For the past few years, we’ve just been hearing about three-point records getting broken. In ’87/’88, Larry Bird, the three-time 3pt shootout winner, took 3.1 threes a game and dropped 41.4% of them. In ’20/’21, guys taking 3.1 threes per game are Joel Embiid (36.8%), Solomon Hill (32.3%), and Deni Avdija (31.5), to name a few. If he were playing today, Bird would’ve probably shot something like 8 threes a game, in the range of Paul George this season, who is making 41.8% – a bit better than Bird in ’87/’88.
But the fascination with threes made it seem like the only way to dominate in today’s NBA is to shoot a lot from behind the arc. One guy defies that perception and proves that you can still dominate the game on the inside with a simple layup. To put things into perspective, in 2013, Ethan Sherwood Strauss wrote a story titled “The layup masters.” At no.1, we had LeBron James, who made 250 layups in ’12/’13 (70% out of 357 attempts). This year and the regular season ain’t over yet, Giannis is at 243. With that number, he is miles away from the no.1 guy in the NBA.
Williamson is shooting 29.4% from three this year – not a good percentage. Despite that, his overall FG% is an insane 61.1%. Why? Zion knows what he’s good at. He is taking 0.6 threes a game and 16.2 attempts within the arc. A guy taking less than one three-pointer a game is dropping a highly efficient 27 per game, proving that he is a legitimate no.1 guy on a deadly offense. The combination of raw strength and athleticism with the softest of touch around the rim makes Zion a nightmare for every defense in the NBA.
So when people wonder if Shaq would dominate in today’s NBA, they have their answer. The crazy thing is his basketball reincarnation appeared in a guy listed at 6’7”, 284lbs. Shaq’s Basketball-Reference page has him at 7’1”, 325lbs. The only difference is, when Shaq was playing like this, his teams were Finals contenders. In the era of the play-in, the Pelicans are a long shot even to make the Playoffs.
New Orleans needs to get their act together quick, or they’ll be reading about trade requests real soon.