How Three-Pointers Are Giving the Philadelphia 76ers Wins

53 games through the season the Philadelphia 76ers have already won nine more games than the previous year, and their improved 3-point shooting is a major reason why.

28.7 percent of the 2015-16 Philadelphia 76ers’ points per game were from behind the three-point line. Through 53 games of the 2016-17 season, 30.7 percent of the Sixers’ points per game are from the 3-point line. While a two percent difference doesn’t look like a big improvement, the Sixers are averaging 100.7 points per game this season, which is 3.3 points more than last season’s 97.4 points per game. With 10 of the Sixers’ 19 wins falling within five points or less, an additional three-pointer every game can literally decide whether the Sixers win or lose.

What has led to the Sixers’ improved three-point shooting? One big reason is Joel Embiid. On one hand, I’ve already written how special Embiid’s three-point shooting is for a center. On the other hand, I didn’t realize Embiid’s 1.2 successful treys per game are the margin of victory of the  increased wins this season. Embiid is a player that every opposing team’s defense must  focus upon to hinder offensive assault.  Placing more defenders upon Embiid allows all non-Embiid players get to benefit from fewer defenders. And that’s especially true for their 3-point shooters.

Who Shoots Threes?

Ersan Ilyasova shot 3.5 threes per game and made 1.3 of them, which helped him score 10.4 points per game during the 2015-16 season. Since being traded to the Sixers, Ilyasova has been shooting 5.7 treys per game and made 2.1 of them which has led to his points per game improving to 15.3. Gerald Henderson is a 33 percent perimeter shooter for his career, but is currently making 39 percent this season. Last season the Sixers’ had four players that averaged at least one made 3-pointer per game. This season the Sixers have six players that average at least one per game, and their overall  percentage has improved from 33.9 percent last season to 35.1 percent this season.

space pace PASS

Improved passing is another contributor to the Sixers’ 3-point shooting. Last season Ish Smith was the only player on the Sixers to average at least five assists per game and he only played in 27 of the Sixers’ 82 games. The offseason signing of Sergio Rodriguez (5.1 assists per game) and improvements from T.J. McConnell (6 assists per game) are the main reason the Sixers’ total assists per game improved to 23.4 percent this season from 21.5 percent last season. But as defenders collapse two or three defenders on Joel Embiid, even he is getting into the dishing game, with over 2.0 assists per game.

Results

While assists can count towards dunks and mid-range jump shots, 28.4 percent of all of the Sixers shots are catch-and-shoot jump shots.  Those situations guarantee an assist if the shot succeeds.  If you watch the the team, you will see many of those shots are from beyond the arc.

The Philadelphia 76ers are ranked ninth in the league in overall three-pointers with 546.  Meanwhile, their bench is ranked eighth in threes made per game with four.  On top of that, they sink 11.1, and 37 percent of them during their wins.  In summary, whether it’s by draft, trade, or free agency, three-point shots are and will remain a major part of the Sixers’ offense and success.

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