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Sudbury Five fly high in a world of threes
2021-07-17

Everyone remembers where they were on March 12, 2020. The day the NBLC's Sudbury Five signed Forwards Montell McRae and Dallas Lauderdale, who has two cities as his name. The Five's were adding a veteran in McRae and young prospect in Lauderdale before the March 13 trade deadline.

Trading wouldn't be the only thing put on pause after March 13. The NBLC had already suspended the season in-step with the majority of the North American sports leagues. Almost a year to date the league announced that they wouldn't return until 2021-2022.

That leaves a lot of time between games, time to forget about these players and teams. So, lets take some time to remember them specifically the hometown Sudbury Five and their crusade to conquer the outer lands.

See in Basketball if you score 22ft away from the hoop instead of 21ft 11in they award you an extra point. To avoid confusion over where that is on the court, they drew a line. The aptly dubbed "3-point line" is the sports' Great Wall and the Five tried score as many points a possible without venturing into China.

Here are the 3pt attempts and 3's made by team for each year Sudbury's been in the league. Like the INCO superstack Sudbury tower above the rest, especially in 19-20.

In 2018-19 they had a respectable lead league. You might notice that they're 1st but it's nothing to write a blog about. That COVID shortened season however, they averaged 42.05 3-point attempts per game.

For reference the Houston Rockets, infamous for riding and dying by the 3 in the 2017-18 regular season averaged 42.3. The Five were in Rockets' territory. The Golden State Warriors averaged 31.6 3-point attempts a game, while setting the regular season wins record in 2015-16.

That Warriors team was led by Steph Curry and Clay Thompson, so who are Sudbury's version. Well, here to a chart of the top 30 3-point shooters in the 19-20 season with attempts per game on the y-axis and 3's made per game in the x.

If the players who didn't attempt a 3 are at sea level than the top 30, pictured, are at airplane cursing height and Sudbury Five guard Jaylen Bland is a satellite. Bland is in Rocket territory. The 28-year-old averaged 5.2 attempts more than the next person. He made 5.5 3's per game.

Bland's average threes made nearly account for the stratospheric gap alone.

The four members of the Five on this chart lead the team in minute, Bland already got talked about what about the other three. Braylon Rayson, guard, is back in the airplane range cruising to a clean average of three 3's on 9 attempts. JR Holder, Forward, actually averaged the third most 3's a game in the league with 3.3, doing so on only 7.4 attempts. Forward Marlon Johnson is nestled in with the majority of the top 30 long-distance shooters.

Before we move on just admire the gap between Bland and the rest of the sample.

Good, alright, the natural progression would be to find the game where the Five best showcased their crusade. In the 2019-2020 Sudbury got to game 22 before the league suspended the season. The rest of the league averaged 31.2 3-point attempts a game. In 21 of those 22 the Five attempted 32 or more threes.

So, while there are many examples of their long-range tendencies two games stand above the rest: Games 20 and 21. In both those games the Nickel City Ballers attempted 29 more threesss than their opponents. Their opponents only attempted 25 and 22, respectively.

Below is the quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the games. The number of attempts and made baskets represent the height of each bar.

In total the Five hucked-up 54 3's against Halifax and 51 against London. NBLC games like the NBA last 48 total minutes not including any potential overtime, which either of these two games did. That means Sudbury averaged just over one 3-point shot a minute.

Their opponents don't even have to be brought up to be understand how much Sudbury utilizes the 3-point line but why donít we do some comparisons anyway. Take the 3rd quarter of the Halifax game for example. The Hurricanes bar is full meaning they shot 100% from beyond the arch. The Five shot 66.67% from there and almost tripled their opponent's total.

In 4 of the 8 quarters from the games above Sudbury outscored their opponents' chances - as in they made more 3-point baskets than Halifax or London attempted to make. That's the definition of clobbering or as it will be hence forth known "Nickel City Balling".

It is worth pointing out that Sudbury's record in the two games was 1-1.

Game # Home Away Final Score
20 Halifax Sudbury 137-118
21 Sudbury London 131-119

In game 20 against Halifax, the Five shot 2-of-13 in the 4th quarter. The score heading into the final frame was 109-106, in favour of Halifax. If the locals had continued shooting at their game average 3-point percent of 48%, they would have added six more threes and 18 more points. Halifax might still have won by a singular point, though honestly, that's playing the what-ifs game.

If you look at the third quarter of the London game, they also shot pretty poorly from 22+ feet out. In fact, discounting their lowest 3-point quarters, the Five averaged seven 3's per quarter in both games.

Obviously, there is more to winning a basketball game than who threw the most balls at the net from distance. It's really about quality over quantity - which you can see from this chart comparing Sudbury's record in games where they attempted more threes than their opponent versus less than their opponents.

Record by 3PT Att W L
More 3PT Att 9 10
Less 3PT Att 3 0

Since the Five stressed the three-ball, there is a small sample size of games where they tried for less threes than the opposition. The 19 games in the more column however are large enough to draw conclusions. A team can attempt all the long range shot they want but you don't get points for try - except in rugby.

Just to further the case of quality over quantity here is the Five's record split by 3pt%:

Record by 3PT% W L
Higher 3PT% 8 3
Lower 3PT% 4 7

Coincidently, Sudbury finished 11 games with a higher 3-point percentage and 11 games with a lower 3-point percentage. The splits speak for themselves: a winning record when they shot better from the bonus point region and a losing record when they don't.

Those four wins, however, might form the best counter argument to quality over quantity. In three of those four wins where Sudbury attempted more threes than their adversaries, they also made more threes. One of the four wins was game 21 against London that was talked about above.

Maybe you can get away with spending so many possessions shooting threes when you have the talent that the Five do. Also, in this writer's humble opinion, 3-point shots are cool and more fun to watch and I hope that they stick with this strategy when league play resumes. Hopefully, you're a fan of the long-range lobs as well or found a new reason to cheer for this team and when they come back, we can catch a Sudbury Three game.

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