Sometimes, graphics and statistics can be misleading. The number of foreclosures reported in the newspaper, for example, is misleading in that it tells the total number of foreclosures, but fails to explain that a single home can have two, three, or four mortgages, meaning a single home could be “foreclosed” up to four times. In reality, only one family is facing foreclosure, not three or four, but if you read the paper you would have no idea of that fact.
Likewise, sports statistics are often misleading. The Nuggets and Warriors forced the most turnovers in the league this season, but that doesn’t mean that they necessarily have the best defenses, it just means that they play at a higher pace than most squads, with more possessions.
Sometimes, many times, statistics are insightful, though. Take the Sonics and 3-point shooting, or lack thereof.
No, self-satisfied lovers of Al Franken, it’s not George Bush’s approval rating. Rather, it’s the Sonics’ ranking within the NBA on 3-pointers attempted. The chart begins with Ray Allen’s arrival in Seattle in 2003, and concludes with the season just completed.
Taking their cue from the team’s greatest star, Allen, the Sonics quickly emerged as the top-gunning team in the league, and by 2004-05 (year 2) they took more three-pointers than any other team. That trend continued in the next two seasons, but tailed off until this season, when the Sonics finally made the transformation complete, ranking dead last in the league in attempts.
In other words, within five seasons the Sonics have gone from the most likely to attempt a three to the absolute least likely; from World B Free to Olden Polynice in half a decade.
It’s a remarkable turnaround, a change in philosophy shown in other figures as well. 82games.com shows that only 13% of Seattle’s field goal attempts were from long-range, the lowest percentage in the league (Orlando, home of Rashard Lewis, ranked first).
But consider this: of the 13 teams who attempted more than the league average in threes this season, 10 qualified for the playoffs (77%). Of the 17 who attempted fewer than the league average, only six made it beyond the end of the regular season (35%). And that’s not an isolated trend, either. Last year, 80% of above-average gunners made the playoffs, while only 27% of the non-gunners did. The previous season, the numbers were 76% of gunners and 23% of non-gunners.
Clearly, this is not an isolated trend. Combined with Kevin Durant’s reluctance to launch threes as the season went along, and the departure of the team’s best shooter, Wally Szczerbiak via trade, it is painfully clear that the Sonics need to acquire outside shooting this summer. While the first pick they make will likely be for Derrick Rose (assuming the ping pong balls cooperate), Sam Presti will no doubt be looking hard at shooting guards this June.
Assuming, of course, he’s trying to make a better team. Which, in these days of uncertainty, is a big assumption to make.