The 2020-21 NBA season is still young and the environment is ever changing, made evident by the cancelation of both games against the Memphis Grizzlies. However, one thing that has been obvious throughout the 14 games completed is that the Portland Trail Blazers are using the 3-point line more often than years past and to great effect.
Today we will be diving into some of the statistics, players benefiting and players needing to step up in this offensive shift.
The Portland Trail Blazers have started the season all guns blazing from the 3-point line and it is having a positive effect on the offence.
As has been the NBA landscape over the last ten seasons, the three point shot becomes more popular every single season, thanks largely to the Splash Brothers over in Golden State and the analytics-based Houston Rockets, who highlighted the obvious; three is worth more than two.
So, as you can imagine the Blazers’ 3-point attempts per game has been on a steady rise over the last ten seasons specifically. However, to start this young season, 3-point attempts have shot up by a massive eight attempts per game.
Portland’s mark of 42.4 attempts leaves them second in the NBA, behind only the Toronto Raptors. In comparison to last season, the Portland Trail Blazers were the middle of the road, ranked 15th in the NBA chalking up 34.1 attempts per game. This jump is significant with the numbers suggesting a clear point of emphasis coming into the season.
Before the unfortunate left foot fracture that will sideline McCollum for “an extended of time” per Shams Charania of The Athletic, C.J was averaging 11 3-point attempts per game and making 4.8 of those accounting for a career best 44.1 percent from behind the line.
In the NBA, there is rarely a correlation between career most attempts and career best percentage, but in McCollum’s case, he has made it work. Not only has this rise in 3-point shooting helped boost the shooting guard’s per game average, but it is opening up other areas of his game.
For years, he was regarded as one of the last true “mid range killers” in the NBA, constantly cooking defenders and hitting difficult mid range isolation jump shots. Now that opposition defences are so concerned about his 3-point shot, it is opening up easier opportunities for him from the mid range area.
Lastly, his playmaking statistics have seen a boost, averaging a career best 5.0 assists per game thanks to over the top close outs and double teams.
Along with C.J, Damian Lillard is integral to this new game style working, not only him individually with his deadly range, but his ability to hit the right person at the right time. Both of these all-star caliber guards sit in the top 5 of the NBA this season for 3-point attempts per game, a burden that will be difficult to maintain throughout the season.
With the injury to McCollum, the burning question is, “who is going to step up and get these shots?” Gary Trent Jr. is the obvious answer in my opinion. Trent Jr. announced himself to the NBA world in the Orlando bubble shooting an astounding 55 percent from 3. Trent has cooled down slightly since Orlando, but is still shooting an elite 42 percent from behind the line.
With his confidence and skill, Trent can step in and take part of the workload left behind by C.J’s absence. Along with more minutes for Rodney Hood and Anfernee Simons, hopefully the dip in production is not as severe.
While the 3-point orientated game plan hasn’t worked out for everybody, with new recruits Robert Covington (30 percent) and Derrick Jones Jr. (26 percent) both struggling to find their touch from long range, the blueprint is there and with performances like the 23 made 3’s in a win against the Sacramento Kings on the 13th of January, it is proven that if we get it right the mix of superstar guards and high volume 3-point shooting, the combination is deadly.
After all, it can’t be the worst idea to model your offence around a team that won 3 championships.