As the NBA game changes, players who can knock down perimeter shots while also defending at a high level are becoming increasingly valuable. The big contracts already handed out to several "three-and-D" players in free agency illustrates that.
The 2015 off-season has jumped out at a breakneck pace. Dominos are already falling all over the NBA landscape, and early signees include the ever-popular (and increasingly valuable) ‘three-and-D’ wing players.
The primary objective of these prototypes is to spread the floor with three-point shooting while also playing tenacious and disciplined perimeter defense. They are often the perfect complements to alpha dog stars, because they don’t need the ball in their hands on every play to be impactful. Front office personnel around the league are realizing the importance of that skill set, and they’ve been willing to shell out a lot of money to bring those guys aboard.
In fact, a whopping $231 million in salary has gone to five of those guys alone. Overall, teams committed an astonishing $1.4 billion to free agents on Day 1 of free agency, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Using visualizations from sports research engine PointAfter, we’ll run down the best three-and-D wing players of the off-season.
Middleton, who shot 40.7% from three-point range last season, netted a five-year, $70 million deal to stay in Milwaukee.
Note: All contract figure visuals are standardized across the length of the deal until actual numbers are released.
He helped the Bucks hold opponents to 98.6 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court as well. His ability to play and defend a number of positions was invaluable for head coach Jason Kidd and his defensive mentality.
Moving Brandon Knight at the trade deadline last season ensured that the Bucks wouldn’t have to worry about two restricted FAs, which made the decision to keep Middleton that much easier. With the addition of big man Greg Monroe on the interior, Milwaukee has a really nice young core to build around in the Eastern Conference.
Since joining San Antonio and seeing his role increase back in 2011-12, the 28-year-old has used his length and system fit to give opponents headaches with his defense. His three-point mastery (42% career shooter from distance) continued in 2014-15.
The UNC product and former second-round draft choice was electric from the corners (58.5% and 40.7%). Truthfully, he was no slouch from above the break as well (37%). Every time Green gets an open look, you just get the feeling the ball is going to splash through the nylon. That makes Green lethal as a role player because his man will be punished if he helps on guards penetrating to the bucket or on post-ups down low. He’ll continue to be a huge asset for Coach Pop.
Carroll, who has had to fight for every minute he’s earned to this point of his career, garnered a hefty four-year, $60 million payday from Toronto. The “Junkyard Dog” has always been a committed and engaged defender, but a career-best year from beyond the arc (39.5% in the regular season, 40.3% through 16 playoff games) firmly entrenched him among his valued three-and-D brethren.
Dan Gilbert, meanwhile, is shouting loud and clear that he isn’t afraid to spend money. In addition to signing Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson to new deals, Shumpert was also taken care of with a four-year, $40 million contract.
Keep in mind that the Cavs still must reach an agreement with LeBron James, so their payroll is going to be absolutely massive once that happens. We’re talking Mikhail Prokhorov-ian levels (except, you know, with legitimate championship chops as an added plus).
Now we reach a rare breed: a three-and-D wing who has yet to sign a new contract. Unrestricted free agent Wes Matthews is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, but he has no shortage of suitors courting his services.
Even though the two-guard was only able to play 60 games for the Trail Blazers due to the injury, he still finished 12th in the league with 445 three-point attempts. He was far from just a volume shooter, though, as he converted a solid 38.9% of those triples.
Curiously, he struggled mightily from the right corner, shooting 24.5%, well below the league average of 39%. Still, elite numbers from the left corner and above the break kept his overall percentage among the best in the league.
LaMarcus Aldridge called Matthews “the heart and soul of this team” when he suffered the Achilles tear. That’s not a title handed out lightly, as Matthews was a difference-maker on both ends of the court. What he brings to the table goes far beyond the strict defense/three-point shooting tandem, but those aspects are certainly his biggest strengths.
The question now is whether or not he can make a full recovery and provide the same amount of value to whichever organization wins the Matthews sweepstakes.
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