Thursday, December 16, 2021

Three For All

Stephen Curry set the NBA's all-time record for three-pointers in a career Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, when he passed Ray Allen with his 2,974th three.

The Knicks' fans seemed to love the moment, which is a bit odd for TigerBlog, since as a long-time Knicks' fan, he still can't help but imagine what it would have been like had the Warriors not taken Curry with the seventh pick in the 2009 draft.

The Knicks had the eighth pick. TB wanted Curry to be that pick. So did all Knick fans. As TB has said for years, drafts are the biggest waste of time and money, as after all of that preparation, teams still miss so badly on high picks all the time. Were TB an NFL GM, he would always trade down to get as many mid-round picks as he could. It's a volume business. The more you pick, the more likely you are to strike gold.

In the NBA, there are a handful of can't-miss guys, but they are few and far between. The real difference makers in the league aren't usually picked in the top five. Look at Giannis Antetokoumpo. He was the 15th pick in the 2013 draft. You know who was picked before him? Shabazz Muhammed, who averaged nine points a game over six seasons and is out of the league. Before Muhammed was Kelly Olynk. Before him, it was Steven Adams.

How much scouting went into those choices? The same as in 2009. Here's how that went:

The first pick was Blake Griffin. Picks 2-4 were Hasheem Thabeet, James Harden, Tyreke Evans. TB watched the draft, and he hoped Curry would last to eight. Pick 5? Ricky Rubio. Pick 6? Jonny Flynn. Now it was time for the seventh pick. And it was ... Curry, excruciatingly.

Earlier Tuesday, TigerBlog was in the Office of Athletic Communications, talking to his colleagues Elliott Carr and Warren Croxton about Curry. He asked if they knew who the Knicks took at No. 8. The answer? Jordan Hill, who played 252 more minutes for the Knicks than you did (unless Bill Bradley is reading this, in which case you played 22,547 more minutes than Hill did).

The point is that who knows how the Knicks might have been different these last 13 seasons if they had Curry. Oh well.

The three-point record to TB is a bit insignificant, given how many more are shot in the NBA today than were when it first came along in 1979. There aren't too many records these days where the number is simply known. If you're TigerBlog's age, you recognize numbers like 714, 29-2 1/2 feet and 56. Those were real records.

Princeton has always valued the three-point shot in men's basketball. It began in the 1986-87 season (as TB recalls, Dave Orlandini made the first one). 

In the 1986-87 season, Princeton made 143 three-pointers. In the NBA that year, teams averaged 117 three-pointers per team for the year.

If you don't feel like doing the math, Princeton made 143 three-pointers in 25 games, or an average of 5.72 makes per game. In the NBA, the teams averaged 117 for the season in 82 games, which comes to 1.43 per game.

Pete Carril said early on that he'd take three points instead of two for shots his team had been taking for years. TB does not remember hearing Carril use the word analytics.

And if you're wondering, Princeton men's basketball has made 7,581 three-pointers in its history. TigerBlog has no idea where that stands compared to other Division I teams, but it certainly seems like a lot.

He does know that Princeton has made at least one three-pointer in every game it's played since the rule was enacted. He believes there are only two teams who have done so, Princeton and UNLV. Or maybe Georgia Tech. He's lost track.

You can't think about three-pointers and Princeton and not wonder what Bill Bradley would have done had he had the chance to get three instead of two. Bradley scored 2,503 points in three varsity seasons with no three-point shot. You have to figure he would have made a serious run at 3,000 points with it.

The all-time leader in three-pointers made at Princeton is Brian Earl, with 281. Princeton has had six players reach 200 career three-pointers made. Can you name them? 

TB will do it for you this time:

Brian Earl - 281
Douglas Davis - 276
Devin Cannady - 268
Sean Jackson - 235
Gabe Lewullis - 212
Spencer Weisz -209


Steven J. Feldman '68 said...

Princeton and UNLV are the only college teams to have made a three-pointer in every game since three-pointers began. Vanderbilt's streak ended in 2020.

Richard Woodward said...

Vanderbilt had been the other team who had had at least one 3-point FG in every game, but that streak ended in January 2020. UNLV had a game within the past three years in which they hadn't made a 3-point FG, but came through in the last 30 seconds.

I don't know how many games there have been in which Princeton has had only one 3-point FG, but I was there for one of those on January 5, 2005 at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium. Luke Owings was the one who kept the string alive. The Tigers made one of 15 3-point attempts.