SI Vault
 
LOOK BEFORE YOU SHOOT
Mark Bechtel
November 10, 1997
The NBA's decision to restore the three-point line to its original distance (established in 1979) of 23'9" at the top of the arc, after three seasons at 22'0", should deter some deep-threat wannabes from launching a trey whenever the urge strikes. Here's who should keep shooting, who should proceed with caution and who should stop.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 10, 1997

Look Before You Shoot

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

The NBA's decision to restore the three-point line to its original distance (established in 1979) of 23'9" at the top of the arc, after three seasons at 22'0", should deter some deep-threat wannabes from launching a trey whenever the urge strikes. Here's who should keep shooting, who should proceed with caution and who should stop.

GREEN LIGHT.
Hornets swingman Glen Rice probably won't shoot 47.0% from three-point range again, as he did last year while leading the league in long-distance accuracy, but he was around 38.6% in the four seasons before the line moved in. Pacers guard Reggie Miller and forward Chris Mullin have hit 40% from the longer distance. Bulls guard Steve Kerr was a 44.5% shooter over six seasons from behind the deeper line. The Heat's trio of swingman Keith Askins and guards Tim Hardaway and Voshon Lenard can expect to come close to replicating last season's performance—they combined to make 37.8% of their attempts as Miami led the NBA in threes made—because they do much of their damage from the corners, where the shot is a 22-footer.

YELLOW LIGHT.
Trail Blazers point guard Kenny Anderson was 35.0% on an average of 305.3 attempts per season during the closer-arc era, but 29.4% on just 56.7 tries when the line was more distant. Rockets guard Clyde Drexler hit a respectable 35.2% of his threes with the line in but is only a career 29.2% three-point shooter from behind the farther stripe.

RED LIGHT.
The move back could be unkind to Suns guard Kevin Johnson. Last year he was third in the league in three-point shooting, at 44.1%. But according to former Bulls gunner John Paxson, a TV analyst with Chicago, "he's someone you never worried about at the three-point line when it was farther out." For good reason: Johnson never shot better than 22.2% from the longer distance. Johnson's new teammate Cliff Robinson averaged 36.6% at the shorter distance, compared with 25% at the longer. Others who could have a tough time backing up include Wizards forward Chris Webber (0% from 23'9" versus 34.8% from 22'0"), his teammate guard Calbert Cheaney (4.3% versus 32.5%), and SuperSonics point guard Gary Payton (21.0% versus 31.5%).

One player who probably won't be affected much by the move is Rockets forward Charles Barkley. Sir Charles, who puts the chuck in chucker, averaged 199 three-point attempts and made 28.9% of them in his last two seasons at the longer distance, then averaged 200 attempts and hit 30.2% with the stripe in. No matter where the league draws the line, Barkley will take—and miss—too many treys.

1