Correcting Bill Simmons, Part 3: Bill is at it again

“The Sports Guy” is killing me. He’s at it again, harping on players that take too many three pointers even though they aren’t accurate from behind the stripe. I’ve already gone through this once, about a year ago, after Simmons slammed Tracy McGrady from shooting too many threes. Now, in his otherwise fine “Dumbleavy” diary/column, Bill’s targets are Baron Davis, Zach Randolph and…gulp…LeBron James.

7:35: LeBron bricks a 3-pointer that leads to Thornton’s fast-break dunk. Clips by 17, timeout Cavs. Let the record show that (A) LeBron is a 32.5 percent career 3-point shooter, (B) he went 0-for-6 in this particular game and (C) he should be fined every time he takes one.

6:54: Speaking of guys who should never shoot a 3, it’s Baron Davis! He just bricked one. If he told you that he’s a 32.3 percent career 3-point shooter and averaging 29.5 percent this season, then I told you that he takes five per game, would you believe me? You probably wouldn’t, right?

4:35: Randolph (aka Z-Bo) sinks an open 3 that he never should have taken because he’s a career 28.9 long-distance shooter. Maybe we should make it like a driver’s license — if you dip under 35 percent through 250 career attempts, you’re suspended from shooting 3s for a year?

Coaches live with guys shooting in the low 30’s from long range because…well…the shots are worth an extra point. It’s (almost) that simple.

LeBron is shooting 33.1% from long range on the season. He’s shooting 53.6% from two-point range. For argument’s sake, let’s say that for 100 straight possessions, LeBron launches a three every time down the court. If his numbers bear out, he’s going to make 33 of them, scoring 99 points. That’s 0.99 points per possession. Now, let’s say he shoots a two-pointer for 100 straight possessions. He’s going to make 54 of them, so he’ll score 108 points on 100 possessions, or 1.08 points per possession.

Now, for a guy like LeBron, it’s important to take free throws into account. He has taken 1,076 two-point shots and 667 free throws. According to, he’s second in the league in “and 1’s” (where the player is fouled as he scores a bucket) with 82. That’s 1.17 a game.

Back to the 100-possession example. If LeBron takes 100 shots from inside the arc, based on his free throw numbers, he’s going to get fouled almost 24% of the time, assuming that the only time he’s fouled is when he’s attempting a shot…

= (667 free throws / 2 free throws per trip) / (333 trips to the line + 1076 two-point attempts)

= 23.6%

So he makes 41 buckets (76 actual attempts x 53.6% accuracy) for 82 points and shoots 48 free throws. His FT% is almost 77%, so he’s going to make approximately 37. So far, he’s at 119 points. Throw in some old-fashioned three-point plays (at a rate of 7.6%, so 5.8 additional free throw attempts on 76 two-point attempts), so rounding up that’s 5 additional points, for a total of 124 points (or 1.24 points per possession).

Is he better off with the two-pointer? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean he should completely abandon the long ball.

LeBron’s game is predicated on driving to the hole. If he decides not to take any threes, defenders will know what he’s doing before he does it. Granted, that doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to stop him, but if he’s not a threat on the perimeter, then the defender will have a better chance to stay in front of him as he tries to go to the hole. Part of the reason LeBron gets fouled so much is because his defender is out of position when he closes out on LeBron, and that puts James at a distinct advantage when he does go to the hole.

If I were managing LeBron’s shots, I’d try to convince him to reduce his three-point attempts per game from 4.8 down to about 3.0 or 3.5. He has no business taking a contested three unless he’s up against the shot clock. But if he’s open, and his defender is laying off, he should try to make a couple to keep everyone honest.

Now Baron Davis is a different animal. He’s shooting just 30.5% from long range and 40.2% on two-pointers. According to his numbers, he’s going to get fouled 14.7% of the time he takes a shot inside the arc. So for the 100-possession example, he’s going to score 93 points if he takes 100 three-pointers. If he takes 100 two-point shots, he’s going to take 85 attempts (making 34) and go to the line 15 times, taking 30 free throws. He’ll make 76%, or 23 points. So far, he’s at 91 points (68 from made buckets + 23 free throws). He has 15 “and 1’s” on the season, so he’ll get an extra free throw 2.7% of the time, so that means an extra two points from the charity stripe for a total of 93 points.

So, for Davis, it doesn’t matter whether or not he launches a three or goes to the hole, he’s still scoring at about the same rate. (If I were coaching Davis, I’d try to get him to pass more!)

And Zach Randolph?

Ah, who cares…

All else being equal, it’s usually better to take the ball inside when you can. You’re going to get the other team in foul trouble and create openings for other players to score. But Simmons’ notion that if you shoot less than 35% from long range that you should be shooting any threes is just silly.

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