How Low Can They Go

Believe it or not, Spencer Hawes will be among the team’s best 3-point shooters this season.

1, 2…4, 5, Sixers. Philadelphia fans shouldn’t expect to see too many threes with the roster the team has assembled for Operation: First Overall Pick. Three-point shooting has never been a strength for the Sixers in recent years, often leading to one-dimensional players such as Jodie Meeks getting more minutes than warranted because of their ability to help the team in that area. Last season, the Sixers actually finished in the middle of the pack, tied for 13th in the league at 36.0%. However, the team’s top three shooters in Royal Ivey (42.0%), Dorell Wright (37.4%), and Jrue Holiday (36.8%) are all gone this season, after Sam Hinkie and company jettisoned the majority of players who would hinder Philadelphia from losing games this season.

The question we’ll examine is whether Philadelphia will be the worst three-point shooting team in the league, or even among the worst group historically. The worst team in league history (min. 200 attempts) was the 1990-91 Washington Bullets at 19.4% (guess they only carried short-range ammo). The last three seasons have seen Minnesota, Charlotte, and Toronto last in the league at 30.5%, 29.5%, and 31.6%, respectively. Let’s go through a simple projection analysis to see where the Sixers may end up among such prestigious company.

The team as a whole made 518 of their 1,438 3-point shot attempts last season, sitting in the bottom third in the league in attempts.  Given that Sam Hinkie values threes and shots at the rim more highly than the previous Sixers regime, it’s safe to say the team’s attempts will rise, but as a simple exercise, we’ll keep the attempts the same.  Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes are the only returning players who took a significant amount of threes last season (excluding Jason Richardson who is expected to be out for the year), combining for 87 of 246 (35.4%).  Any remaining attempts will be sucked up by James Anderson, Michael Carter-Williams, Tony Wroten, and whoever else they fill out the roster with such as Khalif Wyatt.  That group doesn’t exactly resemble a murderer’s row of dead-eye marksmen. 

Anderson has been a career 33.3% shooter in the NBA and Wroten shot 30.8% across the NBA and D-league in his rookie season.  Carter-Williams and Wyatt shot 29.2% and 35.8%, respectively, at the college level.  We’ll assume any improvements from shooting coaches at the professional level can offset the farther distance of the three-point line to keep their percentages consistent.  Plugging those percentages in evenly across the remaining 1,192 attempts not taken by Turner and Hawes, the Sixers project to shoot 32.8% as a team during the upcoming season. 

While these analytical methods are purely back-of-the-envelope, it’s safe to say that the team will be among the bottom teams in the league from behind the arc, even if not dead-last in the league. Certainly, at around 33%, the team will not be bad enough to reach historically poor levels of outside shooting efficiency. Still, with outside shooting projected to be among the worst in the NBA, combined with the absence of a post presence that has plagued the team for years, the Sixers are well-positioned to struggle offensively, essential in their quest to lose more games than any other franchise.

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