Best of The Wizards/Bullets: Three-Point Shooting and Gilbert Arenas
Not too long ago we took a look at some of the worst shooters in Bullets/Wizards franchise history. Now, especially since shooting is such a concern, we’ll take a look at some the best shooters in team history, specifically from the three-point distance.
[Basketball Court - Georgia Avenue/Howard University - photo: K. Weidie]
Last season was the 31th anniversary of the three-point shot in the NBA. Well, sorta. The three-point line was implemented on a trial basis for the 1979-80 season and set into permanent rule for the 1980-81 season. So, perhaps technically this season is the 31th anniversary of the three-point shot in the NBA. Nonetheless, stats on the shot have been kept for the previous 31 seasons and are available thanks to Basketball-Reference.com.
Kevin Grevey of the Washington Bullets hit the first three-point bucket in franchise history, on opening night against the Philadelphia 76ers at home on October 12, 1979. Evidently there is some dispute as to whether Grevey hit the first three in NBA history; Chris Ford of the Boston Celtics is usually credited with accomplishing this feat, which occurred on the same night.
Over the 2510* games the Wizards/Bullets franchise has played over the previous 31 season (*only 50 games were played in the shortened ’98-99 season), the team has attempted 23,127 threes and made 7,651 of them — a percentage of 0.331.
The 2007-08 Wizards made 575 threes, most in franchise history, at a clip of 35.6-percent. DeShawn Stevenson, believe it or not, led the team with 158 makes.
The ’87-88 Bullets only made 29 three point field-goals all year at a clip of 21-percent. Jeff Malone led the team sinking 10 of his 24 attempts from beyond the arc. But it was John “Hot Plate” Williams who led the team in attempts that season with 38; he only made five of them.
Let’s take a look at franchise average three-point makes and attempts per game through the years (with coaching regimes noted):
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We’ll compare this to NBA three-point history in a future post.
As far as individuals, there isn’t much argument that Gilbert Arenas is the most prolific three-point shooter in team history. He’s the only franchise player to make more than 200 in a season, accomplishing the feat twice in ’04-05 and ’06-07 (205 both times). He’s also first in franchise history in total makes (821), attempts (2,285), average makes per game (2.4) and attempts per game (6.8).
Chucking It Up For A Year.
Only four players in team history have attempted five or more threes per game in a season. Arenas has done it six times, and in true Gilbert fashion, two of those times include the ’07-08 season when he only played 13 games and last year when he just played 32. The other player instances include: DeShawn Stevenson (5.0 three attempts per game in ’07-08), Antawn Jamison (5.4 attempts per game in ’06-07) and Rex Chapman (6.1 attempts per game in ’94-95).
You think Arenas is a gunner … at least he made his threes. Our friend Mr. Chapman only shot 31.4-percent on his 6.1 three-point attempts per game. Arenas attempted 7.9 three per game in ’06-07, 7.0 in ’04-05, 6.8 in ’05-06 and 6.1 in ’03-04. He made 0.351, .0.365, 0.369 and 0.375 percent of his threes in those seasons respectively (playing in 74, 80, 80 and 55 games, also respectively).
Looking back, I find it astounding that Arenas attempted 7.9 and 7.0 three pointers per game in different seasons. In NBA history, a player attempting seven or more threes per game (and appearing in at least 50 games) has only happened 26 times. Michael Adams (1), Ray Allen (5), Gilbert Arenas (2), Mookie Blaylock (2), Jamal Crawford (1), Baron Davis (1), Danny Granger (1), Tim Hardaway (2), Rashard Lewis (1), George McCloud (1), Tracy McGrady (1), Mike Miller (1), Jason Richardson (1), Quentin Richardson (1), Dennis Scott (1), John Starks (1), and Antoine Walker (3) are the 17 players who have done this (with number of times accomplished in parenthesis). Gilbert Arenas ranks 15th and 20th in three-point field-goal percentage among these 26 occurrences. Ray Allen has five seasons that rank in the top 11 in 3p%.
From this bar chart showing the 3P% and 3PA from these 7.0-plus 3PA/G season occurrences (ordered by 3P%), you’ll see that Arenas keeps company that ranges from some of history’s best long range bombers to some of history’s notorious long range bummers. Gilbert is also the only one on this list to score more than 2,000 points in such a season, he did it both times.
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Notice in this chart where Arenas lies when you account for True-Shooting Percentage (TS% is a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws — since Gilbert has been able to get to the line so much in his career). Arenas moves up a decent bit in the ranks; he has the sixth and seventh highest TS% for those attempting seven or more threes per game in league history. Also notice how terrible a chucker Antonie Walker was in ’02-03.
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The Most Efficient.
In a quest to find out what member of the franchise had the most efficient overall shooting season, while being a threat from long range and a good overall player, I ran these parameters through Basketball-Reference: three or more made threes per game, an effective-FG% of 0.500 or higher (remember, eFG% adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal), and a PER of 10 or higher.
I, however, sorted by True Shooting Percentage. The return yielded eight players (Brent Price, Mike Miller, Scott Skiles, Gilbert Arenas, Chris Whitney, Tracy Murray, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison — with Jamison and Murray accomplishing the feat in two separate seasons). Arenas’ TS% of 0.581 in ’05-06 ranks fourth on the list, full results below [click on image for larger size].
Of course, what the stats don’t show here is that Arenas is the only one on this list who can create his own shot at a much higher level than anyone else. Not that Jamison didn’t/can’t create his own shot, but he was/is more of a ‘junk’ offensive player — if you know Jamison’s game, you know what I mean.
The moral of this story is that Arenas is overall one of the best long distance shooters in team history, and he can still compete with some of the best in the league. But what also makes him effective is his ability to get to the free-throw line in addition to being a long range threat. His most efficient shooting season was 2005-06 when he had a TS% of 0.581 and eFG% of .507 while attempting 6.8 threes per game (making 2.5).
Sure, Arenas played a very limited 81 minutes over four preseason games, three of those minutes coming versus the Milwaukee Bucks when he was barely on the floor due to a groin injury. However, in those 81 minutes, as a guy presumed to be knocking some rust off, Arenas had a 3p% of 0.467, TS% of 0.584 and eFG% of 0.609. He averaged 6.67 three-point attempts per 36 minutes and made 3.1 of them. Note that Arenas only managed to get to the FT line seven times in 81 minutes.
If this season Arenas can at least shoot over 40-percent from three for the first time in his career (I know, that’s asking a lot — his career best is 37.5-percent over 55 games in ’03-04, his third year in the league and first in D.C.), he will be a very valuable piece to the Wizards offense. He will certainly open things up for Wall to penetrate and for Blatche, Yi or whomever else to actually do offensive work in the paint. Plus, I think he can still be a threat to drive and get to the line.
It’s just the getting on the court part that’s the hang-up. But Arenas/Wizards fans should be used to that.