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Film Don’t Lie: A Deep Dive Into the 3-Point Shooting of Saddiq Bey

Watching every 3-point attempt from the Detroit Pistons third-year wing-forward.

Orlando Magic v Detroit Pistons Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey exploded on the NBA scene in his rookie season and looked like one of the steals of the draft. He finished with the third most 3-pointers made by a rookie in NBA history, and likely would have broken the record if not for a pandemic-induced abbreviated season. He played just 70 of 72 games and finished just 12 shy of breaking the all-time rookie record set by Donovan Mitchell.

It is worth noting that three rookies, Keegan Murray, Bennedict Mathurin and Jabari Smith Jr., could challenge this if they increase their current pace. All three of these players came in with reputations as big-time shooters, and only Murray currently matches the 38% from behind the arc that Bey was able to accomplish in his first year.

Bey followed up his rookie season by breaking the Detroit Pistons’ record for made 3-pointers in a season, but it was actually on slightly less volume per 100 possessions, AND we saw the first drop in percentage.

It is important to note that 3-point shooting can vary from year to year. I once had a good friend and incredible Pistons historian (you NEED to check out the Bad Boys and Beyond podcast), Keith Black Trudeau, tell me to look up the year to year numbers of Indiana Pacers great, Reggie Miller. These are the 3-point percentages of his first six seasons in the league: 36%, 40%, 41%, 35%, 38%, 40%.

Once Miller hit his prime he stayed around that 40% mark, but the point is even one of the greatest shooters of all time had some variance early in his career.

The thing you notice with Miller is that the shooting percentage never dipped in consecutive seasons. That is not the case for Bey. Not only has the percentage dropped yet again, down to 32% at time of this article, but the volume has actually taken another significant decrease per 100 possessions.

There has been a lot of discussion in the fanbase about Bey’s increased emphasis on attacking the rim, his turning down of open 3-point shots, and the added degree of difficulty of his perimeter shots with his addition of off-the-dribble side-step attempts. It makes you wonder, or at least made me wonder, what a little deeper dive into his shot diet might uncover.

I went back and watched every single Saddiq Bey 3-point attempt from this season, up to the first of the year, which was 35 games played and 184 attempts (that was how many inSTAT had tracked). Quick note here, Bey does end up being forced to take one of those full-court heaves about every fourth game so there are only 176 tracked attempts due to 8 of those during the 35 games.

I tracked every single shot attempt in four categories. The shot type, footwork used, shot location and what was the general play type that led to the shot. Each of these will be explained in more detail.

The tables below show the overall 3-point field goal attempts, makes, percentages, percent of attempts and percent of makes within each category. The first graph is for the entire season, up to the first 35 games played, and the second graphic is from Bey’s games played from Dec. 4-31, where we see a noticeable improvement in his shooting. This was done to see if there were any major improvements in any specific areas or just straight improvement across the board.

Shot Type

Saddiq Bey - Shot Type

Shot Type FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Shot Type FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Catch and Shoot 107 39 36% 61% 66%
Forward Dribble 11 2 18% 6% 3%
Side Dribble 37 9 24% 21% 15%
Off Screens 11 4 36% 6% 7%
Jab Step 10 5 50% 6% 8%
176 59 34% 100% 100%

Saddiq Bey - Shot Type (December)

Shot Type FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Shot Type FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Catch and Shoot 45 18 40% 62% 58%
Forward Dribble 3 1 33% 4% 3%
Side Dribble 15 5 33% 21% 16%
Off Screens 6 3 50% 8% 10%
Jab Step 4 4 100% 5% 13%
73 31 42% 100% 100%

One of the first differentiating factors is the type of shot Bey is taking. We will start with the catch and shoot. These are relatively stationary attempts off someone else’s creation, whether in transition, drive and kick, or pass along the perimeter. As you can see, these make up almost two-thirds of the attempts and makes for Bey. Based on Bey’s skillset, these are the attempts and volume you want to see from Bey, and he did show some nice subtle off-ball movement to get into the correct passing windows. At the end of the day, he just has to start making more of these and we will dive into that a little more when we get into the play types, but it is encouraging that we see a jump in the percentage in December.

We won’t touch much on the forward dribble attempts other to say there are times where he could take these shots (essentially driving straight downhill at a defender) as opposed to the sidestep attempts, but at the end of the day he hasn’t been any more efficient with them.

I would be lying if I didn’t say the sidestep three-point attempts were the beginning motivation for this project. The eye test says he hasn’t been good at that kind of attempt, and it seems the Pistons fanbase screams at their television set when he turns down an open catch-and-shoot to instead take a sidestep. Well, we now have the data to back it up. While it has been better in December, you can see that will be true for almost every category across the board, it is simply not an efficient shot, and Bey should continue to try and limit these attempts.

It was a little discouraging to track how few of Bey’s attempts involve running off screens. The efficiency is not bad at all, albeit on low volume, and this would be a really nice development for his all around three-point shooting value.

