Are Teams Shooting More 3-Point Shots than Before?

Stephen Curry’s all-time record of 402 3-point shots made in the 2015-16 season was simply amazing. At the time of this writing, Curry holds the record for having made the most number of 3-point shots in a single season. Gold State Warriors, who are known for their swift ability to make 3-point shots, have inspired me to do this analysis. Watching their games, I wanted to see whether teams now are shooting more 3-point shots than those in the past.

The answer became clear when I plotted the share of 2-point and 3-point shot attempts over the years.

It was clear that teams now were definitely attempting more 3-point shots than before. We see a gradual decrease in the share of 2-point shot attempts and a gradual increase in the share of 3-point shot attempts.

I could also see that teams have gotten better at making 3-point shots. We see a gradual increase in the 3-point field goal percentage since the 1981-82 season, although it seems the level has plateaued in the recent years.

There do appear to be some anomalies in the above two plots:

  • In the first plot, there are three seasons (1994-95, 1995-96, and 1996-97 seasons) that displayed higher share of 3-point shot attempts relative to their adjacent seasons.
  • In the second plot, the 3-point FGP for the 1984-85 season seems abnormally high. In fact, it’s the highest of all observations in the plot.

I do not know what caused these anomalies. They may very well be the result of quirks in the data.

However, the general trend is clear. Teams are shooting more 3-point shots and they have gotten better at making 3-pointers.

Edit: It was pointed out by a Reddit user that the increased share of 3-point shot attempts between 1994-1997 was due to the shortened 3-point line.

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About the Author: Howard Song

I’m a data practitioner by day, a web developer by night, a semi-competent swimmer, an active basketball player, a collector of cool ideas, an aspiring entrepreneur, a college dropout but a lifelong learner, and a self-professed nice guy. I love all things basketball, data, programming, and entrepreneurship.

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