Before the season started, first-year Phoenix Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov said he wanted his team to attempt 30 3-pointers a game. They are, and it’s not helping them win.
The Phoenix Suns have a problem scoring. Averaging 103.3 points per game through their first 22 games, they sit right near the bottom of the league (29th overall), and only .2 points per game higher than basement dweller Cleveland Cavaliers.
While the Suns have undoubtedly become far more competitive since the start of November, they are still struggling to score in most cases, and their 85 point performance verses the Orlando Magic on November 30, was their second game of 85 points or less this year (Phoenix scored 82 versus Brooklyn on November 6).
Twisted into the team’s low scoring is their high 3-point shooting. As Kokoskov said before the season, he wanted Phoenix to take 30 a game, and they are attempting 30.2 in fact.
But there are two interesting caveats to request: while over the last five seasons 30.2 attempts would have been 12th in the league, T-6, 2nd, 2nd, and 1st overall, this season the Suns are attempting the 17th most “supershots,” as Al McCoy occasionally calls them, which suddenly makes a somewhat revolutionary goal, rather ordinary.
Then there is this: the Suns are only making 33.6% of their outside shots (missing a ridiculous 20.1 attempts per game), the 24th best shooting percentage in the league – or if you want to be truly cynical, the 7th worst.
But hey, the Suns are used to being at the bottom of the league in 3-point percentage. They were the league’s worst last season at 33.4% and 4th worst the year before at 33.2%.
And there is a positive: if they continue to raise their 3-point shooting percentage by .2 every year, they’ll be shooting a decent 35.0% from beyond the arc by 2025-26.
Sarcasm aside, as a franchise, the Suns haven’t been in the top-half of the league in 3-point percentage since 2013-14 when Phoenix finished 8th overall at 37.2% on 9.3-25.1 per game.
It certainly doesn’t help that Devin Booker is averaging a career-low 31.7% from beyond the arc while attempting a career-high 7.9 per game; Josh Jackson has actually seen his 3-point shooting drop from last season and is currently at 26.1%; and Ryan Anderson, one of the league’s most consistent 3-point shooters over the past half decade couldn’t hit one to save his life (or the team’ chances at winning), is shooting a frigid 20.6%, part of the reason he has nine DNP-CD’s in the team’s last 11 games and hasn’t made a 3-pointer since November 4.
As exciting as the prospect of the Suns attempting 30 3-pointers a game or more this season was prior to the year tipping off, the luster has definitely faded away rather quick with the statistical knowledge that the rest of the league has taken Koko’s bet and raised him, and that this team simply cannot shoot.
Obviously 3-pointers are a very important part of today’s game – the record number of teams attempting 30 a game being all the proof one needs.
But this Phoenix Suns team is desperate to win some games and they appear to be trying to shoot their way into wins and out of this team-wide slump rather than trying something else.
I am not sure if not shooting as many 3’s will help with wins, and I would hope that if they did decide to shoot less that drives to the basket would rise as they might as well guarantee that they are taking as efficient a shot as possible, when possible.
Whatever happens, shooting 30 3-‘s per game this season just isn’t working, and if the Suns really do want to start winning, then they need to either fix their broken collective shot, or Kokoskov needs to emphasize something else offensively and move away from his preseason requirement.