Three Point Shooting Percentages

Some basketball fans will argue that shooting 33% from behind the 3-point line is the equivalent to shooting 50% in front of it. Bill Simmons gets this question in his latest mailbag and chides the questioner for being stupid.

Q: Why won’t you understand shooting percentages? 33 percent from beyond the arc is the equivalent of 50 percent from within. If a guy shot 50 percent from the field, would you be killing him for shooting? Of course not. You obviously realize how stupid that would be. Yet that’s what you’ve been doing — FOR YEARS — with your mind-boggling argument against 3-point shooting unless the guy can hit 75 percent of his 3s. Just think about it for a couple of seconds. Please … we are begging you.
— Nick, New York

SG: Dozens of readers e-mailed me Nick’s same stupid argument in a similarly condescending way, which is what makes the following so much fun: I’m not stupid, YOU’RE STUPID. That 33/50 logic only makes sense in a professional basketball league in which they aren’t calling fouls and you aren’t allowed to pass to a teammate … which, as far as I can tell, doesn’t currently exist.

Let’s say that one player attempts 12 3-pointers and makes four (for 12 points). His teammate attempts 12 2-pointers and makes six, but during that time — because he’s not standing 25 feet away jacking up 3s like an idiot — he also draws three fouls on his defender, creates two assists for teammates, makes three of four free throws, turns the ball over once, and misses one layup that gets tapped in by a teammate (we’ll call it 19 points). You’re telling me those two scenarios are equal? If I’m playing LeBron (a 31 percent 3-point shooter), ideally, I want him jacking up contested 3s because that means (A) he’s not getting to the line, (B) he’s not getting my guys in foul trouble, and (C) he’s not potentially creating shots for someone else. I can’t defend LeBron when he’s going to the basket, especially if he’s getting calls. But you know what? If he’s happy shooting 3s from 25 feet with a hand in his face, then I’m delighted. This is great. I want him to do that. And if he’s doing something that the other team WANTS him to do, then he’s doing the wrong thing. I’m fine with shooting 24-footers over 20-footers, but getting into the paint will always be more valuable than jacking up 3s. It’s just a fact.

(Note to Nick and everyone else who mailed me the 33/50 argument: I’m doing the Dikembe finger wave at you. Don’t come into my house.)

Three Point Shooting Percentages

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