Daryl Morey’s Rockets set NBA records for percentage of their shots coming from beyond the 3-point arc in 2014-15 (39%), 2016-17 (46%), 2017-18 (50%) and 2018-19 (52%)
That system (which also emphasizes shots at the rim and free throws) became known as Moreyball and spread throughout the league. This season, the league-wide 3-point rate is higher than Houston’s record-breaking mark in 2014-15.
Morey on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz,” produced by Mike Ryan:
A lot of people don’t like how the game looks right now. I actually have empathy for that. Basically, when they put the 3-point line in, they made it worth three. The bottom line is it is worth too much. It skews the game, and it makes it so there’s only one, really only one path to being a good team. You have to be utilizing that at a high level.
It’s a real challenge for the league, and I think it’s something that will be addressed over the next three to seven years.
One thing that league offices need to realize is that, because teams are getting smarter and smarter – they just are. I mean, obviously, there are exception teams, and you guys talk about them, laugh about them. But the reality is, in general, teams are getting smarter over time. Our jobs are just to win. So, you’re going to look for ways to optimize relative to the rules we’re given. And so league offices need to be more active, more active than they’ve been in the past. The NBA has been the most active over the years. But MLB, NFL – all these leagues need to be more active in tweaking their rules over time to make sure that teams are working towards the optimal way you want the game to look such that they’re tuning in and enjoying it. And it can’t be that they just keep the rules static. The rules need to be more changeable over time in these leagues.
Morey is right: Teams should do whatever they can within the rules to win. Leagues should proactively adjust the rules to create the desired system.
But fans generally like the NBA game as it’s played today.
Yes, 3-pointers have become an essential element. But Morey is being reductionist when saying there’s only one path to being a good team. In this same interview, Morey – now the 76ers’ president – lauds Ben Simmons‘ ability to set up 3-pointers even though Simmons nearly never shoots them himself. Even as all teams seek 3-pointers, each team does so with a unique style.
Plus, 3-pointers have generally replaced 2-point jumpers – not shots at the rim.
Seth Partnow of The Athletic:
In 1997-98, 52.6% of NBA shot attmempts were jumpers (midrange or 3). So far this season, that percentage is 51.6%.
— Anchorage Man (@SethPartnow) March 10, 2021
There’s minimal aesthetic difference between a long 2-pointer and a 3-pointer. Really, 3-pointers are probably more thrilling.
As the NBA continues to embrace 3-pointers, they could become too ubiquitous. The league should consider moving back the arc or other solutions for down the road.
But there’s a far more pressing issue that invites the type of good-for-the-sport rule change Morey advocates: tanking.