Historically, the Phoenix Suns have been a good 3-point shooting team, great even at times.
Just not last season.
In fact, no team was worse than the Suns from beyond the arc following the All-Star break, hitting only 29.8 percent in the season’s final 28 games.
Overall, the Suns’ 3-point shooting percentage (34.1) ranked 21st.
“Well, hopefully, it’s better, and it will be when you look at our roster,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said this week, pointing specifically to the addition of forward Mirza Teletovic.
The Suns also signed guard/forward Sonny Weems, acquired forward Jon Leuer and drafted guard Devin Booker, all of whom can shoot the 3 to help spread the defense, allowing for guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight to operate inside the lane.
“(Last season) we probably were a little worn out with the injuries, with the trades, guys played more minutes than they probably played before and they just didn’t shoot the ball well,” Hornacek said. “We think some of those guys will bounce back and shoot better.”
Bledsoe shot only 32.4 percent, P.J. Tucker 34.5 and Markieff Morris 31.8, marks below their career averages.
“Shot them terrible last year,” said Morris, who mentioned at media day he focused on 3-point shooting this summer.
Then there’s Knight. He enjoyed a career-best 38.9 percent from long range, which was 21st in the NBA. However, in the 11 games he wore a Suns uniform, his 3-point accuracy dropped to 31.3 percent, likely due to 1) the adjustment to a new team and 2) injury.
Knight missed 16 of the last 17 games because of a sprained left ankle.
“I didn’t know Brandon Knight can shoot the ball as well as he can,” said center Tyson Chandler, impressed by Knight’s form during informal workouts. “He reminded me that’s all he did his first couple of years. I mean he shoots the ball lights out. I think that’s going to put a lot of pressure on a defense, him betting able to step back behind screens as well as drive and penetrate.”
Chandler’s presence is expected to help the Suns’ 3-point shooting, as well.
His 7-foot-1, 240-pound frame and ability underneath the basket should suck defenses inside the paint, opening up the perimeter.
“We got a lot of shooters this year that can really stretch the floor and you’ve got Tyson rolling down the middle,” Knight said. “I think our offensive game will be special.”
Though four years removed from NBA action, Weems showed an improved 3-point stroke overseas, making 36.8 percent of his attempts.
Teletovic, meanwhile, is a career 36.2 percent 3-point shooter; Leuer 36.7, including a 46.9 mark in 2013-14.
Booker, the 13th overall pick, was an expert marksmanship at Kentucky, averaging 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. His accuracy carried over to the pro ranks and a seven-game stint in the Las Vegas Summer League.
Booker made a team-high 12 3s, including five in a 31-point performance against New Orleans in the semifinals.
“The kid knows how to play,” Hornacek said. “The one thing that Ryan (McDonough, general manager) and I see when we watch him play is you don’t have to explain a lot of things to him. Most of the time defensively, he’s in the right spot. Offensively, he makes the little plays. Eighteen-year-olds sometimes get sped up and the game comes at them fast and the speed of these pro guys are a big adjustment for him. But when you watch him play, he’s controlled. If there’s a pass to make, he makes it. If the shot is open, he’ll shoot it. He’s very advanced for his age so we believe he can contribute for us.”
Of the 16 teams to play in the postseason a year ago, 13 ranked among the top 14 in 3-point shooting percentage, with the first- and fifth-rated teams advancing all the way to the NBA Finals.
In other words, a team’s ability to hit from distance is huge.
Once upon a time, the Suns were the league’s most accurate 3-point shooting team, No. 1 five times in a six-year stretch from 2004-10.
However, in three of the last four years, the Suns haven’t shot better than 35 percent.
“We expect these guys to make the shots,” Hornacek. “We always tell them, look, the 3-point shoot really isn’t that difficult. You should shoot a good percentage. Because when you do your drills and the coaches are passing you the ball, you’re making six or seven out of 10. So in the game, as long as your teammates drive and hit the open man, you’re going to get an open 3 so we expect that we’ll have more of that with our two guards out there. Even when Tyson rolls, he’s made some great passes. Markieff can pass. If we just pass to the open guy, we’ll shoot a higher percentage.”
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