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A Study on Bigs Who Shoot Threes, Part 1

With the addition of Spencer Hawes to the Clippers, a 7'1" center who made 41.6% of the 308 threes he shot last year, alongside rumors of Blake Griffin adding the corner three to his arsenal, it's time we took a look at Bigs Who Shoot Threes.

Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports


As part of my job, I frequently work with companies to help them discover useful information hidden within dozens of years of accounting data. I use a number of complex analytical and graphical programs to perform this work. And to help me further my abilities with these tools, I frequently get to demonstrate their capabilities with datasets of my choosing.

Well, when our Fearless Leader Steve Perrin came up with the idea to look at the progression of these Bigs Who Shoot Threes, I realized that I had already put much of this data into my programs as part of a demo from earlier in the summer. I could easily run a few analytics to try and find these answers.

Specifically, I had 5 years' worth of data, from the 2009-10 season to the 2013-14 season, for every single player in the league. I quickly filtered my data for seasons in which NBA players over 6'9" had shot more than 50+ three point attempts, which got me started in my analysis.


As I noted before, when Steve brought up this idea we wanted to look at the progression of Bigs Who Shoot Threes over time. That is, we wanted to determine if adding three point range provided a benefit, detriment, or any other effect on their overall game.

Well, I should mention right off the bat that the initial results appeared somewhat inconclusive, so I'll be revisiting this study with a larger amount of data, hence the "Part 1" in the title. My goal would be to go back to 1990, but we'll see how feasible that is.

I put together my results in a series of tables showing the yearly progression of 6 different attributes that I deemed worth looking into as these big men increased their three point shooting:

  • Three Point Attempts ("3PA")
  • Three Point Percentage ("3P%")
  • Blocks per 36 Minutes ("BLK/36")
  • Points per 36 Minutes ("PTS/36")
  • Total Rebounds per 36 Minutes ("TRB/36")
  • True Shooting Percentage ("TS%")

When necessary, I'll make certain players' lines highlighted, with a little arrow next to their name. Hopefully, this is easy enough to follow.

Initial Results

First, I looked at a few of these players who went from shooting a moderate amount of threes (~100 or less) to a larger amount of threes (200+).

1 BSWT - Increased

As you can see, there's not much of a correlation in any of the other categories, over this 5 year period, when these players increased their 3PA. Not to be deterred, I decided that if I couldn't answer the initial question I meant to answer, I would at least find some players to compare to the Clippers' new big man Spencer Hawes (and maybe one day, Blake Griffin, if he decides to shoot threes).

Compared to the Competition

I picked 7 other players to compare to Hawes, some good and some bad: Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Smith, Kevin Love, Ryan Anderson, and Serge Ibaka.  Here are graphs showing where Hawes lies among these players:

2.1 BSWT - 3PA - Spencer Hawes2
2.2 BSWT - 3P% - Spencer Hawes2
2.3 BSWT - BLK - Spencer Hawes2
2.4 BSWT - PTS - Spencer Hawes2
2.5 BSWT - TRB - Spencer Hawes2
2.6 BSWT - TS% - Spencer Hawes

Note that his trends seem to all be in the right directions. And note that he frequently does NOT show any correlation with Andrea Bargnani and Josh Smith, my "bad cases". As Bargs' and Smith's stats decline, Hawes' stats all rise. Hawes is right there with the most well-known NBA Bigs Who Shoot Threes, most of whom are starters.

Compared to the Rest (and the Best)

I also decided to compare Spencer Hawes to the rest of the NBA bigs who ever shot more than 50 threes in a season. In each category, I've highlighted where Hawes fits among the rest of the league. Also, each category had one outlier who was substantially different from the rest of the league, so I've highlighted them as well and put them side-by-side, just for fun.

3.1 BSWT - 3PA - Ryan Anderson vs Spencer Hawes2
3.2 BSWT - 3P% - Steve Novak vs Spencer Hawes2
3.3 BSWT - BLK - Serge Ibaka vs Spencer Hawes2
3.4 BSWT - PTS - Kevin Durant vs Spencer Hawes2
3.5 BSWT - TRB - Kevin Love vs Spencer Hawes2
3.6 BSWT - TS% - Steve Novak vs Spencer Hawes2

It's interesting to see that while Hawes wasn't really all that close to the outliers, he was still generally well above the average of the rest of the league's Bigs Who Shoot Threes.


As I said, the results were generally inconclusive, but there's definitely some interesting information to look at here. The more I look at Spencer Hawes statistically, the more excited I am that he's a Clipper. Let's just hope his on-court performance matches what the numbers say.