The next 3-pointer that Damian Lillard makes will give him 167 3-pointers on the season, which will break the record for 3-point makes in a season by a rookie, a mark set by Golden State's Stephen Curry during the 2009-10 season. Lillard wasn't known for being a long-range shooter coming out of college (he shot a respectable 41 percent from the 3 during his final season at Weber State
) unlike Curry and the owner of the rookie record before him, former Trail Blazer Rudy Fernandez, so it's a bit surprising to see Lillard set the mark.
But the combination of playing a lot of minutes (38.5 per game) relative to most rookies, the importance of the 3-pointer in head coach Terry Stotts' offense (the Trail Blazers have already set the franchise mark for 3-pointers made in a season ... with nine games left to play) and having the greenest of green lights to shoot explains why Lillard will be the new record holder.
Some interesting notes about Lillard's 3-point shooting this season …
The first thing that jumps out when looking at Damian Lillard's 3-point shot chart is how few corner 3s, generally considered the easiest 3-point shot, Lillard has taken this season. Of his 166 made 3-pointers this season, just eight (four from each side) have come from the corners.
By comparison, when Stephen Curry set the rookie mark during the 2009-10 season, he made 40 corner 3s.
When Rudy Fernandez set the record during the 2008-09 season, hit 42 corner 3s.
The numbers are even more dramatic when you look at the players who are closest to Lillard in 3-pointers made this season
. Lillard currently ranks as fifth in the NBA in 3-point makes with 166, of which just 8 of those have been corner 3s. Compare that to the five players who are ahead of Lillard in 3-point makes, and you realize the importance of the corner 3 to the best shooters in the NBA:
1) Stephen Curry, 236 3-pointers made, 43 from the corners
2) Ryan Anderson, 199 3-pointers made, 26 from the corners
3) Klay Thompson, 192 3-pointers made, 63 from the corners
4) Kyle Korver, 192 3-pointers made, 60 from the corners
5) Damian Lillard, 166 3-pointers made, 8 from the corners
6) Danny Green, 165 3-pointers made, 70 from the corners
So while Lillard is one of the best volume 3-point shooters in the NBA this season, he's having to work a lot harder than his contemporaries who are "padding" their 3-point numbers with corner 3s.
(My mostly unscientific theory as to why Lillard takes and makes so many less corner 3s is twofold. First, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, who are seventh and ninth in the NBA in 3-point makes this season, , respectively, have combined to make 112 corner 3s this season, eating up Lillard's opportunities for the easy 3s. And secondly -- and this is purely anecdotal -- Lillard seems to get his 3-pointers through improvisation rather than through set plays, which could also explain why he's not getting the easy 3s.)
Some more interesting facts about Lillard's 3-pointers this season (all information taken from the NBA's stats page
-- Lillard shoots 56 percent (27 of 48) when taking shots defined as "pullups" by the NBA, a full 13 percentage points better than his overall average.
-- Lillard also shoots 56 percent (9 of 16) on 3-pointers defined as "step backs," which should come as no surprise to anyone who has spent any time watching Lillard this season
-- Lillard shoots basically the same percentage from the center of the court (35 percent on 52 of 147 shooting) as he does on the right side of the court (36 percent on 44 of 123 shooting). However, Lillard's percentage drops 5 points (30 percent on 31 of 144 shooting) on the right side of the floor.
-- 54.8 percent of Lillard's 3-pointers have been assisted. Every Trail Blazer except for Nolan Smith has assisted on a Lillard 3-pointer this season (and in Nolan's defense, they've only played 33 minutes together this season). Nicolas Batum has assisted on 28 of Lillard's 3-pointers, the most on the team, followed by LaMarcus Aldridge (18) and Wesley Matthews (13).
-- Lillard shoots a slightly higher percentage in the first half of games (37.7 percent on 69 of 183 shooting) than he does in the second half (26.5 percent on 93-255 shooting). But where Lillard really shines is in the first period of overtime, in which he shoots 57.1 percent (4 of 7) from 3, though obviously the sample size has to be taken into consideration.
-- Breaking it down even further, you notice that Lillard shoots better from 3 at the start and end of games. He shoots 41.4 percent from 3 (41 of 99) in the first quarter and 43.8 percent (50 of 127) in the fourth quarter. By comparison, he shoots 33.3 percent (28-84) and 33.6 percent (43 of 128) in the second and third quarters, respectively.