It's hard to predict when a slump ends without the benefit of
Even the best NBA shooters are vulnerable to outlier struggles
that can last an entire season, and those years jump out at you on
the stat sheet. But how do we distinguish between an outlier and a
harbinger before letting the full story play out? With so much
context to account for — new teams, new roles and changing health
status — that becomes a challenging question to address.
In this week's NBA Stats Notebook, we'll highlight five players
with enough indicators to make me believe that they'll bounce back
from last year's struggles. By no means are these predictions a
guarantee, however, as I also outlined what hurdles could stand in
the way of them getting back on track.
Let's dive in and think "positive regression!"
SADDIQ BEY, DETROIT PISTONS
Bey is a quiet, but still vital piece to a Pistons rebuild that
has quickly ramped up. The 2020 first-round pick logged some
massive games last season, including a 51-point explosion on March
17. But he took a step back as a perimeter scorer on a team with
few reliable long-range threats; Bey sported a 34.6% three-point
clip that isn't horrendous, but still feels disappointing given his
stature as a spacer.
With that said, Detroit fans should bank on a big swing. For
starters, the Pistons added Jaden Ivey, who will command quite
enough attention as an individual scorer. Cade Cunningham should
improve his own perimeter presence, and Bojan Bogdanovic joins the
squad as an immediate marksman. To his part, Bey should get more
catch-and-shoot chances and create less as a pull-up scorer, which
should in turn help his final percentage.
Bey is a much better shot-maker off the catch. According to
InStat Scouting, he knocked down a whopping 51.4% such threes in
his sophomore year at Villanova. So, even though he doesn't have a
long NBA track record yet, Bey has proven himself as a shooter and
should continue to this season.
Additionally, Bey seems to be merging the 3-and-D role that
began his career with some of the off-dribble skills he added last
season, according to James L. Edwards III of
The Athletic. I'm happy to bet on natural growth from a young
player and more manageable responsibilities, giving Bey a path to
MAXI KLEBER, DALLAS MAVERICKS
Kleber's shooting slump already ended in the 2022 postseason.
The stretch big man was unreal for the Mavericks last spring,
knocking 'em down to the tune of 43.5% from distance in Dallas'
three series. That dwarfs the 32.5% rate he posted in the regular
season, which was the worst since his rookie year.
The 30-year-old has made strides with his NBA shot since
entering the league in 2017. His catch-and-shoot clip improved for
four straight seasons (up to 41.0% in 2020-21) before it took an
absolute nosedive to 32.9% last year. Kleber's 2021-22 struggles
are not a fair indicator of his career growth.
His health, however, is a fair question mark. Kleber battled
injuries at five different points of last season, per Fox Sports. To build a rhythm, he
needs a string of good fortune. Hopefully the Mavs' beefed-up big
rotation, including new additions Christian Wood and JaVale McGee,
can lessen the load.
DAMIAN LILLARD, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Dame Time is one of the best pull-up scorers basketball has ever
seen. But between coming back from the Tokyo Olympics, injuries,
team discord and his own lackluster play, Lillard's 2021-22 was a
derailment from his past superstardom. He played just 29 games
before shutting things down as the Blazers hit mini-rebuild mode.
In those contests, Lillard made a career-low 32.4% of his
According to PBP Stats, Lillard converted just 29.8% of his
"self-created" three-point attempts (shots coming after having
possession for at least two seconds). That's by far the lowest rate
of his nine-year career to date. Lillard typically hovers around
35% on self-created threes. Can he get back there?
The positive argument claims that Portland is in a far better
offensive situation. Jusuf Nurkic is healthy, Jerami Grant is a
nice acquisition and, though CJ McCollum is gone, Anfernee Simons
appears capable of filling his shoes. The counterargument: Lillard
is 32 years old and coming off of a long recovery from an abdominal
injury. He'll still be a star, but it remains to be seem how much
Lillard looks like his usual self.
DUNCAN ROBINSON, MIAMI HEAT
The case for a Robinson rebound year is easy. He's one of the
best shooters in the world, and it's going to take more than one
down season (in which he still made 37.2% of his threes, by the
way) to jostle that reputation. Robinson knocked down just 34.7% of
his catch-and-shoot triples in 2021-22; in his prior two years, he
reached marks of 41.7% and 46.0%. He also actually made a
career-high 45.1% of his pull-up attempts last season. Nekias
Duncan even broke down why this slump was so
odd early in the fall.
Robinson is, quite plainly, a much better shooter than he showed
last year, and he even returned to his regular self as the winter
went on. Robinson canned over 41% of his threes in three of the
final four months of the regular season. The problem: His playing
time also decreased in each of those months, and in the playoffs,
the sharpshooter averaged just 12.2 minutes per game.
What is Robinson's place in this year's Heat rotation? He played
18 minutes in Miami's first preseason game, suggesting he's still a
fixture in Erik Spoelstra's vision. If that's true, he should be an
obvious bounce-back candidate. But Robinson has to keep that spot
by shooting well and at least reaching the bar defensively
for a tough Heat squad.
KRISTAPS PORZINGIS, WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Porzingis was a shooting mess with the Mavericks last season
before somewhat regaining his perimeter success following a trade
to Washington. But across his 75 games, he made just 31.3% of his
threes after holding the ball for less than two seconds — easily a
Fans should be confident that rate rises; it's unclear to what
extent. Porzingis has always been a somewhat streaky scorer, which
unfortunately fits right in with a lot of Washington's current
offensive threats. As with Kleber, health also plays into
developing some consistent momentum as a shooter. Porzingis has the
history of prolific perimeter prowess, though, with some of the
more difficult shot diets for an NBA big man.
THE OUTLIERS (a.k.a. other random interesting numbers I
found in the void):
- Yep, Victor Wembanyama is pretty good! (Can you guess who did
this in the NBA?)
- Yep, Victor Wembanyama might be really good!
- A noteworthy graphic from SIS Hoops that shows how Malcolm
Brogdon can really add some juice to the Boston Celtics'