VIDEO: Kyrie Irving mostly struggled from deep in 2015-16
By Ben Leibowitz, Special to NBA.com
Reigning Kia MVP Stephen Curry brought new meaning to the term “3-point sharpshooter” throughout 2015-16. The Golden State Warriors point guard obliterated the NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a season (286) that he set a season ago by draining an astonishing 402 treys.
But while Curry drained threes with Pop-A-Shot-like mastery, other league stars regressed in terms of efficiency from downtown.
PointAfter, a sports data visualization site that’s part of the Graphiq network, examined NBA players who attempted at least 80 3-pointers in each of the last two seasons to determine who slumped most season-over-season. While the players we highlighted aren’t the absolute bottom of the barrel by drop in 3-point percentage, they’re some of the league’s elite. That’s what makes their prolonged regression from deep so befuddling.
5. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
2014-15 3-point percentage: 35.4 percent
2015-16 3P%: 30.9 percent
Percent Difference: -4.5 percent
To his credit, LeBron James really locked in from beyond the arc after the All-Star Game.
After shooting an ugly 27.7 percent from distance prior to NBA All-Star 2016, James drained a highly respectable 37.9 percent of his triples thereafter. Unfortunately for “The King”, that 25-game shooting surge wasn’t enough to prevent an overall down year from 3-point territory.
James isn’t known for his 3-point shooting, but a dip down to 30.9 percent on the season wasn’t ideal. He’s now been on a steady decline since topping out at 40.6 percent for the Miami Heat in 2012-13.
4. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
2014-15 3-point percentage: 37.8 percent
2015-16 3-point percentage: 31.2 percent
Percent Difference: -6.6 percent
Although Jimmy Butler sunk a higher percentage of his 3-pointers than James, he also saw his efficiency from downtown regress after his breakout campaign of 2014-15. Last year, “Jimmy Buckets” made his first All-Star team and won Kia Most Improved Player.
The Chicago Bulls’ top scorer actually managed to average slightly more points per game this season, but his roller coaster of inconsistency continued from beyond the arc.
Butler has continually followed up a stellar outside shooting season with a poor one. That might be nitpicking, because he’s a tremendous scorer and an elite defender. Still, Bulls fans would surely enjoy some consistency from Butler on his 3-pointers.
3. Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs
2014-15 3-point percentage: 41.8 percent
2015-16 3-point percentage: 33.2 percent
Percent Difference: -8.6 percent
In his first season after signing a four-year, $45 million contract, Danny Green didn’t exactly live up to expectations. Touted as one of the league’s premier “three-and-D” free-agent wing players last summer, Green’s excellence from 3-point range disappeared.
After making at least 41 percent of his 3-point attempts for four consecutive seasons, the Green shot just 33.2 percent on 3-pointers this season. It was the lowest mark since his rookie year, when he played 20 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Green’s defensive prowess at least keeps him a playable part of San Antonio’s rotation, but his 3-point cold snap has to be of some concern. The 28-year-old made just 25.8 percent of his 3-pointers in March and wasn’t much better in April (28.6 percent).
In short, he’s been a shell of himself as a shooter this season.
2. Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks
2014-15 3-point percentage: 49.2 percent
2015-16 3-point percentage: 39.9 percent
Percent Difference: -9.3 percent
Last season, Kyle Korver flirted with what would have been the league’s first ever 50-50-90 season (he shot 48.7 percent overall, 49.2 percent from 3-point range and 89.8 percent from the free throw line). He made the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the first time in his career (as an injury replacement) and continued to establish his standing as one of the league’s truly elite catch-and-shoot snipers.
But several obstacles got in the way of Korver between last season and this one. He underwent right ankle surgery in May to repair ligament damage that occurred when the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Matthew Dellavedova rolled into his foot in the Eastern Conference finals. After that, Korver had a second surgery to remove loose bodies from his shooting elbow.
Getting back to his old self after that shouldn’t have been deemed feasible, but a 9.3-percent drop-off is still rather alarming for a shooter as talented as Korver.
1. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
2014-15 3-point percentage: 41.5 percent
2015-16 3-point percentage: 32.1 percent
Percent Difference: -9.4
For as much as Korver struggled relative to his masterful 2014-15 season, Kyrie Irving was worse. Not only did his percentage drop more than Korver’s, but Irving also made just 32.1 percent of his 3-pointers — ranking him No. 131 among qualified players, behind lesser shooters like Phoenix’s P.J. Tucker, Philadelphia’s Ish Smith and Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio.
Since Irving entered the league, 3-point shooting has been one of his primary offensive weapons. That wasn’t the case this season.
Despite the shooting woes of Irving and James, Cleveland still managed to rank tied for No. 7 in 3-point percentage (36.2 percent). If he and James can catch fire in the postseason, the Cavs’ road back to the NBA Finals will be much easier.
This article was originally published on PointAfter (https://basketball-players.pointafter.com/stories/12614/nba-stars-who-lost-outside-shooting-touch), a partner of NBA.com.
Ben Leibowitz is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that’s part of the Graphiq network. Visit PointAfter to get all the information about NBA Players, NBA Historical Teams and dozens of other topics.