The Golden State Warriors’ offense is impossibly good, yet somehow they could be scoring even more effectively. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant are overpowering any defense that attempts to contain three of the best scorers ever, and even so, it can be more.
Masked behind the ever-flowing highlights of historic Curry and Thompson three-point nights is the fact the Warriors’ offense isn’t as adherent to key analytic principles as it leads on. It may surprise casual onlookers watching Curry drain 40-footers to know the Warriors’ shot chart doesn’t resemble their reputation as the love child of court spacing and high-efficiency looks.
The truth is the Warriors love launching the least-efficient shot in basketball — long two-point looks. Golden State is tied with the Indiana Pacers with the fourth-most most mid-range attempts in the league at 20.4 per game. That’s 23 percent of their total attempts for the season (204 of 890 total shots.) For comparison, the Bucks take a league low 6.4 per game, which is less than seven percent of their total shots.
This is a trend that started in the Kevin Durant era. (Not placing the blame on KD, but it’s true.) Last season, Golden State took 1,650 mid-range shots, seventh-most in the league. In the two seasons prior, it ranked No. 18 (1,443) and No. 27 (1,342).
Durant is a cause, though, as is Thompson. They rank No. 3 and 4 in the league respectively in mid-range attempts per game, at 6.5 and 6.4. (Curry takes just 2.8 per night.)
The back-to-back champs are trending in the opposite direction of analytic brilliance, but it’s unlikely to matter. The Warriors shooters are so damn good that they’re sinking mid-rangers to the highest percentage (47.5), so even their less-efficient shots can only be scolded to a certain degree. Durant shoots 50.8 percent, and Thompson 48.4.
Such is the beauty of having a team full of all-stars.
The Spurs don’t care about your analytics, either
They’re leading the league by nearly six mid-range attempts per game, at 28.6 per night. That’s more than 31 percent of their total points coming from the analytic dead zone of the court.
Continuing to defy any logic, Gregg Popovich’s unit is 6-3 despite dealing Kawhi Leonard for a lesser star in DeMar DeRozan. Of course, Pop has turned DeRozan into one of the league’s best passers all of a sudden, proving yet again Pop can craft a winning roster no matter its components.
Shooting lots of mid-rangers is nothing new for the Spurs, who have been top-five in the league for three straight seasons. It appears they’re committed to staying there: DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge lead the league in attempts at eight and 7.2 per game.
The Hawks — yes, the Hawks — are creating the most efficient three-point attempts in the league
The NBA’s three-point arc is curved so that the top of the arc is a bit deeper than its corners. Corner threes are 22 feet from the basket, while shots from the top of the arc are 23.75 feet. That makes corner deep-balls the closest look worth three points in the NBA.
Bet you’d be surprised to know that the Hawks lead the league with 10 attempts from the corners per game (5.2 from the left at 42.6 percent, 4.8 from the right at 39.5 percent.)
That’s a promising stat for a rebuilding team that’s playing for nothing but its future. They drafted well for this strategy, selecting one of the two best passers available in Trae Young and using subsequent picks on two more shooters in Kevin Huerter and Omari Spellman.
Atlanta has another gem in its rebuilding core that’s a little further along in development, too. Eight games into his third season, Taurean Prince has launched 62 threes, 21 of which came from the corners. In 88 fewer minutes, Prince has launched the same amount of corner threes as Curry.
The Hawks have a long way to go, but fans should be encouraged by their franchise’s youngest pieces and the team’s style of play.
All numbers via NBA.com/stats as of Nov. 5.