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November 21, 2012
Three-Point Flukes
Defying Expectations

by Dan Feldman


Early-season numbers can mislead for, among other reasons, wide variations in defenses faced. That's why I believe three-point shooting can be one of the few telling stats so far. Plenty of research has indicated that three-point percentage is fairly defense-independent.

Of course, sample-size issues still apply, but if we assume shooting will revert to the mean over time--specifically, in this case, SCHOENE projected three-point percentages--we can tell which early results are being skewed by "hot" or "cold" outside shooting.

The hottest three-point shooter in the league has been O.J. Mayo, who's shooting 58.2 percent and has made more than 13 "extra" three-pointers. He's followed by Kevin Martin, who's shooting 53.6 percent and has made more than 10 extra three-pointers. And, yes, J.R. Smith, ranks near the top of the list. He's the seventh-hottest three-point shooter so far.

On, the other hand, Danilo Gallinari has made nearly nine fewer three-pointers than projected, making him the "coldest" outside shooter in the league.

Here's how every player performs by this measure. By default, the chart shows players who are at least five made three-pointers from their expected number, but you can adjust the bar to show more or fewer players.

Evan Fournier (2-for-8), Chris Copeland (1-for-2), James White (1-for-1) and Tornike Shengelia (1-for-1) don't have projected three-point percentages, so their numbers are omitted.

On a team level, surprisingly, the Knicks are not the hottest team. That honor goes to the Mavericks and Thunder, who've each made nearly 15 more three-pointers than projected. New York ranks fifth.

The Warriors, by a wide margin, rank as the coldest team. Golden State features a few players among the league's coldest individually: Klay Thompson (second), Stephen Curry (fourth) and Richard Jefferson (11th).

Here's how each team ranks:

The Warriors have already cost themselves nearly two Pythagorean wins solely due to the 56 points they've lost due to sub-projected three-point shooting.

On the other hand, the Mavericks, Thunder, Heat and Trail Blazers have each gained between one and two wins.

Perhaps, though, this is somewhat good news for the Warriors and bad news for the Mavericks going forward, at least relative to where they stand now. If their three-point shooting reverts to the mean, the Warriors would improve and the Mavericks would regress.

Still, nothing can take away these hot and cold starts.

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Dan Feldman is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Dan by clicking here or click here to see Dan's other articles.

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Premium Article Cowboys Up (11/21)
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As Sweet by Any Speed (11/21)

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2013-01-26 - Last All-Star: Current Droughts
2013-01-04 - Bad Company: Old, Unsuccessful Teams
2012-11-21 - Three-Point Flukes: Defying Expectations
2012-08-13 - Premium Article Big Fours: Ranking the Lakers' Stars
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2012-06-28 - NBA Draft: Who should they take?

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