Nylon Calculus: Projecting 3-point shooting for 2017 NBA Draft prospects

A good deal has been said about the elite 2017 NBA Draft class, and my own models seem to confirm that. Both Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball project as elite players, and there are two other players rated as well as last year’s No. 2, pick Brandon Ingram. But interestingly, in an era where 3-point shooting becomes ever more important, the top of this class isn’t loaded with elite 3-point shooting, at least according to my projections.

A few years ago I introduced a model for translating 3-point shooting into a projection for NBA percentages. That the post was named “Predictions are Hard: Especially About Three Point Shooting,” should give you an idea of the success of the model. Still, the results are a significant improvement on expecting a player’s 3-point percentage to translate directly, and relatively straightforward to understand and apply.

The basic elements are the player’s free throw percentage, 3-point shooting frequency and 3-point percentage. So, for example, Fultz and Lauri Markkanen both hit about 42 percent of their 3-pointers in college, but it was the big man Markkanen who hit 78 percent of his free throws to Fultz’s 65 percent and Markkanen who attempted 3s more often. So the models expect Markkanen to hit 38 percent of his 3-pointers at the next level and Fultz to hit 34 to 35 percent. The four percentage point gap may not seem like much, but it’s the difference between 1.14 points per shot and 1.02 points per shot.

Below are my projections for some of the top prospects for the first round in this year’s draft.

In addition to projecting 3-point shooting I have a model to estimate free throw shooting percentages and 3-point shooting volume.

Next: Nylon Calculus -- 3-point trends in the NBA Playoffs

The 3-point attempts per 40 model will likely underestimate the volume of 3s hoisted ,given the NBA’s current trends. But, is still interesting to note, for example, that the model expects Ball to be much more reliant on the 3-pointer than Fultz even though their projected efficiency is very close.