Is 3P% consistency important?

While talking with friends about three point shooting, the idea of three point consistency came up. I have thought about this concept before, but have never looked far into it. I wanted to get a quick statistical glimpse of the concept and see if I can say for sure if it is important in a play-off setting.

I bring up specifically play-offs because they are so small sample, especially compared to the regular season. The regular season is normally an 82 game sample where the effects of three point variability will not effect the overall team performance as much as they do in a 4 to 7 game series.

These players below both shoot a similar percentage (~36.7%) and volume from three (~9.75 attempts per 75 possessions) which should help us with this exercise.

Payton Pritchard36.8%31.0%10.2%72.2%
Max Strus36.6%19.8%21.2%60.8%
<σ3P% = more consistent

If both players are going head-to-head, who has the advantage?

If both players are having poor shooting luck then Strus has the advantage. If both players are having good shooting luck then Pritchard has the advantage. If both swapped good and bad games then whoever had the good game has the advantage.

So does three point consistency matter?

My brain really wants to say yes, but logically it makes sense that if two players with nearly identical stats faced off, even with one being more consistent, that it would still be 50/50 on which one would have the advantage.

The advantage works both ways. Strus is more consistent so when he has an off-night its not as bad as Pritchard’s, but when Strus is having an on-night, consistency works against him as Pritchard’s on-night will be more prolific.

Lets say Pritchard and Strus were the same player (they get the exact same looks at the same volume), but Pritchard has slightly higher 3P% and Strus has much higher consistency from 3. In a vacuum, you would choose Pritchard as he will be the one who will average more points per possession with his shooting.

There is a possibility that the consistency of three point shooting correlates to playing defenses that are better or worse at guarding three point shots. But anecdotally, Strus and Pritchard played each other in the playoffs and the Celtics and Heat (and Warriors) were tied for best 3P% defense. Strus (more consistent shooter) shot -7.4% from three compared to his average and Pritchard (more inconsistent shooter) shot +0.2% from three compared to his average so there may a flaw in this argument as well.

For those curious, I filtered some three point shooters and calculated their consistency (σ3P%) and normal efficiency range (3P%-σ to 3P%+σ).

Fred VanVleet37.7%12.3%25.4%50.0%
Tim Hardaway Jr.33.6%16.8%16.8%50.4%
Klay Thompson38.5%17.2%21.3%55.7%
Devonte’ Graham34.1%18.1%16.0%52.2%
Grayson Allen40.9%18.7%22.2%59.6%
Lonzo Ball42.3%18.8%23.5%61.1%
Buddy Hield36.6%19.4%17.2%56.0%
Malik Beasley37.7%19.6%18.1%57.3%
Max Strus41.0%19.8%21.2%60.8%
Jalen Green34.3%20.1%14.2%54.4%
Zach Lavine38.9%20.3%18.6%59.2%
Reggie Bullock36.0%20.7%15.3%56.7%
Luke Kennard44.9%21.5%23.4%66.4%
Jae Crowder34.8%22.1%12.7%56.9%
Ben McLemore36.2%22.5%13.7%58.7%
Duncan Robinson37.2%22.8%14.4%60.0%
Georges Niang40.3%23.1%17.2%63.4%
Pat Connaughton39.5%23.6%15.9%63.1%
Patty Mills40.0%25.4%14.6%65.4%
Landry Shamet36.8%25.7%11.1%62.5%
Maxi Kleber32.5%25.9%6.6%58.4%
Danny Green38.0%27.2%10.8%65.2%
Tre Mann36.0%28.6%7.4%64.6%
Payton Pritchard41.2%31.0%10.2%72.2%
filter: >82 3Ps made, >6 3PA/100 pos, & 65% FGAs from 3 in the 2021-22 season

all statistics taken and derived from and unless otherwise noted


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