In 1996, when Ray Allen entered the NBA, the average team took 16.8 three pointers per game, and it made up 21.2 percent of their shots.
Last season, teams averaged 29 threes a game, 33.8 percent of their shot attempts. That’s 24 more threes a game total, on average, then when Allen entered the league. And more shots didn’t mean worse shots, teams averaged 36 percent from three in 1996, 36.2 percent last season.
Allen was part of that evolution in thinking, he left the game with 2,973 made threes, the most in NBA history. It’s part of the reason that in a week he will be a member of the basketball Hall of Fame. Speaking to Steve Aschburner of NBA.com, Allen talked about the change and if the pendulum has swung too far.
“When George Karl came in, we played faster,” Allen said. “And if we had a good shot available, we’d always take it. But early in my career, a lot of my coaches – if you took the 3 – were like, ‘You don’t have to settle. You’re settling.’ Now that’s changed.
“I don’t want it to go completely in that direction – I like to see the big men in the game, to play in the post and play inside-out every now and then. It’s great to see so many shooters, but I don’t want to see bad percentages.”
Coaches don’t want to see bad percentages, either. And they’re not, because guys grew up watching and imitating Ray Allen and others. Unlike when Allen was playing his high school ball in South Carolina, or his college ball at UConn, every player now grows up practicing threes — including big men. With that, the percentages have not fallen. The game has evolved away from posting bigs — more because of the rule change allowing zone, meaning instant doubles, rather than a love of the three — but teams still play inside-out, it’s just more about dribble penetration. It’s drive-and-kick now.
And taking a three is no longer seen as settling. It’s a good shot that gets you more points than a shot inside the arc, so if you can it it, take it.
Allen deservedly enters the HOF next weekend, nobody’s jumper will ever be purer than his. He is a legend.
But his record for most made threes will seem quaint in a few years. It’s how things are changing, and they are not going to swing back to grind-it-out, slow, methodical, tedious 1990s-style basketball again. Allen was part of that evolution.