Around the league, teams are attempting more 3-point shots than ever before. Should the Minnesota Timberwolves join in on the fun? Or, perhaps more importantly, can they?
The NBA has a 3-point obsession.
In the month of January alone, the league has seen the all-time single-game 3-point attempt record broken, the single-game 3-point make record broken, and the single-game 3-point percentage record broken.
In a league where it is possible to witness over 100 3-point attempts in a single game, the 2-point shot has become nearly irrelevant.
As teams play catch-up to the destroyer of worlds known as the Golden State Warriors, players continue to launch threes at an unprecedented rate. The rest of the league is left with a difficult choice, join the obsession or be left in the past.
This is especially true for the Minnesota Timberwolves, a franchise that has historically been near the bottom in 3-point attempts. Should the Wolves join in on the 3-point fun. And, perhaps more importantly, can they?
So far this season…
During the 2018-19 campaign, the Timberwolves are in the middle of the pack at 30.1 3-point attempts per game, making 10 of them per contest.
Unfortunately, they are outside of the top 20 in 3-point percentage, shooting them at just a 35.1 percent clip. An emphasis has clearly been placed on the deep ball — at least compared to past seasons — but it is still far behind the true 3-point addicts around the league.
So, the question remains, should the Timberwolves push further into 3-point shot that has become the majority of the offense for successful teams such as Houston, Milwaukee, Golden State, and many, many more? The numbers this season may not suggest a drastic change is needed.
In games in which the Timberwolves attempt 35+ 3-point shots, they have an overall record of 8-9. This computes to a winning percentage of .470, not too far off their season total of .478.
The truly telling number can be found in games where the Wolves make at least 10 3-point shots. In such games, Minnesota is 15-8, a far cry from their below-.500 record on the season.
In accordance with this stat, Minnesota is 13-7 on the season when shooting at least 35 percent from beyond the arc. These are numbers that should be attainable for the roster as it is currently constructed. The league as a whole averages 11.1 made 3-pointers per game, shooting 35.5 percent from deep.
Therefore, a Minnesota team capable of shooting at a league-average clip from three could see a significant improvement in the win column.
While many fans focus on the number of 3-point attempts in each game, the numbers show that Minnesota should rather be placing an emphasis on gradual improvements in shooting the three within the constraints of the offense.
Fortunately for Minnesota, the solution may be on the current roster.
Robert Covington, one of top shooters on the roster, has been out for nearly three weeks. His eventual return will bolster the starting unit, and gradual improvements from Dario Saric, Tyus Jones, and Josh Okogie would help stabilize a bench unit that ranks 24th in 3-point makes.
One way to go about fixing the issue would be to attempt more 3-pointers in transition during the first half. Typically, the Timberwolves play with more pace in the first half and yet their number of three-point attempts changes drastically over the course of a game. The team attempts only 6.1 three-pointers in the first quarter, increasing the number of attempts in each quarter until finally reaching a staggering 8.3 attempts in the fourth quarter.
Increasing the number of transition 3-point attempts early in the game would be a simple way to both make more threes per game and perhaps get more open looks to increase the team’s shooting percentage. As an added bonus, seeing a few of those shots go through the net early on may give the players more confidence to step into a 3-point attempt in the fourth quarter when their frequency tends to increase.
The Minnesota Timberwolves cannot, and nor should they to try to, become the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors overnight. A few gradual improvements in made 3-pointers and 3-point percentage, bringing the team closer to league average, could show a drastic difference in the win column.
A few extra threes rest of season could even be the difference between being back to their lottery-bound ways and nabbing a playoff berth.