The pick and pop is the opposite. The big man hangs back instead of rolling into the lane. And that’s what I kept seeing these players do. So, back to the search.
I set a few filters to get players that are 6-foot-10 or taller who averaged at least two 3-point attempts a game during the 2017-18 season.
The results confirmed my theory. DeMarcus Cousins, who’s arguably the best center in the league, is jacking up 6.2 threes a game. Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol, two low-post masters, are taking over four a game each. Kristaps Porzingis is 7-foot-3 and takes almost five. In total, 32 players qualified for the search.
What does it mean? To me, it’s simple: there is absolutely nothing wrong with a power forward or center working on a 3-point shot, but he cannot fall in love with it.
Every possession a tall player spends outside of the paint is a missed chance at a rebound, tip-in or dump-off pass. Blake Griffin averaged 11.5 rebounds per game in his first two seasons. This season, he’s shooting 5.7 3-pointers a game, and his rebounding has dipped to a career low — 7.8 per game.
Gasol is 7-foot-1 and averaging just over seven rebounds per game in the last two years. Lopez, in limited minutes, averages just under four. Rookie seven-footer Lauri Markkanen basically lives on the perimeter, averaging 6.4 3-point attempts a game to just 7.6 rebounds for the Bulls.
Of course, there are benefits to this. The majority of the 3-pointers these players take are wide open or just slightly contested, since guards almost always draw both defenders into the lane before kicking it out. Cousins’ outside game is a nice complement to teammate Anthony Davis’ post and midrange presence. Markkanen made 100 career 3-pointers in 41 games, the fastest in NBA history.
It just has to come in moderation, though. One 3-pointer a game is fine. Maybe even two.
But by camping on the perimeter, players are abandoning their greatest asset and the reason they probably started playing basketball in the first place: their height.
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