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February 8, 2011, 08:41 PM ET
A Different Look at the Three-Point Leaderboard

by Kevin Pelton

The NBA announced the competitors for the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest on Tuesday, and much of the discussion since then has centered on two players who were omitted: Matt Bonner and Shawne Williams, the league’s leaders in three-point percentage and the lone players in the NBA making more than half of their attempts from beyond the arc. Here’s the thing, though. Odds are that Williams in particular–a career 30.6 percent three-point shooter prior to being out of the league last season–is not as good as his early performance indicates. After all, Williams has attempted just 87 three-pointers, so we’d expect some regression to the mean the rest of the way.

There are a few different ways we can account for regression to the mean. The way I like to do it is as a confidence interval of sorts. Based on a player’s three-point percentage and attempts, we can look at the lower end of the two-standard deviation confidence interval, which is essentially the lowest estimate we would really believe for a player’s “true” three-point percentage. The more attempts a player has, the more confident we are that their observed three-point percentage is real. Here’s the leaderboard this method produces:

Player               Tm    Conf     3P%    3PA

Matt Bonner         SAN    .413    .504    119
Ray Allen           BOS    .399    .462    249
Shawne Williams     NYK    .399    .506     87
Mike Bibby          ATL    .377    .443    228
Arron Afflalo       DEN    .376    .449    185
Chauncey Billups    DEN    .375    .442    217
Daniel Gibson       CLE    .365    .439    180
Chris Paul          NOH    .362    .452    124
James Jones         MIA    .359    .427    213
Kevin Love          MIN    .355    .434    159

This method doesn’t completely take the air out of Williams’ high-percentage shooting, as he still ranks third in the league, but Ray Allen rises above him and to within striking distance of Bonner thanks to his frequent attempts. The player who drops the farthest in the rankings is actually Chris Paul, who falls from fourth to eighth. Paul is just barely ahead of several other players with more three-point attempts. For the most part, this group is similar to the league’s top 10, but it puts a little more emphasis on volume as well as accuracy.

The Three-Point Contest features three of our top 10. Dorell Wright (.353) ranks 12th, Paul Pierce (.328) is 27th and Kevin Durant (.286) is a distant 85th.

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