Flip Saunders’ offense should include more threes


Flip Saunders knew what he was doing when he went on that curious Twitter rant a few days ago.

Clearly, he felt bad for us writers and bloggers because there’s been nothing to write about lately regarding the Minnesota Timberwolves. So, this is his way of giving us something to write about. What a nice guy!

Or something like that.

By now, you’ve probably seen all the tweets. But for the sake of the post, I’ll put them in here.

As Dunking With Wolves editor Ben Beecken writes, apparently Saunders had heard enough of the criticism from so-called experts that’s been going on for years. As much as Saunders wants to try to defend himself here, it’s really tough for him to disprove the facts.

The facts are that Saunders’ teams have historically shot a rather low volume of three-pointers. In the story I linked above from Ben, you’ll find other links to a bunch of articles loaded with stats and information that backs this up.

The most interesting statistic for me is from the tweet below. In his entire coaching career, Saunders’ teams have finished in the top 20 in three-point attempts TWICE. In those two seasons, he took the Detroit Pistons to the conference finals.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m pro-shooting threes. Just look at the most successful teams in the NBA in the 2014-15 season and see where they ranked in three-point attempts. Aside from the Memphis Grizzlies, all of them ranked pretty high in that stat.

The Wolves? They finished dead last in three-pointers attempted this season. Dead last.

Additionally, we’ve all noticed how Saunders likes to set up his offense to set up long two-point shots (From roughly 16 feet out to the three-point line). I did a little research, looking for statistics on how some notable Timberwolves shot the long two compared to the three.

I took the seven players who I think contributed the best combinations of long twos and threes attempted. These players include Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Kevin Martin, Anthony Bennett, Ricky Rubio, and Chase Budinger. Turns out, these seven players shot almost the same exact percentage from long two-point range as they did from three-point range.

First of all, the fact that these particular players shot over 200 more long-twos than threes is evident of how much Saunders involves the long two in his offense.

It’s simply an outdated offensive system. In today’s NBA where teams are launching threes at a high rate, it’s important to be efficient on the offensive end, and one way to do this is to even the number of long twos and threes attempted. If the Wolves are going to shoot the same percentage from both areas, why not step back a few feet and shoot a three?

This is a concept that other coaches around the league have grasped and turned it into a staple in their offense. They’ve realized that these guys can shoot the perimeter shot at such a high level that it almost makes any long two-point shot counterproductive.

Sure, the Timberwolves have less three-point shooters than other teams. However, 35% from long two-point range is worse than 35% from three-point range. For the Timberwolves, it’s clearly beneficial for their three-point attempts to increase because it’s just basic logic. Three is more than two.

If Flip Saunders wants to keep up with the rest of the NBA and have a chance to have success this season, he’ll realize that attempting more three-pointers is a priority. If Saunders doesn’t increase his use of the perimeter shot, well, at least I’ll have something to write about during the upcoming season.

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