If you’re a fan of the three-point shot, Thursday’s matchup between the Seattle Storm and Dallas Wings is one you won’t want to miss.
Per WNBA.com, Seattle and Dallas are tied with 32.4 percent of their field goal attempts coming from behind the three-point line – by far the league’s highest percentage since the line was moved back in 2013. The Wings attempt 23.4 shots from downtown per game, which is the most by any WNBA team in the last decade. Both Dallas and the Storm, which ranks second with 20.2 threes taken per game, have consistently been among the league leaders in three-point attempts in recent years.
But for the Wings, it’s not just the crazy amount of three-point shots that makes them a unique offensive team.
Four years in a row (2012-15), Dallas had the league’s highest percentage of field goal attempts that were either three-pointers or layups (shots from between one and five feet from the hoop). About 70 percent of the shots the Wings hoisted in that four-year span were either threes or layups. Each of the last three seasons, even while taking a ton of outside jumpers, they ranked first in percentage of shots that were within five feet. For those who follow the NBA, the Wings’ approach to offense mirrors that of the Houston Rockets.
Dallas has had many different head coaches in recent years, but this strategy has been consistent since Gary Kloppenburg’s first season in 2012. Here is a closer look at the Wings’ shot distribution from the last four years:
Graphic by Stephanie Hirsch
Dallas essentially devised a plan to abandon the mid-range game, or everything that wasn’t a layup or three-pointer. Did it work? The answer is complicated.
The Wings missed the playoffs all of those seasons except 2015, when they lost in the Conference Semifinals. However, they were always an above average offensive team, even ranking among the league leaders in points per possession, offensive rebounds and second-chance points each of the last three years. The problem came on the defensive end, where Dallas ranked last or second-to-last in points allowed per possession all four of those seasons.
During that four-year span, the Wings consistently ranked near the bottom in fast-break points allowed per game. So while the long, random rebounds stemming from three-pointers often lead to more second-chance points, the opposing team also becomes more dangerous in transition when you don’t secure the rebound.
Whether or not their strategy works, the Wings continue to launch three-point shots at historically high rates. This year, they are an average offensive team and once again among the worst defensively, leading to a 3-7 record.
Expect somewhat of a three-point contest when the Storm pays them a visit Thursday night.