What were the most wasteful three-point shooting seasons in history, and how does one come to such a determination?
Abraham Lincoln once said, "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."
We can apply that same logic to three-point chuckers: It is better to be thought a horrible shot and not shoot than to chuck up a gazillion of them and remove all doubt.
Being a chucker doesn't consist just of being unable to hit a shot from long, but it means the incessant and burning need of a player to prove he can hit the shot in spite of the overwhelming proof to the contrary.
Career sojourner Michael Cage, who played 15 years, has the NBA record for most three-point attempts without ever having one pass through the net, but that was just 25. Cage might not have made a shot, but he was under no illusion that he could.
No, the worst shooters need a different measure. These are the ones who shoot badly and often.
To determine that, I looked at the 100 players who attempted the most shots while netting less than 30 percent of them. This is well below the total NBA average of 34.8 percent since the inception of the deep ball.
That gave me a list of players who met both criteria of shooting awfully and frequently.
From there, I determined which players were actually costing their team the most points by their horrendous hurling. Assuming that even a respectable three-point shooter picked up off the waiver wire could make a third of his shots, I calculated how many points a replacement player would score with the same shots, then subtracted the number of points per game a player was "costing" his team by his atrocious shooting.
The technical formulas is [(3PA/3*3)-(3P*3)]/G
That gave me the points per game expected off the attempts. I subtracted the actual points per game, giving me points cost per game. That is what is listed on the following slides.
Based on that, here are the 10 worst three-point seasons in the history of the game.
In 1989, while still with the Philadelphia 76ers, Charles Barkley put the chuck in Chuck. He tossed up 162 threes that season, and all of 35 actually parted nylon, "netting" him a 21.4 percent rate, the lowest of anyone on this list.
But at least he did limit his "upchucking" to a degree. His 2.1 shots are also the lowest on this list, so he only cost his team .72 points per game with his delusion that he could shoot.
The season ended, but not his delusion he could bury the trey. Over the course of his career, Barkley kept tossing them up and watching them clang off the rim. In all, he shot 2,020 deep balls and only 26.6 percent of them went in. No player with 2,000 attempts is even close to that bad.
Mike Evans was not typically a bad three-point shooter. In fact, during the 1984 season, he finished second in three-point percentage (36.0), and in 1985, he finished fifth (36.3). He finished third during both of those years in total makes.
Yet in 1986, he was atrocious, making just 22.2 percent of his shots, at a .73 point-per-game detriment to his team. He rebounded marginally in 1987, making 31.4 percent of his shots, then ended his career in 1988 with a career-high 39.6 percent, at the time the 35th-best season in history.
Neither his Wikipedia page nor a Google search reveal what happened during his down season, whether it was an injury or coaching philosophy.
Regardless of what it was though, it proves you can’t judge a player based on a single season.
In 2002, the Memphis Grizzlies were just getting used to the idea of being in Memphis. And they were awful. Downright, horribly, terribly, grotesquely, morbidly awful. They just notched 23 wins on the season.
Perhaps that's why Jason Williams felt the freedom to toss up treys with the kind of reckless abandon normally reserved for the Cookie Monster feasting in the Nabisco Tree House, costing his team .75 points a contest.
Williams attempted 6.6 shots per game that year, and he made only 29.5 percent of them. At least he helped them tank, though, right?
Wrong! The Grizzlies had traded that pick away to the Detroit Pistons back in 1997 for the 35-year-old Otis Thorpe. Thorpe went on to have a 47-game career with the Grizzlies before being swapped for Michael Smith and Bobby Hurley, who also had brief and unimpressive careers with the franchise.
In 2000, Antoine Walker of the Boston Celtics had what would prove to be the worst three-point shooting year of his career, making just 25.6 percent of them. That didn't stop him from trying though.
He lobbed up 285 three-point attempts on the season, just seven off his career high to that point. That cost the C’s .80 points a game.
Who would have then thought that it would be a good idea for him to attempt a league-high 603 the next year? Yet he made 221, also a league high.
Walker is another example of a player who can’t be judged by a single season. His three best years, 2001 through 2003, he shot 34.5 percent from deep, attempting a mind-blowing 1,830 shots. The rest of his 13-year career, he shot just 31 percent, making 755 shots.
While Walker has certainly "earned" his way onto this list, his best years shouldn't be forgotten because of the catastrophic ones.
You know why Latrell Sprewell misses so many threes? Because he chokes! (Sprewell jokes will never get old.)
It's probably not a shock that he, under the "guidance" of Don Nelson would appear on this list. You’d figure that someone would shoot often enough and bad enough under Nellie to get here.
