The Golden State Warriors cruised to their 2015 championship title led by two three-point shooters, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Their starting line-up was comprised of at least four capable three-point shooters, without a centre playing a key role. The 2015 playoffs were an indicator of a shift in how the game of basketball is being played, but this trend is not new.
The three-point shot has been embraced as a huge part of team offense rather than an option to relieve pressure off big men in the paint, gradually this has become a permanent shift in how the game is now being played. Ever since the introduction of the three-point shot to the NBA in the early 1980s, teams have continually tinkered their line-ups to add an edge to their offensive arsenal. ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh states that the NBA average for three-point shots per game is 22.5, which is a huge jump from the league average of 16 in the 1995-1996 season, and three in the 1979-1980 season.
Teams and recruiters no longer seek out defensive specialists like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Shaquille O’neal, and are moving away from putting the big man in the middle. Players with the finesse and accuracy of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kyle E. Korver are now in high demand — we saw it in the 1988-89 New York Knicks, 2005-07 Phoenix Suns, and now in the Warriors.
The increased usage of the three-pointer has transcended the NBA. In CIS sports a shift has started in teams’ line-ups, which conform to this new norm. According to the statistics of the current season for both Varsity Blues men’s and women’s basketball teams, the three-point shot has become fully entrenched in both squads’ offense.
Varsity Basketball has made the three-point shot a focal point, rather than an option to offer more spacing for big men and slashers. This season, the Blues’ men’s team is averaging 23.1 three-point attempts per game, while the women’s team is averaging 19.6 attempts per game, with each team sinking 7.9 and 4.4.
In the majority of these games, almost every active player attempted a three-pointer. This new norm has helped the Blues, who, like the Warriors, have built their rosters by focusing on more finesse. With the exception of three players on the men’s team, no one on the roster exceeds 6’5”; on the women’s team, with the exception of one player, no one on the roster exceeds 6’0”.
The game of basketball has gradually shifted from a focus on big players, to the increasing need for the three-point shot. The 2015 Warriors proved that a team brimming with three-point specialists can win championships. This style of play is spreading across almost all leagues, including the CIS and our own Varsity Blues. The Blues also deploy a sizeable number of smaller players. An example of how the game has changed, and how adopting the three-point shot is crucial for success in today’s game.