Mark Cuban says a longer three-point line is ‘worth looking at’
pulled up from 38 feet with seconds to spare to nail a game-winning three-pointer against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The MVP didn’t pull up from 14 feet in back of the three-point line because he had to – the man still had time to dribble in closer – he pulled up from there because he could.On Saturday night, millions watched as Golden State’s Stephen Curry
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In one swish – well, 12 swishes – Curry made it so Oscar Robertson picked the exact wrong week to criticize the aptitude of NBA coaches, and Curry’s abilities in comparison to, let’s just use a name here, Adrian Smith.
With the final swish, though, Curry may have lent credibility to the ideas of another man who spent part of his teenage years taking in his schooling in the basketball-mad state of Indiana. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, prior to his team’s overtime win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday, said he thinks the NBA should look into extended its three-point line. From ESPN Dallas:
“It’s getting too close,” the Dallas Mavericks owner said Friday night of the 3-point arc, which is 23 feet, 9 inches at the crest and 22 feet in the corners, where there is no room to move it back. “Guys are shooting a foot behind it anyways. … That’s something we should look at. It’s worth looking at.”
“I don’t think the number of shots would decline, but I think it would reward skill and open up the court some more. So guys would still take [3-point] shots if it’s seven inches back or whatever, but at the same time, it opens up the court for more drives, more midrange game.
“I think it’d open it up more so guys with different skill sets could play,” Cuban said. “It would open up play for more drives. Guys with midrange games would be rewarded and that would stay in the game. There would be more diversity of offensive action in the game.”
Cuban offered the NBA’s D-League as a proving ground for an extended line which, on paper seems like the right idea. Of course, with Stephen Curry’s brother Seth and Jimmer Fredette having been called up to the NBA, this would make for some ugly, ugly basketball.
The NBA has experimented before with this, going the opposite way and moving the line in to a uniform 22-feet from 1994-95 through 1996-97 in an attempt to both free up movement inside the lane and increase scoring with easier treys from outside of it.
The rationale made absolutely no sense – how would Nick Van Exel standing two feet closer to Vlade Divac help encourage interior movement (especially when Vlade wanted to be outside the line chucking treys as it was)? – and paired with the league’s refusal to enforce hand-check calls (to say nothing of the staid play calling of the day), the experiment went awry.
The NBA is on pace to shatter yet another record for three-pointers taken, though the league’s overall shooting percentage from out there has dipped down slightly to the ranks of 35 percent; due mostly to the increase in shots taken from behind the line. A lessened shooting percentage from long range, however, hasn’t dimmed overall offensive efficiency because, as you well know, a three-point shot is worth more than a two-point shot.
“Rewarding skill” comes close to demeaning the skill it takes to make a 24-foot shot on a 10-foot goal against NBA defense, and it should be noted that the Mavericks are fifth in overall three-pointers taken despite being the eighth-slowest team in the NBA in terms of pace. Cuban’s point is well-taken, though, as mid-range ball-movement and interior passing can make for gorgeous basketball. On par with Steph pulling up from 30 feet away.
Stephen Curry is the exception to the rule, here. While a seven-inch extension may not seem like much, all that would probably do is lessen three-point percentages while attitudes continued apace for an entire generation that grew up understanding that this was a necessary shot to add to one’s offensive arsenal. Players are still going to be toeing up just outside a 24-foot, three-inch line should Cuban’s experiment be put into place. They’re not going to automatically start whipping the ball around to create 18-foot jumpers, turning themselves into the 1973 New York Knicks.
(Who, by the way, would have spent a lifetime behind that line. All the around-the-world passing between Bill Bradley, Jerry Lucas, Dave DeBusschere and Willis Reed would have just taken place a foot farther away from the basket.)
(Though in 1999 Bradley was quoted as saying he’d like to see the NBA abolish the three-pointer so as to encourage ball movement, and I agreed with him. We all did a lot of silly things in our freshman year of college.)
The fact of the matter is the midrange aptitude of the modern NBA player is alive and well, players choose just not to utilize it. They’d rather work for shot attempts with better payoffs – a three, a shot right at the rim, or a chance to get to the free throw line. Just because players eschew 18-footers, it hardly means they can’t swish them. Jack White doesn’t play “Iron Man” at his concerts; it doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to play the riff.
Cuban is just spit-ballin’ here, which he often does – the sign of a restless and creative mind, absolutely nothing wrong with that. And, as is rarely the case, he doesn’t have a dog in this fight that he’s out to protect: Dirk Nowitzki, that mid-range legend, sadly only has a few years left.
The NBA needs to evolve as its players do. Kids that once grew up wanting to be the next Willie Mays or Joe Montana now want to be like Steph, and Kobe. When you have entire generations of athletes that list basketball as their favorite (and not fourth-favorite) sport you can’t help but see significant advancement to the game of choice. That’s a good thing, and the league has done well in the last 15 years of reacting to the shifting tides.
There was talk, 30 years ago, of raising the rim in the face of an era that featured teams looking to field two seven-footers at once. Now the league’s far-and-away best player wouldn’t seem out of place in a line at a burrito joint. One mustn’t overreact to the remarkable.
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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops