Last season the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship after a regular season with 67 wins. Led by MVP Stephen Curry, the Warriors led the league in field goals made, assists and points scored, and they featured a defense that topped the NBA with the lowest opponents’ field-goal percentage.
But what set the Warriors apart from the other 29 teams was their shooting. Curry led the NBA with the most field goals made and finished second to James Harden in points scored. The team led the league in field-goal percentage (.478) and three-point percentage (.398). They also made just under 77 percent of their free throws, finishing ninth in the NBA in that category. It was the first time the Warriors led the league in two of the three shooting categories in a season.
Starting with the 1979-80 season, when the league instituted the three-point shot, three teams have won the “Shooting Triple Crown” in a campaign: field-goal, three-point and free throw percentage. The last team to accomplish this trifecta was the 2006-07 Phoenix Suns when they had the highest season-ending percentages in these three categories. In fact, the Suns won this honor two years in a row.
Let’s take a look at the NBA teams since the 1979-80 season that have led the league in two or three of the three shooting stats.
Teams that won the “Shooting Triple Crown”
- Phoenix Suns, 2006-07
- Phoenix Suns, 2005-06
- Cleveland Cavaliers, 1992-93
Teams that won two of the three shooting titles in a season (finish in the third stat)
- Golden State Warriors, 2014-15 (finished ninth in free throw percentage)
- San Antonio Spurs, 2011-12 (finished 19th in free throw percentage)
- Phoenix Suns, 2009-10 (finished 11th in free throw percentage)
- Phoenix Suns, 2007-08 (finished fourth in free throw percentage)
- Indiana Pacers, 1999-2000 (finished ninth in field-goal percentage)
- Utah Jazz, 1997-98 (finished fifth in three-point percentage)
- Utah Jazz, 1994-95 (finished sixth in three-point percentage)
- Boston Celtics, 1990-91 (finished 17th in three-point percentage)
- Boston Celtics, 1987-88 (finished second in free throw percentage)
- Boston Celtics, 1986-87 (finished second in three-point percentage)
- Boston Celtics, 1984-85 (finished third in field-goal percentage)
- Denver Nuggets, 1981-82 (finished 10th in three-point percentage)
It’s interesting to note that of the 15 teams listed above, only one—last year’s Warriors—went on to win the title that year. Four teams lost in the NBA Finals (Indiana, 2000; Utah, 1998; Boston, 1987; and Boston, 1985). The other ten teams failed to reach the NBA Finals that season, although four did reach their conference finals that year.
If we flip the stat around and see which NBA teams finished last in all three shooting categories, we discover it happened only once: the 2002-03 Denver Nuggets.
Since 1979-80, nine teams have finished last in two of the three shooting categories. Eight of those nine teams finished those seasons with a win/loss record under .500, with ending the year with fewer than 20 wins.
There was, however, one team, the 1981-82 Los Angeles Lakers, that actually won a title in the year they finished with the lowest shooting percentages in two of the three categories. The Lakers had a league-worst three-point shooting percentage of .138 and tied for the league’s worst free throw percentage at .717. They did finish with the third-best field-goal percentage in the league that year.