Lastly, the major surprise from the data is how good Bey has shot when jab stepping a defender and then going right into his attempt. Again, we cannot make any overwhelming statements from this small of a sample size. However, I can’t help but feel like this is another alternative to the sidestep 3-pointer. This would also complement his desire to attack the basket more. If the defender fails to back up on the jab, he should then have the advantage to attack him off the bounce into the lane.


Saddiq Bey - Footwork

Footwork FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Footwork FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Left-Right 137 50 36% 78% 85%
Right-Left 39 9 23% 22% 15%
176 59 34% 100% 100%

Saddiq Bey - Footwork (December)

Footwork FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Footwork FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Left-Right 53 25 47% 73% 81%
Right-Left 20 6 30% 27% 19%
73 31 42% 100% 100%

It is not at all surprising that Bey would have more left-right step than right-left step attempts as a right-hander, but what is concerning is how big that gap is and how big the gap is in overall shooting efficiency. At the end of the day, there are attempts and situations where the right-left step is the footwork that should be used and there were plenty of examples where Bey was not using proper footwork.

An improvement here would not only help with his pure catch-and-shoot numbers but also more long-term if he does start to be utilized more coming off of screens.

Shot Location

Saddiq Bey - Shot Location

Shot Location FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Shot Location FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Top of Key 19 5 26% 11% 8%
Left Wing 70 20 29% 40% 34%
Right Wing 25 9 36% 14% 15%
Left Corner 41 16 39% 23% 27%
Right Corner 21 9 43% 12% 15%
176 59 34% 100% 100%

Saddiq Bey - Shot Location (December)

Shot Location FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Shot Location FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Top of Key 11 2 18% 15% 6%
Left Wing 27 12 44% 37% 39%
Right Wing 8 4 50% 11% 13%
Left Corner 18 7 39% 25% 23%
Right Corner 9 6 67% 12% 19%
73 31 42% 100% 100%

This is probably the easiest example of the increased shooting efficiency that Bey showed during those December games as his percentages trended upward in every location except at the top of the key.

The biggest takeaway here is how much more Bey prefers to be on the left side of the floor compared to the right. Maybe this is something that could be a positive for him and Killian Hayes being on the floor together as Hayes prefers driving left or when running the floor in transition.

The corner three-pointer is extremely valuable in the NBA and it would be great to see Bey continue to trend upward and build upon the 47% on these attempts during that December stretch.

Play Type

Saddiq Bey - Play Type

Play Type FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Play Type FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Transition 17 9 53% 10% 15%
Drive and Kick 62 21 34% 35% 36%
Perimeter Pass 49 18 37% 28% 31%
Off the Dribble 48 11 23% 27% 19%
176 59 34% 100% 100%

Saddiq Bey - Play Type (December)

Play Type FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Play Type FGA FGM FG% % of Attempts % of Makes
Transition 8 5 63% 11% 16%
Drive and Kick 26 10 38% 36% 32%
Perimeter Pass 21 10 48% 29% 32%
Off the Dribble 18 6 33% 25% 19%
73 31 42% 100% 100%

We have already touched on the off-the-dribble attempts, but this category again highlights how much less efficient Bey on these shots. We saw a small drop in the percentage of his overall attempts that came off the dribble, but he should continue to work to lower that number.

Bey should be focused on increasing his attempts in transition based on the data. Like the jab step attempts, this is a small sample, but the efficiency is good enough that it would make sense for Bey to maximize transition attempts moving forward.

Another intriguing data point is the types of catch-and-shoot attempts he is taking. The data for the entire season, and his hotter December stretch, show that he’s finding more success off of perimeter passes than drive-and-kick opportunities created by his teammates. In December, Bey is converting 48% of his attempts off the perimeter, but only 38% when his teammates are bending the defense and creating drive and kick opportunities.

Of course it would be great if Bey could simply increase his efficiency on these quality looks, something he improved on less in December compared to the improvements in other play types. However, the team might also focus on getting him looks off perimeter passes where he seems to be more comfortable. The easiest examples would be to use him more in ghost screen and pick-and-pop situations.

Saddiq Bey’s 3-Point Shot Diet

After working through this project, there do seem to be some takeaways that could help improve Bey’s 3-point efficiency. First, eliminate the off the dribble shots as much as possible. Second, get more transition and perimeter-to-perimeter attempts. Finally, he must improve with his right-left step shooting. Really, though, the bottom line is for Bey to improve and have sustained success in the NBA, he simply needs to knock down more shots. He needs to become dangerous if not deadly on his catch-and-shoot opportunities, and he needs to be able to convert the good looks off of drive-and-kick opportunities created by teammates.

As we discussed, even the best of shooters have variance in their 3-point shooting. If Bey continues the upward trajectory we saw in December throughout the rest of the season, he could bring his overall 3-point percentage up to around 35%. That isn’t as dangerous as his rookie season, but it would go a long way in bringing back the fanbase confidence in the third-year wing-forward.