This year, prolific 3-point shooting is a prominent part of a Duke strategy to turn what might be considered a weakness into a decided strength.
The Blue Devils' lack of a post presence is no surprise either to the coaching staff or to astute observers. Anticipating that characteristic, head coach Mike Krzyzewski and company fashioned an offense that spreads the floor and takes advantage of at least five players adept at both driving and shooting jumpers - DeMarcus Nelson, Kyle Singler, Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer, and Greg Paulus. Freshmen Nolan Smith and Taylor King aspire to similar skills.
One result of this team profile is a significant reliance on 3-pointers as a key aspect of Duke's offense. Already this season the Dukies have attempted at least 24 threes in 8 of 14 games, and made at least 10 on seven occasions. The 31 launched in an 87-65 win over Virginia on Sunday were a season high.
Relying on threes is less of a departure for a Krzyzewski squad than one might expect, however. In this decade, anyway.
From 1987, when the current 3-pointer went into effect, through 1999, the Devils derived an average of one-quarter of their shots (25.0 percent) from long range. Since 2000, a nine-season span including 2007-08, that portion has risen to an average of 35.9 percent of Duke field goal attempts.
Over those first 13 years, Duke's share of shots from the bonusphere rose somewhat steadily. Yet only in 1997 did it exceed a third of a team's total field goal attempts (36.8 percent). By contrast, over the past nine seasons, the Blue Devils derived fewer than a third of their shots from beyond the arc only once. That was last season, Duke's worst in more than a decade.
The current squad takes a shade more than 23 shots per game from 3-point range; only the 2001 national champions were significantly more assertive from that distance, dialing up threes an average of 27 times per outing. Only that '01 team and the 2005 Blue Devils derived a greater percentage of their points from threes than the current unit.
|Â WHEN LONG IS LOVELY
Duke Use Of 3-Pointer Since Current Shot Instituted
|(2008 Games Through Jan. 14)|
|Top Five Duke Squads In 3-Pointers Attempted Per Game|
|Top Five Duke Squads in Percent Shots From 3-Point Range|
|Top Five Duke Squads In Percent Points Via 3-Pointer|
|Top Five Duke Squads in 3-Point Accuracy|