoot them at Kentucky. He went 0-of-5 in Las Vegas Summer League. It’s possible he’ll show that ability at some point, but you can’t even include him in “hopeful shooters” based on what we’ve seen — or haven’t seen yet.
Gorgui Dieng: 0.1 3FGA per 36 (career), 28.6% 3FG (career), 0.1 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 16.7% 3FG (14-15)
I’ve seen Gorgui practice some corner 3’s during his young career and it was a pretty smooth, effortless stroke. Don’t expect to see it other than random end of shot clock happenstance next season.
Kevin Garnett: 0.5 3FGA per 36 (career), 27.6% 3FG (career), 0.3 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 14.3% 3FG (14-15)
There was a long time ago we hoped KG might be able to stretch that jumper out to the 3-point range. Now, he takes maybe a handful of 3’s every season and almost reluctantly so even then.
Lorenzo Brown: 2.7 3FGA per 36 (career), 15.5% 3FG (career), 1.8 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 21.4% 3FG (14-15)
Even if Lorenzo Brown finds his way onto the regular season roster, he doesn’t shoot them and he shouldn’t shoot them. He was allowed to chuck a little in his stint with Philadelphia two years ago, but when he got to Minnesota last year, it was taken away and for good reason.
Andre Miller: 0.8 3FGA per 36 (career), 21.7% 3FG (career), 1.0 3FGA per 36 (14-15), 20.6% 3FG (14-15)
To be fair, Andre Miller started his career back before the NBA implemented a 3-point line. In the 3-point era, there have been 13 players who have logged at least 1,200 games without taking at least 900 3’s in that time. Andre Miller is the only one under 6’8″ on that list.
Nikola Pekovic: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
He’s more likely to use a catapult in an NBA game than take a shot from beyond the arc. He’s never taken a 3-pointer in his career, but are you going to tell him not to?
I think the Wolves have three definite shooters they can rely on and a handful of young guys you feel pretty good about getting a chance to prove their ability. We’ll just have to wait and see if the offense opens up from beyond the arc and how much the Wolves’ players can justify a decision like that.