THE 4-Point Line: Yes or No?

So I was playing against Eric E’s team on Wednesday and E was hot. This is a guy who will pull up just past the half court line if you are not up on him. He’s deadly when he gets hot too.

This got me thinking ( I know, scary) but why doesn’t the NBA reward shooters for range? The globetrotters and Big 3 both have instituted the 4 point arc. Should the NBA bring it in? I asked my buddy Paul Guidry (Great guy and great writer) his opinion. He responded “I don’t do anything half way,” and came back with this article. Check it out. Introducing, guest writer Paul A. Guidry. Welcome to BallBeforeBreakfast.

THE 4-POINTER: NATURAL EVOLUTION OF THE GAME, OR A LINE WE SHOULDN’T CROSS? by Paul A Guidry

And in 1979, the basketball gods created the NBA 3-point line. And it was good.

Fast-forward 40 years, and murmurings have been heard, even among the faithful, about the possible introduction of a 4-point line. So, could this be another blessing from on high, or is it complete blasphemy?

Let’s give this game-changing possibility the consideration, and reverence, it deserves.

Bye-Bye Blowouts

The potential to keep games more competitive was a big part of the decision to adopt the 3-ball four decades ago, as was the move to award three free throws to a player fouled while attempting a 3-pointer as recently as 1994.

With the introduction of the 4-pointer, big leads could be smashed into rather than chipped away. And games that would otherwise be out of reach could have even more dramatic finishes with a 4-point bomb, or even an unimaginable 5-point play with an and-1 situation.

Points, Points, and More Points

In a modern sports world that has grown increasingly more obsessed with offensive production, the 4-pointer would seem like a godsend.

The NBA has already shown its affinity for scoring, shortening the 3-point line from 23 ft 9 in to 22 ft, to encourage more attempts and increase points overall. And despite, the line being moved back to its original distance in 1997, per game averages of makes and attempts have steadily increased from 0.8 made on 2.8 attempts in 1979 to 9.7 made on 27 attempts in 2017. That means the league likes it, and so do coaches and players.

And, for context, basketball isn’t the only sport to dabble in the manipulation of point accumulation.

The NFL graduated the 2-point conversion from college ball in 1994. (The same year the NBA shortened its 3-point line. Not that I’m some conspiracy theorist.)

Both NFL Europe and the Stars Football League tack on an additional point for field goals of 50 yards or more, while in the Arena Football League, a player can earn four points for a drop kicked field goal. 

Meanwhile, in Australian rules football pre-season action, goals scored inside a 55-yard arc are worth 6 points, with goals beyond the arc worth 9 points. And, as if the bragging rights for scoring from such as distance weren’t enough, such a goal carries the badass moniker of a “Super Goal”. God bless Australia.

Shooter’s Paradise

The 3-pointer has become a fan favorite. It’s a spectacle for fans in the same way Dr. J’s soaring dunks were, when they were imported from the ABA after the 1976 merger. It’s no coincidence that each is showcased during NBA All Star Weekend. 

So, why stop there? The incentive of a competitive advantage would only bolster the trend toward strong outside shooting, further separate good shooters from the great, and almost redefine the parameters by which we gauge great shooting.

Plus, who wouldn’t want to watch Steph shimmy shake after canning a 4-ball from the third row?

Action-Packed Action

In sports with more constant movement and fewer stoppages, like soccer, hockey, and basketball, turning longer shots into more valuable shots would amp up the action even more.

It would all but utilize 100% of the court, putting the dead zone just beyond half court very much in play, forcing defenses to honor it as a threat. Chances are, there would be a lot more hustling back on D than trotting back if a lapse in pressure meant a potential four-point swing.

The incentive to control the ball even further away from the basket also has the potential to spread the floor even more, which according to most coaches and analysts is an essential element in creating fluid, dynamic offense, sharper ball movement, and more opportunities for uncontested shots. Cue visions of Gene Hackman shouting “Pop the ball!” dancing in our heads.

So, why not start repainting those lines right now?

It’s Practically Impractical

One reason against even considering creating an even deeper deep threat could be that such a shot would be unreachable for most players, making it as useful as a third nipple.

The reason players, again like Curry, Thompson, and Harden, are so renowned is that they are so unique. The promise of additional points may not be enough to lure shooters past the 24-foot mark if it meant abysmal shooting percentages.

And in the Moneyball world of data-driven sports strategies, it matters how many shots you make, not how many you take.

3 Doesn’t Equal 4

While the 3-point shot has become a reliable weapon for modern NBA team, there’s no guarantee that the 4-pointer would be equally as effective. And if learned anything from all those 80s action movies featuring a wicked warmonger pontificating to a peaceful protagonist – a weapon unused is a useless weapon.

And so, the shot would become more novelty than utility for in-game scenarios. With desperate heaves at the ends of quarters or near half court bombs during blowouts as a way to add insult to injury.

Blowouts? But you said…

Shut up about what I said. If we use today’s NBA as a model, then there’s no reason to believe that all teams would cash in on the 4-point riches equally. 

Just as with the 3-point shot, clubs stacked with more players who can hurt their opponents from beyond the arc would have a distinct advantage, which meams like The Warriors could become even more embarrassingly dominant.

The biggest blowout to date in NBA history was on December 17, 1991, when the Miami Heat trounced the Cleveland Cavaliers 148-80, in a game that featured only six made 3-pointers on fourteen attempts by the winning team.

Compare that to teams like the Houston Rockets who in the 2018-2019 season average 15.4 made 3-pointers on 43.9 attempts. Yikes.

Scores Could Plummet

Alongside the possibility of monstrous box scores exists the very real potential to fail hard.

Envision a scenario in which a team has game planned heavily to rely on the 4-pointer, but the shots just aren’t falling that night. Gradually, the game could start slipping away from them. And in an attempt to restore balance to a lopsided contest, they abandon 2 and 3-pointers altogether, putting all their eggs in the 4-point basket. But, at this point, the basket is skewed, the eggs are all cracked, and yolk is spilling all over the logo at half court.

Not a pretty sight.

One would hope conventional wisdom would prevail, and the team would give up on the 4-ball. But if the Seattle Seahawks, down by 4 with 20 seconds left in Super Bowl XLIX, attempting a pass play from the 1-yard line has taught me anything, it’s that strategy sometimes gets in the way of common sense.

The End of Basketball as We Know It

Here’s where we old fogies lean in. An all-too-common critique of modern basketball is that not enough attention is given to fundamentals.

Why spend time practicing dribbling and passing, when today’s crowds erupt with every deep bomb? And, the deeper the bomb, they louder the oohs and aahs.

In addition to neglecting other facets of the game, it increases the likelihood of younger players to develop poor shot mechanics in attempts to heave the ball beyond their range.

With isolation alright a lazy blight on modern offenses, the opportunity to quickly rack up points without ever passing the ball or getting close to the basket could lead to the continued erosion of the half-court game.

And if teams abandon half-court sets, the move could significantly devalue the big man positions. Gone would be the days of punishing physicality, pinpoint interior passing, and deft touch around the rim. And the league would no longer hold a place for the Shaquille O’Neals, Hakeem Olajuwons, and Arvydas Sabonises of the basketball world. Sabonises? Saboni? 

Revelations

Of course, at the end of the day, this is all theory. The 4-pointer may never find its way to the NBA at all, or if it does, it could become as much a blessing as its 3-point predecessor.

The only thing I know for sure is that as miraculous as it would seem to watch a player consistently rain down 4-pointers, if he starts doing 4-goggles, I’m calling an exorcist.