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Duke’s Three Point Shooting May Be A Problem, But Probably Not As Much As People Seem To Think

Duke can shoot better and they can also neutralize opposing shooters.

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NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Duke
Jan 26, 2019; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Cam Reddish (2) reacts after hitting a three pointer during the second half against the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils won 66-53. 
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

After the Georgia Tech game several columnists suggested that Duke’s weaknesses, particularly three point shooting, were on display.

And certainly Duke has not shot well recently. But every team has strengths and weaknesses and there are multiple ways to look at things.

First, keep in mind that Jack White, Cam Reddish and Alex O’ Connell have all shot poorly in recent games.

In one four game stretch (Yale/Princeton/Texas Tech/Clemson) White hit 9-13 from three point range.

Since then he’s shot 1-20.

Which guy is he?

Probably somewhere in the middle.

Against Florida State, Reddish hit 5-8 from three point range. He sat out Syracuse due to illness, then 1-6 against UVA, 3-10 against Pitt and 1-8 against Georgia Tech.

We think you’d have to write off the Virginia game since he had been sick that week. Is he a bad shooter?

We don't think so. He could use more discretion perhaps but he can shoot. Against Syracuse, O’ Connell hit 4-8 from three point . Against Florida State he played just six minutes and took no shots. He got five minutes against Virginia and took one shot, three minutes against Pitt and took one and 19 minutes against Georgia Tech and took five. In the last five games he’s 4-11, hardly disastrous.

RJ Barrett is not primarily a three point shooter but against FSU he was 4-7 and against Pitt 3-7.

Against Syracuse, playing point guard unexpectedly, he was 4-17 as Duke could not figure out the 2-3 zone. Against Virginia, which places a premium on stopping the three, he was 1-6 and just 1-5 against Georgia Tech.

Finally, Zion Williamson has shot 3-12 from deep since the Florida State game and Tre Jones is not a confident three point shooter.

It’s certainly true that Duke is vulnerable at the moment to half-court zone defense but the odds of White, Reddish and O’ Connell all slumping simultaneously are fairly low - and they don’t all have to break out of it at the same time either.

Even if Duke’s shooters all fail to hit shots for the rest of the season, that’s not the entire story.

In ACC play, Duke is 13th in three point shooting, attempting 150 and hitting 43.

However, Duke’s opponents have taken 115 and hit just 35. Despite the rap for poor three point shooting and despite slumps by Duke’s best shooters, the Blue Devils still have an advantage from three point range.

However that works out in the long run, Duke can still suppress opponents’s three point shooting and Jones is a major weapon against any offense.

We aren’t nearly as worried about three point shooting as we are about carelessness with the ball and foul shooting. In tight games, free throw shooting is going to be absolutely critical and it’s a lot harder to make that up than it is to counter three point shooting.

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