FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – When the Suns were going good — making the playoffs, et cetera — they were knocking down 3-pointers.
They led the league in 3-point percentage for four straight seasons from 2004-08 and again in 2010, shooting no worse than 39.3 percent. Coincidently, the team made the playoffs each of those five seasons including three trips to the Western Conference Finals.
Since that last postseason appearance three years ago, the Suns’ longest playoff drought since 1985-88, the team has seen a noticeable drop in accuracy from behind the arc.
And while hitting 3s does not guarantee a team a playoff spot, it is an area of the offense head coach Jeff Hornacek focused on immediately once he was hired. Of course, he inherited a club that ranked 28th in the league last season, making 33 percent of its 3s.
“Through us working on the shots,” he said, “putting a little more effort in practice; hopefully, with the floor spread a bit little more in terms of where we put our guys and between Goran (Dragic) and Eric (Bledsoe) and Kendall (Marshall) and these point guards penetrating and kicking out, knowing where the guys are going to be, maybe they get better looks at the 3s and shoot a higher percentage.”
For the most part, Hornacek said he’s given his players the green light to shoot.
“I tell them that if they’re open behind that 3-point line — someone dished it to them, and they’re open, I expect them to shoot it. I don’t care who it is,” he said Thursday before quickly adding he does not expect to see Marcin Gortat, Alex Len and Miles Plumlee 23-feet away from the basket.
“But the rest of the guys, I expect them to be able to make them.”
So, now the question becomes, do the Suns have any 3-point shooters?
Their number-one 3-point scoring threat, Jared Dudley at 39.1 percent, was traded in the offseason. Goran Dragic (31.9 percent), PJ Tucker (31.4 percent) and Shannon Brown (27.7 percent) are all coming off disappointing years from long distance.
However, the Suns will welcome back Channing Frye, a career 39 percent shooter from 3. The acquisitions of Eric Bledsoe, who connected on 39.7 percent of his 3s last season, and Gerald Green, who has made 35.1 percent of his 3s over his career, should help as well.
“I think that every time I have an open shot they want me to take it,” Green said. “We have great playmakers so all I have to do is be ready and let it go.”
Hornacek, who over his 14-year career made 40 percent of his 3s, would prefer his players to be set, ready to shoot rather than putting shots up in transition.
“If you look at statistics, that pull-up 3 percentage is pretty low compared to other ones,” he said. “What I want them to do is penetrate, kick it out to a guy who’s planted and ready to shoot it. These guys all think they can shoot it off the dribble or catch it on a full dead run and shoot a 3. Percentages are low. So that’s the stuff we have to clean up; keep them from doing that. If you’re on the run, go ahead and penetrate, kick out to somebody else.
“I think it’s a case of getting a good 3-point look rather than forcing a 3. If we do that, the percentages will go up.”