Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently suggested that the NBA should look into making the 3-point shot deeper.
"It's getting too close," Cuban told The Dallas Morning News. "Guys are shooting a foot behind it anyways. ... That's something we should look at.”
Cuban is right on the first count. When shooting above the break, the majority of attempts are more than a foot behind the line. Only 41 percent of 3-point attempts above the break this season were in the 23-24 foot range.
If the NBA were to push the line back at least a foot, not surprisingly, the leaguewide 3-point field goal percentage would likely go down. Each additional foot beyond the line leads to a decrease in successful attempts.
"I don't think the number of shots would decline, but I think it would reward skill and open up the court some more. So guys would still take [3-point] shots if it's 7 inches back or whatever…” -- Mark Cuban
If the 3-point line was pushed back, there could be an initial decrease in attempts. The last time the NBA moved the 3-point line back, there was a big decrease in 3-point attempts.
The 1996-97 season was the last of a three-year experiment with the 3-point line at a uniform 22 feet. That season, 21 percent of all attempts were from beyond the arc, but only 16 percent of all shots were from 3-point range the following season. That was the first year with the current dimensions.
After that initial decline, however, the percentage of 3-point attempts increased virtually every season until the current one. This season, 28 percent of all shots have been from 3-point range.
“… But at the same time, it opens up the court for more drives, more midrange game. I think it'd open it up more so guys with different skill sets could play. It would open up play for more drives. Guys with midrange games would be rewarded and that would stay in the game. There would be more diversity of offensive action in the game.” -- Mark Cuban
Cuban thinks a deeper 3-point line could lead to more drives, but driving in the NBA has already been increasing at a steady rate. In the three years the NBA has provided league-wide player tracking data, team drives per game have risen from 23.2 per game in 2013-14 to 26.2 in 2015-16.
This has led to fewer midrange attempts. Twenty-five percent of all attempts this season have been from midrange (2-pointers outside the paint) compared with 38 percent in the 2000-01 season.
Who benefits the most from a deeper 3-point line?
The best 3-point shooting teams, especially the Golden State Warriors, would benefit the most from a deeper 3-point line.
The reason for the decline in midrange shots is that they are not much easier to make than a 3-pointer. Midrange shots have led to fewer points per field goal attempt than from shots in the paint and shots from beyond the arc this season.
If the 3-point line were pushed out deeper, that would lead to deeper 3-pointers and deeper midrange shots, which could further devalue the midrange shot while making the 3-pointer even more valuable.
The Warriors are the best 3-point shooting team (42 percent) in the NBA this season and only the Thunder (43.5 percent) are better than the Warriors (43.2 percent) from midrange. They are also shooting 42 percent from 25 or more feet from the hoop this season. Only six teams, including the Warriors, are shooting that well from midrange this season.
And no surprise here, but Stephen Curry would be a great fit for a deeper 3-point line. Curry has made 46 percent of his attempts from 25 or more feet from the basket this season. J.J. Redick (44 percent) and Curry’s teammate, Draymond Green (42 percent), rank second and fourth respectively among players with at least 100 field goal attempts from that distance.