College basketball plans to move its 3-point line back. The NBA should do likewise.
But neither will — or would — do it to the extreme it should, the distance to which basketball would most benefit.
The guardians of the college game — an outfit known as the Playing Rules Oversight Panel — are moving the line from 20 feet, 9 inches to the international distance of 22 feet, 1 and three-quarters inches, starting this next season.
First reaction: Who the hell came up with that number? What makes 22 feet, 1 and three-quarters inches sacrosanct? Because they do it that way in Europe? They do a lot of things in Europe we don’t want to do here. It’s a clumsy number, a random number that might initially have the desired effect, but only for the short term. This thing should be fixed once and for all.
It’s called vision.
The NBA 3-point line is 23 feet, 9 inches around the arc and 22 feet in the corners.
That needs fixing, too.
Back to the desired effect.
The college game wants more freedom of movement, and according to PROP, moving the deep shot back will open up drives to the basket by clearing the lane, create better offensive spacing, force defenders to cover more ground, and make the 3-ball more difficult, thereby making it less prevalent.
Some of that will happen, some of it won’t.
The NBA distance hasn’t deterred teams from shooting 3s, it’s created an environment in which only two kinds of attempts are most preferred — shots in the restricted area and 3-pointers. Without bogging this space down with a bunch of numbers — nobody needs data to know that NBA teams are jacking up more deep bombs now than ever before — let’s just say the pro game has flattened into a predictable pattern. Shoot the 3, dunk the ball, shoot the 3, dunk the ball, shoot the 3, dunk the ball.
You’ve seen it, you know it.
It’s not a complicated mathematical concept. Three is more than two. End of story.
All a team has to do is make 33 percent of its deep balls to equal 50 percent of its 2-point shots. Only one team, the Suns, shot less than 33 percent this past season. Most teams do much better than that, so … they fire away.
The Jazz, for instance, divvied up their shot distribution at about 60 percent 2-point shots, 40 percent from beyond the arc. And there was nothing unusual about that distribution. Almost every team was within a shout of it. The Hawks, the Bucks, the Nets, the Mavericks and the Rockets all exceeded the Jazz in frequency of 3-point attempts, with Houston shooting more 3s than 2s.
The college game isn’t quite at that level, yet, even with a shorter shot for 3. But it was headed in that direction. One of the problems with extending the 3-point line to the international distance is this: Even with that extension, it’s only a matter of time before the players adjust to it. And the shooting frequency will reflect that within a short period.
The casualty in all of this is the mid-range shot.
It’s simply not worth taking, not anymore. In many cases, mid-rangers are no more likely to hit the mark than 3-point shots, and, again, for those of us who are a little slow, three is more than two. If the data shows — and it does — that 2-point shots that aren’t taken from short range (layups and dunks) are no more likely to be made than bombs then … why take them?
If dunks and 3-pointers are so valued, and from an entertainment standpoint, so fun to watch, why mourn the demise of the mid-range?
Here’s why: Think of the beauty and variety of some of those shots through the game’s history. Think of the ballet it required to take and make them. Think of West and Havlicek and Bird and Jordan and Barkley and Malone and Kobe and all the rest. To see the game crater into two dimensions, guys parking in the corner or around the arc or positioning themselves for a dunk is … disappointing, maybe even boring.
The answer might seem drastic, but it is clear.
Move the 3-point line to 27 or 28 feet. If the college game wants it a bit shorter, then make it 25 feet in that realm. Get rid of the corner 3.
Already, a good number of 3-point attempts in the NBA come from 25 feet. Steph Curry hits better than 40 percent from that range, so do a few others.
Move the sucker back, way back. Make the extra point more of a risk, more of a worthy reward. Make the game more varied, more beautiful, again. There’s a chance it might become more ugly, but that’s a chance worth taking.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.