Sprewell went on a three-point shooting spree that didn't go well in 1995 when he made just 90 of his 326 attempts, a meager 27.6 percent, which cost his team .81 points a game in the process.
Jokes aside, he was generally a better three-point shooter than his presence on this list might indicate, as he shot a relatively respectable 34.4 percent outside of the one horrid year.
Remember him? From all the way back in eighth? Jason Williams has the distinction of being the only player to make this list twice.
Not only that, he did it with two different teams. In 2000 it was with the Sacramento Kings, tallying just 1.8 makes a contest out of 6.2 tries, costing his team .86 points per game in the process.
Over the three-year span that encompassed both appearances on the list, Williams went on such an egregious brick-barrage, it’s amazing he didn't Cask of Amontillado his own career. He attempted 5.6 shots during that span and drained them at a meager 29.7 percent rate.
He did bounce back though, making 34.7 percent for the remainder of his career.
Tony Wroten of the Philadelphia 76ers is shooting the deep ball so badly, he may want to consider changing the pronunciation of his surname form "wrote-in" to "rotten." Of the 123 deep balls attempted, only 30 have resulted in points.
When he's shooting from two, he’s not nearly so bad, making 47.6 percent of his shots. So, he's not a bad scorer, he's just a bad three-point shooter.
In fact, he's a pretty solid player overall. He's averaging 19.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists per 36 minutes. Those are fine numbers, and if he can get that rotten three-point shooting up, he could be "wrote in" on All-Star ballots.
He's an emerging player with a bright future, and he has a great chance to end up being one of the players on this list who has a better finish than start.
Did you know the original name for Pearl Jam was Mookie Blaylock, because he was their favorite player? Not that it really applies here, but it's a cool piece of trivia. You’ll never know what you’re going to learn when you research these pieces.
Blaylock was generally a solid, or even good, three-point shooter for his career, but in 1998, he was horrid. Ironically, Pearl Jam released their album, Yield the same year. Perhaps that's what Blaylock should have done to the long ball.
He made just 90 of his 334 attempts, only 26.9 percent of them. He shot 36.6 percent just the season before, so that, combined with the fact he missed 12 games, suggests that there may have been an injury impacting his shot, although I couldn't find the specifics.
Perhaps Pearl Jam would know? If you’re out there, Eddie Vedder, give me a call. We can have lunch, and you can fill me in on the details.
Michael Adams had a historic season in 1991 with the Denver Nuggets for three reasons:
First, he became just the third player in NBA history to average 25 points and 10 assists per game as he hit 26.9 and 10.6 that year. That's quite an amazing feat.
Second, he threw up a surreal 8.5 three-point attempts per game, third most all-time.
Third, though it’s forgivable that he also had the second-worst three-point shooting season by this metric, making just 29.6 percent of his attempts. That subpar three-point shooting combined with the volume cost his team .95 points per game.
So why is it that Adams had such a massive season on so many counts, but no one ever talks about him? Perhaps it's because his Nuggets were only 20-62, or maybe it's because he never came close to those insane numbers again.
Either way, it's one of the most underrated single seasons in the history of the league. He didn't even make the All-Star Game or get a single MVP vote.
Admit it, you knew Josh Smith of the Detroit Pistons was going to be on here. If his picture on the front slide didn’t give it away, common sense did. But did you know he was having the absolutely worst three-point season in history this year?
He’s not just the worst, his full point per game that he costs his team is setting a new benchmark in bad. That’s because Smith’s situation in Detroit is the perfect storm for three-point terror waiting to happen.
He’s a bad three-point shooter, who wants to prove himself, can’t, but is being encouraged to do so anyway.
Joe Dumars has inserted Smith into a frontcourt that is utterly incompetent outside of the paint. As a group, Smith, along with power forward, Greg Monroe and center, Andre Drummond, are a collective 252-of-761 outside of the paint, per their shot charts at NBA.com/STATS. (Just click on the players' field-goal attempts and select shot chart).
Smith might not be a good shooter, but he's the least-bad shooter of the three, so he gets encouraged to shoot. It's like putting Oliver Miller in a bakery and encouraging him to eat to his heart’s content. The results are going to be predictable.
So, Smith has been throwing up deep balls at a rate that makes Detroit fans want to just throw up. Of the 158 shots he's propelled in the general direction of the basket, only 38 of them, 24.1 percent, counted for points.
This is catastrophe by design, and the only solution is that one of the three players gets traded. There’s no way that any of the three is ever going to stretch the court. Missing more than three-quarters of your deep balls just doesn't do that.
Smith might be the one missing the shots, but Dumars should get the blame for assembling a dysfunctional team.