Since the integration of data analytics into basketball, three-point shooting and small ball have revolutionized the NBA. While three-point shooting was not new, how it was coached and being done has changed. The biggest has been small ball, which means teams are playing with smaller players who are better shooters, often going with an extra guard or forward instead of a true center. This year the Charlotte Hornets have been testing a possible next step in the evolution of small ball, by having three-point guards on the floor at the same time. The reason Charlotte and other teams would do this is to trade size for skill in areas such as ball handling, passing, and shooting. Looking at data over the last 5 years points to success in this idea. The Charlotte Hornets 3 point guard combo outscored teams by 25 points per 100 possessions and the Thunder who have employed this idea in the past have outscored teams by 31 points per 100 possessions. For comparison when not on the floor together the Hornets are outscored by a point every 100 possessions. Other stats and data points support this 3 point guard combo as well. All three point guard combos over the last 5 years have recorded effective field goal percentages in the 93rd percentile or higher, had lower turnover percentages on offense, and forced more turnovers on the defensive end. These combos all scored in the 91st percentile by maximizing what has become known as the pace and space era.
Despite the immense success in a limited capacity, this trend has yet to catch on across the NBA. The biggest reason being the lack of playoff success. No team that has employed this strategy has won a playoff series. These lineups were very unsuccessful in the postseason, getting outscored by up to 40 points throughout the series. While it is hard to pinpoint the lack of postseason success, two possible reasons are that playoff basketball slows down and fewer fouls are called. This is detrimental to this type of lineup as guards like to get to the free-throw line and get out in transition which happens less in the postseason. Until this 3 point guard combo achieves postseason success, it will be nothing more than a minor trend for a few specific lineups. Overall, while data has revolutionized the NBA pointing to skill over size, teams are still reluctant to go all-in on trends until postseason success is achieved.