Phil Jackson has an idea on how to make the NBA even better. One of the Zen Master’s brilliant schemes would doom his New York Knicks — and everyone else in the league that’s not a member of the Golden State Warriors, for that matter.
The way Jackson sees it, there are two quick fixes the league could make to improve the product — increase the length of the shot clock and add a 4-point line.
“The pendulum will swing back [on small-ball],” Jackson predicts, “when big men make a habit of crushing smaller defenders.”
Until then, Jackson has a few suggestions to improve the pro game: “Why not have a four-point line about 35 feet out? It wouldn’t be long before players will get reasonably comfortable shooting from out there. And having a four-point line would certainly serve to enable teams to catch up in what are now blowout games.”
In addition, Jackson supports adding six seconds to the shot clock: “This would give offenses more time to get low-post players involved, make defenses work harder, and encourage more passing and player movement.”
There might be some truth to Jackson’s belief that big men need more time to “get involved,” if we assume that Jackson is talking about establishing post position. When the NBA instituted zone defense in the early 00s, it made it that much more difficult for players to operate out of the post. Defenses can double-team before a player catches the ball, rather than waiting until afterward as they had to with the likes of Shaquille O’Neal.
Maybe giving offenses more time would allow bigs to find the creases in a defense. The real issue, however, is that guards and wings have forgotten how to throw entry passes in this era of dribble drives and pick-and-rolls. Even when a big man finds an open spot in the paint, it’s almost impossible for his teammates to get him the ball. And while Jackson believes a 30-second shot clock would “encourage more passing,” that’s not necessarily a good thing. There’s no direct correlation between passes per game and a team’s offensive efficiency — and as we see in college, more passes often simply means that an offense is out of ideas and has to swing the ball around the perimeter.
But back to that 4-point line. It’s an idea that’s been bandied about over the past few years, with people such as former Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott and legendary shooter Larry Bird voicing their support. However, the NBA has made it clear that it has no intentions of changing the current 3-point rules.
And that’s probably a good decision by the league — because if it did add a 4-point line, Stephen Curry and the Warriors would be absolutely dominant.Now, the NBA probably isn’t going to put a hypothetical 4-point line at Jackson’s recommended 35 feet away. We can’t imagine Adam Silver & Co. want players shooting from practically halfcourt. But say we split the difference and put the line a respectable 28 feet away from the basket — roughly six feet behind the current 3-point line.
Curry knocked down an absurd 51.6 percent (48-of-93) of his shots between that hypothetical 4-point line and halfcourt last year. If those shots were worth four points, it’d be the equivalent of shooting 103.2 percent on two-pointers. And as if that weren’t enough, fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson hit 10-of-20 shots from super-deep last year.
But let’s roll with Jackson’s suggestion and put the 4-point line 35 feet away from the basket, just for fun. Unfortunately, here we’re dealing with an incredibly small sample size. Still, however, the numbers are far in Curry’s favor. He attempted seven shots between 35 feet and halfcourt last year, making four of them (42.9 percent). So even at that increased distance, Curry’s shooting the 2-point equivalent of 85.8 percent on Jackson’s proposed 4-pointers.
No matter how you slice it, giving the Warriors a 4-point line is just asking to get crushed. It would be entertaining to watch, for sure, but there wouldn’t be any competition.