The slow death of the 3-ball in Sacramento

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If recent data holds true, 3-pointers by the Sacramento Kings are facing extinction. There’s still time to reverse fate, but buzzards are circling Sleep Train Arena.

Through 43 games, the Kings are making 5.2 3-pointers a game this season. It’s the lowest total for the team since the 1996-97 season, when they made five per contest. Sacramento is attempting 15.7 per game, which is currently 29th in the NBA, for a nauseating 33.2 percent success rate.

It’s an alarming trend for a bottom-dwelling club desperately trying to get its head above water. Critics rightfully point first to the Kings’ porous defense, but that is simply one of many issues. Without the 3-ball, Sacramento has coincidentally struggled with spacing and predictable offensive sets, not to mention keeping pace in uptempo shootouts.

Of course, when the Kings were playing defense, the lack of 3’s were less of a problem. In 24 games with Michael Malone this season, Sacramento shot and made even less triples per match, launching 14.3 and hitting 4.8, which would rank the team dead-last today. But the Kings were holding opponents under 100 points per game, something the organization can only dream about now.

With Tyrone Corbin in charge, the Kings have upped their attempts and makes to 16.9 and 5.6 respectively. Their accuracy from the behind the arc has improved a measly fraction of a percent, from 33.1 to 33.3.

The decline in the Kings’ 3-ball has been startling and rapid. Just two years ago, Sacramento set franchise records for 3-pointers tried (20.5) and converted (7.4) per game. It’s hard to accept that a professional basketball team could forget to shoot from distance so quickly, but a look at the personnel and latest overhauls explain more.

The 2012-13 Kings roster, coached by Keith Smart, featured many gunners willing to launch from deep. Marcus Thornton led the crew with 5.3 attempts and two makes a night, while Patrick Patterson, Jimmer Fredette, Toney Douglas, Aaron Brooks , John Salmons, Francisco Garcia and Isaiah Thomas all shot over 35 percent from behind the arc. Even Tyreke Evans was encouraged to chuck 3’s, as his two shots per game attested.

For better or worse, the team was ripped apart through major trades to resemble its form now. The modern Kings are a more versatile roster, but much too thin for floor-spacers.

The only Kings shooting over 30 percent from deep who regularly take them are Ben McLemore (35.4), Darren Collison (36.8) and Rudy Gay (37.8). The trio have accounted for 70 percent of Sacramento’s 3-point attempts. The rest of the squad is 56-for-221 (26.7 percent).

Offseason imports Omri Casspi and Ramon Sessions entered the season as 30+ percent 3-shooters for their NBA careers, yet both have lost confidence downtown. Prospects Derrick Williams and Ray McCallum were already characterized as shaky long range scorers, and have enforced the notion. The biggest disappointment has been rookie eighth pick Nik Stauskas, who made a name for himself at Michigan and on Youtube as a deadeye shooter, but has failed to find a rhythm.

In retrospect, dumping snipers Jason Terry and Wayne Ellington in the offseason may have been a mistake. The Kings front office is clearly looking to retool, beginning with February’s trade deadline, but besides adding a stopper, acquiring a shooter or two, or three, may be the only thing that resuscitates Peja Stojakovic’s patented weapon.

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About: Rui Thomas

Rui Thomas is a writer and reporter for Cowbell Kingdom. He previously covered the Sacramento Kings and the NBA for Sports Out West. He is published by Sports Illustrated’s Truth and Rumors and Yahoo Sports NFL among others.