If you’ve watched the Portland Trail Blazers this season, by now you’ve seen it: Forward Josh Hart is open with the ball beyond the arc, only to turn down the shot and drive to the basket or pass off to a teammate. If he does let it fly, the choice sometimes appears reluctant.
It’s a trend that’s not just shown through the eye test, but in the numbers. Over his six-year NBA career, Hart has averaged 4 three-point attempts out of 7.7 total field goal attempts per game. That’s good enough for a three-point attempt rate of 51.9 percent.
Compare that to Hart’s numbers this season — 2 three-point attempts out of 7.5 total field goal attempts per game — and his three-point attempt rate (now 26.7 percent) is cut in half.
The trend would be less eye-catching if it involved a player with a broken jump shot or one who was enduring a horrible slump, but Hart has been and continues to be a serviceable three-point shooter. For his career, Hart is shooting at a 34.7 percent clip from beyond the arc. On a lower volume this season, Hart is still hitting 36.2 percent of his three-pointers.
Our own Danny Marang asked Hart about the dip in his three-point rate in the locker room following Portland’s 124-118 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday night — a game Hart shot 3-3 from deep. Initially, Hart didn’t have a firm answer for what was causing the change in shot selection.
“I don’t know,” Hart said. “I love getting to the rim. I definitely turn down some shots, but I don’t know. I just go out there and hoop. If I get shots at [the three-point line] I get shots. If I don’t, I don’t.”
After Marang followed up with another question about his three-point shooting, Hart dove a little deeper into his explanation. He said he’s taken on more of a facilitating role in an offensively-potent first unit that includes three 20-point per game scorers in Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Jerami Grant.
“The first unit has a lot of guys that can score the basketball,” he said. “With me, I take kind of a back seat to that and I try to make sure when I have the ball I try to get in the lane and get guys easier shots ... That’s what I kind of took on, just trying to make sure [I help] spread the ball around in that first unit.”
Josh Hart on the change in his 3pt attempt rate so far this season: pic.twitter.com/36SMVDEaYU— Danny Marang (@DannyMarang) December 11, 2022
This regression in Hart’s three-point attempts isn’t just a one-season anomaly. After averaging a career-high three-point attempt rate of 67 percent with the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2019-20 season, Hart’s attempt rate has decreased each season since.
In the 2020-21 season, Hart’s three-point attempt rate was at 56.1 percent. In the 2021-22 season, in 41 games with the Pelicans and 13 games with Portland, Hart’s three-point attempt rate decreased to 37.2 percent. It has all led another drop and his lowest attempt rate ever of 26.7 percent so far this season.