Fan Fuel: Do NBA GMs overrate three point shooting?

January 2, 2013, 2:22 PM


Former Toronto Raptor Jason Kapono has had a very rich career. In a seven-year span from 2005 onward, Kapono has picked up an NBA championship as a member of the Miami Heat during the 2005-2006 season, won his first Three Point Shootout, signed a lucrative $24 million contract with the Raptors in 2007, and then won another Three Point Shootout, setting a Finals record with 25 points. He became known as the best three point shooter in the league and at one time held the all-time NBA best three point percentage in league history.

Two years after signing the big deal and providing nothing more past his trademark three-point shooting, he was traded to the 76ers, relegated to the bench for two years, lost his shooting stroke and left the team after his contract expired. He signed with the Lakers but never finished the season with them as he was traded to the Cavaliers, and subsequently waived. In a short span, Kapono went from the league’s best deep threat from beyond the arc to a player who got waived by one of the worst teams in NBA.

So where is Kapono now?

Well, Kapono signed with Panathinaikos B.C back in early November, a Greek league team that reunited him with former Raptors teammate Roko Ukic. After being delayed joining the team due to his wife’s pregnancy complications, Kapono made his debut with Panathinaikos last Thursday hitting four three pointers in the first half on his way to 16 points in his debut as they narrowly edged BC Zalgiris 67-66.

Whether or not Kapono can ever come back to the NBA and be an effective player is questionable. He burnt out very quickly after joining the Sixers and never seemed to recover. His debut with Panathinaikos was impressive and if he can keep up the production then NBA teams may come knocking at his door eventually, but what may be seemed as a stopgap may be a permanent fixture for Kapono.

Kapono is a 31-year-old, and his three point stroke may be the only thing he has left.

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Kapono is a prime example of how the NBA has a very bad habit of rewarding one-dimensional players, specifically those with high three point-percentages like Kapono, lucrative contracts. While Kapono has served a purpose in his NBA career, he is and was easily replaceable because cheaper alternatives always exist when talking three points marksman.

Three point percentage is the flashiest stat in the NBA. Here is a list of players that had three point percentages over .450 in the last 10 years that averaged less than 10 points: Kapono (.483, 2007-2008, 7.2 PPG,) Anthony Peeler (.482, 2003-2004, 5.7 PPG), Daniel Gibson (.477, 2009-2010, 6.3 PPG) and Matt Bonner (.457, 2010-2011, 7.7 PPG).

Now what do all these players have in common? They are all one-dimensional players who have had very limited success, with every one of those players getting contracts exceeding a total value of $10 million (Gibson five years $21 million, Peeler six years $13.10 million, Kapono four years $24 million and Bonner four years $16 million).
Bob Sura, Voshon Lenard, Scott Burrell, Hubert Davis and Damon Jones; How many of these players are household names? All of these players competed in the Three Point Shootout one time or another.

Among the career leaders in three point percentage in NBA history names such as Kapono’s, B.J Armstrong, Tim Legler, Brandon Rush and Anthony Morrow all rank in the top-15. These are all players who have a role, but are by no means considering above average NBA players.

It is clear that NBA GM’s value three point percentage, and in a way they should. Three pointers are a very valuable stat but in the same way they are very misleading.
Check out these numbers: .338, .331, .368, .334, and .369. These are the career three point percentages of the leading scorers in the NBA this season, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and James Harden who are all proven scorers, with average to slightly above average career three-point percentages.

Many of these players who rank in the top 50 in three point percentage often don’t take many (usually not more than four per game), which makes them seem more valuable than they actually are.

Steve Novak, a very comparable player to Kapono, received a four-year $15 million contract after leading the league in three point percentage (.472) in 2011-2012. Novak, who had trouble sticking in the NBA before his tenure with the Knicks, is as one-dimensional as a player can get, with 75.6 per cent of his career shots being three pointers, while 34per cent of Kapono’s career shots were three point attempts. While Novak has continued his success somewhat this season (his numbers are down, but not by a significant amount) he isn’t worth that amount of cash. The big question is whether you think 8.8 points per game (career high) is worth $3.75 million per season. Novak is purely a three point shooter, evident by his paltry 26 free throw attempts last year and at 6-10 he rebounds worse than Isiah Thomas.

Shawne Williams who was the Knicks three point weapon before Novak, shot 40 per cent from beyond the arc in 2010-2011 after not playing a game in the NBA since the 2008-2009 season. Despite minuscule career numbers before Williams’ big season, Williams got a two-year contract with the Nets worth $6.1 million. In his first year with the Nets, he struggled, was traded to the Portland Trailblazers and subsequently hasn’t played in the NBA since.

Kapono’s contract should be a warning to NBA GM’s who crave three point shooting. Top three point shooters this season include San Antonio Spurs guards Danny Green (a former Cavaliers castoff who turned his three point shot into a three-year $12 million contract) and Patty Mills (who played in the National Basketball League in Australasia for three-fourths of last year) and New York Knicks Chris Copeland (undrafted in 2006, played in Belgium before joining the Knicks) are all players that could have been acquired for pennies. While predicting success isn’t always the easiest, finding a three-point marksman on the cheap is definitely possible, but finding a player who can keep up that pace for a significant amount of time is exceedingly difficult.

When one-dimensional players struggle, they become a no-trick pony. Kapono went from being one of the most coveted three-point marksman to being out of the league in less than five years. While Kapono finds a new beginning overseas, his career, at least in the NBA is likely over. His only talent was one that is far too often overrated.

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