Danielle Robinson has had an accomplished basketball career, one that has seen her reach All-WNBA status in 2014 and finish top 10 in assists per game five times. But there’s one thing the Lynx guard has yet to do, something that seemed like it would’ve happened at some point during her seven seasons — hit a three-pointer.
“I really want to hit it,” Robinson said. “Coach bet her mortgage on it, so I owe her that.”
Robinson is 0-for-37 in her WNBA career from behind the arc and even worked with a coach last offseason to expand her range.
“I know people are waiting, like ‘She hasn’t hit it yet,’ ” Robinson said. “When I hit it, I don’t know if I’m going to do anything crazy. I’m just going to be like, ‘It’s done.’ And we can stop talking about it.”
Robinson is attempting to add the three to her arsenal in part because the league, much like the NBA, is seeing a significant increase in shots from beyond the arc.
Five years ago, WNBA three-point attempts accounted for 21.6 percent of all shot attempts. That number is up to 27.9 percent this season as of Wednesday. The Lynx have never taken a lot of threes relative to the rest of the league, but even they are taking more. In 2013, they were 11th of 12 teams in attempts per game (10.6). Last season they were seventh (16.1), and the volume of attempts increased from 359 to 548. This season they rank 10th with 168 attempts and are fourth in percentage (.345).
But the league isn’t as three-crazy as the NBA, where threes accounted for 33.7 percent of all attempts — and the Houston Rockets became the first team to take more threes than twos during the regular season.
“There is a lot of value in being able to shoot a three in terms of the analytics of it,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “The Houston Rockets situation is the absolute extreme, the nth degree of the analytics. We have some teams in our league who feel the same. We happen to have a center.”
That would be Sylvia Fowles, the reigning league MVP.
Dominant post players such as Fowles, Brittney Griner of Phoenix and Liz Cambage of Dallas are one reason why there aren’t more three-point attempts in the league, and why that shot might not become as common as it is in the NBA. For some WNBA teams, the offense starts on the inside and extends out, instead of starting outside and going inward, and Reeve said she doesn’t see the league moving too far to the outside when she looks at the young players entering the pro ranks. The three-point shot for the Lynx serves a traditional purpose — to open room inside — instead of being the focal point of the offense.
“We shoot a good percentage, right around 35. That’s a good number and so, I wouldn’t mind if we shot it more,” Reeve said. “I think spacing the floor, there’s tremendous value when you do have a center.”
Teams swarm Fowles because when she gets the ball inside, she scores around 65 percent of the time.
Maya Moore is the Lynx’s main three-point threat, shooting 34.4 percent on 5.8 attempts per game. Other Lynx players are stretching their range when previously they hadn’t, like Robinson. Reeve said she doesn’t want Robinson to take focus away from the things she does well, but she has been encouraging Robinson to shoot open threes, especially late in the shot clock.
“I want her to be a good point guard first …” Reeve said. “I told her you’re never going to come out of the game for taking and missing a three. If you don’t take a three, there’s a good chance I’m going to take you out. You try to incentivize it.”
Robinson isn’t the only one adding to her game. After Fowles came in a trade from Chicago, forward Rebekkah Brunson pushed her game outward. From 2014 to 2016, Brunson took only five three-pointers. She has taken 87 the past two seasons, shooting 36.8 percent.
“I don’t think that if you want to have a long career that you can continue to be the same player that you’ve been,” Brunson said. “So I knew personally that I need to add some things to my game. Within that, I saw the opportunity to be able to help the team.”
While Reeve said she wouldn’t mind if the Lynx shot more threes, she would prefer them to come from the corners, where a higher percentage are made than from the wings or top of the key.
“I’ll tell you where the NBA is better than the WNBA is they hunt corner threes far more than our league does,” Reeve said. “We celebrate the corner three. … Try to get them to take more. Our percentage is up in terms of the frequency of taking it, but it still isn’t outnumbering the slot or the top.”
Perhaps that’s the next step, since everybody in the league is now taking more threes.