The Los Angeles Clippers are making the right moves as they acquired Milwaukee Bucks guard J.J. Redick and Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley. Both of these guys shoot three point shots better than who the Clippers gave up in Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler. Redick and Dudley averaged 39% and 40% from three point territory, while Bledsoe and Butler averaged 30% and 33% respectively. In addition, Redick and Dudley’s combined three point attempts are double Bledsoe and Butler’s attempts. The importance of the three point shot is that teams are recognizing that threes, especially corner threes, and attempts at the rim are the most efficient shots to take, with long range jump shots being the worst. After all, a shot is still worth two points whether a player dunks the ball or shoots a 20-foot jumper.
Three-point shooters are also important for floor spacing. The three-point arc is about 23.75 feet away from the rim to the top of the key and 22 feet at the corners. If a team has one post player surrounded by four wing players who can shoot the three, it makes it more difficult for the defense to double team the post player. If the defense double teams the post, the center can kick the ball out to a teammate for an open three compared to another player below the three-point arc. That’s how the Orlando Magic made it to the NBA Finals in 2009. Their lineup consisted of Jameer Nelson, Courtney Lee, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and Dwight Howard. Four of them could shoot the three ball. The Golden State Warriors crushed the Denver Nuggets after David Lee got injured, when they played small ball with the following lineup: Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Andrew Bogut. The Miami Heat had two huge comebacks in Games 2 and 6 of the Finals when Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were both on the bench. Their comeback lineup was Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Mike Miller, LeBron James, and Chris Andersen. In Game 2, the Heat turned a 62-61 point deficit into a 94-67 lead in just eight minutes. They outscored the San Antonio Spurs 33-5 in the second half. Notice a trend? Small ball is in, especially when a team has three or more players that can shoot triples.
The downside of small ball is rebounding. That’s where a small forward who can play power forward is key. James is the most excellent example. He led his team in rebounds. Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs averaged six rebounds last season and nine rebounds in the playoffs. I expect Dudley to be able to play power forward in a smaller lineup. During his Boston College career, he averaged about 7.25 rebounds per game. The Clippers can go small with Chris Paul, Redick, Matt Barnes, Dudley, and Blake Griffin, and I’m looking forward to next season.