We have all heard the claim: three-pointers have taken over basketball. Well, yes and no. It's true that the 17.10 three-pointers made per game by Turkish Airlines EuroLeague teams in the 2018-19 season – nearly matching the record set last year (17.12) – were 35.7% percent more than in 2000-01, continuing a trend, even though average scoring was virtually the same in those two seasons. One reason three-pointers are up is that free throws attempted have dropped by more than 14 per game in that span. So if three-point totals are rising and free throws falling in Euroleague play, where does that leave the old standby, two-pointers? Doing quite well, thank you.
Record year inside the arc
There were many seasons in which more two-pointers were attempted than in this one and several in which a fraction more were made, but never before 2018-19 had EuroLeague shooters inside the arc been so accurate. They made exactly 53.71% of their two-point tries this season, which broke the previous record of 53.05%, set back in 2003-04. Those are the only two seasons ever in which the league-wide rate has topped 53%.
Most two-pointers in 15 years
In eight of the previous 14 seasons, more two-point shots per game were attempted by EuroLeague teams than the 76.6 that left players' hands in the average 2018-19 game. However, the 41.2 two-pointers that fell per game this season were higher than any of the previous 14 years. The 10,701 total twos that fell through the nets were eclipsed only in 2001-02 when 11,846 such shots fell (and 14 more games were played than this season: 274 to 260).
A pair of players who only joined the EuroLeague two seasons ago were the driving forces in the two-point surge. Although he was the Best Defender Trophy winner, Real Madrid center Walter Tavares was outstanding with the ball in his hands, too, making 104 of his 131 two-point tries (79.4%). That was not only the fourth-best two-point accuracy in league history, but he is the only player to ever shoot better than 71.0% while making 100 or more shots inside the arc. Not far behind was Kaleb Tarczewski of AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan, who made 63 of 87 twos (72.4%), which was the 16th-best two-point shooting season in terms of accuracy.
The volume leaders
There were a few records broken by two-point shooters this season. Brandon Davies of Zalgiris Kaunas and Vincent Poirier of KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz now rank first and second all-time in two-pointers made in one season, with 176 and 169, respectively. But the true all-time king of shooting inside the arc is Ante Tomic of FC Barcelona Lassa, who in Round 5 became the first – and still only – player to make 1,000 such baskets. He finished the season with 1,069 for his career. Georgios Printezis of Olympiacos and Felipe Reyes of Real Madrid fall in behind Tomic with 966 and 961 twos, respectively.
The round numbers
For all the hype about three-pointers, the humble two-point basket still accounted for more than half of all points scored in the EuroLeague this season, 51.1% to be exact. The much-hyped triple, meanwhile, filled 31.9% of the total and free throws the remaining 17.0%.