We all know that teams have constantly been increasing their three-point attempts the past decade or so. This past season, there were 59,241 three-pointers taken during the regular season. Back in the 2005-2006 season, only 39,313 threes were attempted. One team, the Phoenix Suns, attempted over 2,000 threes while this past season there were 13 teams that accomplished that feat.
That’s a gigantic jump and it mainly has to do with the willingness that teams now have to use analytics to decide how they should change the way they play the game.
What I’ve decided to do is to look at exactly how important three-pointers are. What is the relationship between three-point attempts and wins?
By just looking at the data, you can make the broad assumption that if a team takes more three-pointers, they are most likely going to win more games. You can tell that out of the 13 teams that attempted over 2,000 three-pointers last season, 10 made the playoffs. That’s extremely impressive.
But, let’s go even further into the data to find if we are right.
I decided to implement regression analysis to see what the correlation is between wins and three-pointers. Here are the results:
The R-Squared of .0619 should be very alarming to you. It was to me. The closer the R-Squared is to 1, the greater the correlation is between the two variables. The R-Squared says that 6.19% of wins come from solely three-point attempts. So, what we can interpret from the data is that taking more three-point attempts does not necessarily mean more wins.
It’s an obvious assumption, but one that teams can learn from. If you are a team that doesn’t have three-point shooters, you should not be forcing them up just because there is a stigma now that you have to if you want to be the best.
Look at the Spurs from last year. They finished with 67 wins, the 2nd highest total in the NBA, but were 26th in three-point attempts in the league. They understood that they didn’t have the players that were going to bring success to the club from shooting threes. The Spurs stuck to what they were good at.
As players continue to work on their three-point game and it continues to be something that teams try to take more of each season, we should continue to see that R-Squared raised. But, what should be taken from this analysis today is that a team does not necessarily need to take three-pointers to compete.