Purdue is shooting the 3, a lot.
The Boilermakers have jumped out to an 11-0 start, but the differences from this year's team and last years go further than that. They're not just handling their non-conference games this year with ease, but playing an entirely different kind of basketball on the offensive end. Last year's Boilermaker team's most prolific three point shooting games saw them shooting 26 three pointers twice - a loss against Minnesota, and a loss against Cincinnati in the NCAA tournament.
This year, the Boilers have already attempted 26 or more three pointers in 5 of their first 11 games including 3 games where they've shot more than 30 three pointers. Purdue set the school record for made 3's in the second game of the season, connecting on 18 of their season-high 36 three point attempts against Vermont.
This isn't an accident or an aberration. This was Coach Painter's plan when he retooled his recruiting to go after the best shooters in the Midwest. For three straight years he has bagged his man, bringing in Kendall Stephens three years ago, Dakota Mathias last year, and the runner-up to Mr. Basketball in Indiana, Ryan Cline. To go along with the known sharp-shooters, Painter has brought in two forwards capable of extending defenses in sophomore Vince Edwards and Mr. Basketball Caleb Swanigan.
Along with bringing in more shooters, Purdue's returning players have all improved their 3 point stroke. Senior Rapheal Davis made strides towards the end of the season with his long-range shot, but still only made 18 3-pointers for the season. This year, despite missing 4 games to a knee injury, he's already made 11 3-pointers on just 22 attempts. P. J. Thompson was a woeful 29% from 3 last year, but has looked more comfortable this year from deep making 36% of his 3-pointers. Dakota Mathias has had a modest uptick in his 3 point percentage to 36% on the year.
The amazing thing is that last year's only real consistent deep threat, Kendall Stephens, has been extremely streaky to start the season, and sits at just 35% from deep, a decline from his team best 38% last year. As a freshman, Stephens shot 37% from deep, and has lead the team in attempts and makes both years. It's reasonable to assume he will find his way back up to the above 37% for the third straight year while leading the teams in attempts and makes.
True freshman Ryan Cline actually leads the trio of best shooters in their class in three point percentage, connecting on 42% of his 41 attempts.
As a team, we're shooting 37.3% from three, 77th best in the nation. Last year, our 32,8% shooting was 238th in the nation. That's a dramatic increase, but there is still a lot of yearning for more drives and getting it inside. Which I understand, in theory it is a sound wish. Closer shots go in more often, and we've still had some games where we couldn't get the lid off the basket. But that's the wrong reaction to have.
We need to keep shooting from deep. We have two post anchors in Hammons and Haas, who occupy the paint and keep the lane clogged and the perimeter open. We don't have the athletes to constantly attack the hoop. Hill and Davis are the Boiler's only two threats to get to the hoop(and occasionally Edwards), a task that gets exponentially harder when the opposing center is near the basket trying to hold position against our Goliaths. The motion offense relies on constant motion, and with cutters always moving through the paint and around screens, there's even less chance to get a clean lane to the rim.
Haas and Hammons need the lane to operate, and those post-ups are taking away more drives than the 3-point shooting. The fact is, players like Cline, Mathias, Thompson, and Stephens have shown the ability to make shots, move smartly, and complete smart passes, but none of them are a threat with the ball in their hand, dribbling towards the hoop. They're shooters that should keep shooting.
Dakota's pump-faking to worse shots.
Dakota is shooting 36% from 3. Dakota is 2 of 13 on shots inside the arc. That's 15%. So it is becoming increasingly frustrating to see him pump-fake his way out of a semi-open 3 to settle for a one dribble pull-up just inside the three point line that clinks hard off the back of the rim.
You know what they call that shot in NBA circles? The Dion Waiters. It is never good to be like Dion Waiters on a basketball court.
Long 2's are the worst shots in basketball, and shots off the dribble are much harder than catch and shoot threes. And it's not like there's a threat of Dakota getting all the way to the basket off the dribble. He's shown no ability to get past a defense, even if his defender is flying by him. He has to either go up with the three immediately or take another dribble further into the defense after the fake and find a perimeter player who can take advantage of a scrambling defense better than he can.
This Starting 5 is here to stay.
While Haas over Hammons at first seemed to be a disciplinary thing, it's now much more about a basketball fit. The fact is, Purdue's best offense player can't really share the floor with it's best defensive player. So it makes much more sense to put Haas on the floor with the best set of wing defenders we have, while keeping Hammons on the bench to play with our worst. Haas has improved tremendously on defense, about as much as Hammons has offensively, but he's still not up to Hammons level at making up for defenders getting blown by off the dribble and Hammons doesn't draw the fouls or attention Haas does in the deep post.
Haas does a great job getting right under the basket, leaving a little more room for the players around him to maneuver, while Hammons prefers the ball with one foot out of the paint and needs the extra space sharp-shooters like Cline and Stephens creates to get his hook shot and counters off.
Thompson also is needed to go with the slightly weaker shooting in the same way Hill's length and athleticism is needed with weaker wing defenders on the court. Johnny Hill gets absolutely left alone on the perimeter, and that can be death for an offense if you don't have spacing everywhere else on the court. Hill does a good job attacking with the ball, and cutting with out it, to mitigate his lack of shooting, but Thompson just can't be left alone in the same way Hill can. The rotation just fits a lot nicer this way.