Prior to last season, I analyzed the eight 3-point shooters most in need of improvement and considered whether there was a reason for optimism heading into 2020-21. The eight were derived from the following criteria (per sports-reference):
- Returning player on a “Power 6” conference team
- >= 20 minutes per game
- >= 45 3PAs
- <= 25.0% from three
How did this group end up performing last season? Only two of the eight significantly improved from long-range.
Damien Jefferson (Creighton): 10-46 (21.7%) in 2019-20 — 32/92 (34.8%) in 2020-21
Both Gach (Utah / Minnesota): 30/120 (25.0%) — 21/76 (27.6%)
Casey Morsell (Virginia): 15/85 (27.7%) — 10/38 (26.3%)
Bryce Golden (Butler): 11/45 (24.4%) — 8/39 (20.5%)
Wabissa Bede (Virginia Tech): 14/63 (22.2%) — 12/49 (24.5%)
Rasheem Dunn (St. John’s) — 17/76 (22.4%) — 5/32 (15.6%)
Sam Waardenburg (Miami) — missed season due to injury
Quenton Jackson (Texas A&M): 19/78 (24.4%) — 23/56 (41.1%)
Which 3-point shooters are most in need of improvement this upcoming season? For whatever reason, a lot more shooters met the criteria, so I had to up the 3PAs from ’45’ to ’70’ to get a number comparable to the ‘eight’ two seasons ago. Revised criteria:
- Returning player on a Power 6 conference team
- >= 20 minutes per game
- >= 70 3PAs
- <= 25.0% from three
Here are the nine shooters most in need of improvement in 2021-22. Is there reason to expect any will have bounce-back seasons? I decided to limit my analysis to the first three players.
Fatts Russell (Rhode Island): 24/102 (23.5%) (Maryland transfer)
Tyger Campbell (UCLA): 18/72 (25.0%)
Gabe Kalscheur (Minnesota): 27/110 (24.5%)
Dalano Banton (Nebraska): 20/81 (24.7%)
Dajuan Gordon (Kansas State): 18/83 (21.7%) (Missouri transfer)
Selton Miguel (Kansas State): 20/89 (22.5%)
Myles Tate (Butler): 21/91 (23.1%)
Sahvir Wheeler (Georgia): 18/80 (22.5%) (Kentucky transfer)
Justin Minaya (South Carolina): 17/73 (23.3%)
Russell has shot 29.8% (3.9 attempts per game), 22.4% (5.6), 35.7% (5.6), and 23.5% (4.4) over his four collegiate seasons with Rhode Island. On the whole, he’s never been a good 3-point shooter. It seemed possible he had turned the corner after a solid junior campaign (35.7%), but things came back to earth last season (23.5%).
To be fair, some of Russell’s struggles have likely been driven by challenging shot selection. Only 47.8% of his made threes were assisted last season (per hoop-math), suggesting he took a lot of challenging off-the-dribble attempts (rather than assisted spot-up looks). For reference, Seattle had the lowest team “threes assist rate” last season at 65.1%, still well above Russell’s 47.8%.
This metric was 60.0%, 47.5%, and 66.7% in his three prior seasons, and it’s worth noting that his 35.7% junior year 3PT% coincided with more of his threes being assisted (60.0%).
Russell shouldn’t have to carry as heavy an offensive load at Maryland, so it’s reasonable to assume he’ll get higher quality long-range shots. His junior season suggests he might able to translate this into improved shooting.
It feels wrong to criticize any part of Campbell’s game considering he was an instrumental part of UCLA’s surprise Final Four run last season. After making 26.7% of his threes during his freshmen year (2.9 attempts per game), the guard only hit 25.0% clip in 2020-21. It didn’t get better during the NCAA Tournament either (4/15, 26.7%).
Whereas Russell’s efficiency seemed to be weighed down by off-the-dribble attempts, the same can’t be said for Campbell. 94.1% of his threes were assisted last season (81.0% two years prior), suggesting most of his attempts were higher quality catch-and-shoot looks. Campbell still brings plenty to the table, but there’s not much reason to expect improvement from behind the arc.
When it comes to long-range shooting, Kalscheur has had quite a perplexing career with Minnesota. After shooting a solid 41.0% (5.2 attempts per game) during his freshmen season, his 3PT% declined to 34.1% (7.2) his sophomore year and fell all the way to 24.5% (5.2) in 2020-21.
I wonder how many times a player’s 3PT% has fallen from the ’40s to the ’30s to the ’20s in three consecutive seasons.
What’s been going on? The assist rates on his threes have been stable: 92.6%, 90.8%, and 92.1%, so his shot difficulty does not seem to have been the issue. Kalscheur’s sophomore dip from 41.0% to 34.1% could have been partially driven by an uptick in attempts (5.2 to 7.2), but this couldn’t have been the issue last season (back to 5.2).
Whereas Campbell has never shot at an above-average rate (at least in college), Kalscheur has at least demonstrated the ability to do so in the past. If I had to bet on someone to hit +40% from downtown, I’d choose a “40’s, 30’s, 20’s” player like Kalscheur over someone that shot, say, 33%, in three consecutive seasons. At least I’d know the upside is there.