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Ranking The 10 Best 3-And-D NBA Players In The 2021-22 Season

Ranking The 10 Best 3-And-D NBA Players In The 2021-22 Season

In today’s NBA, analytics drive roster construction and coaching. There are dozens of statistics websites open to the public and even more available to the 30 organizations that make up the league. These websites are full of figures, and one of the most essential data points available is about 3-and-D players.

We know superstars are essential to performing well in the regular season and marching deep into the playoffs. We also know that beyond the league’s top-20 athletes, no other type of player is more important to their team’s success than 3-and-D players. These men lock down the opposing squad’s top perimeter option on defense and spread the floor with a sweet outside stroke on offense. The top 3-and-D players sprinkle in a bit of playmaking or a few flurries into the lane to keep defenders honest, but they don’t step out of their roles and they don’t hurt their squad with silly mistakes.

Below is our list of the top-10 3-and-D players in the NBA.


10. P.J. Washington

pj washington

During P.J. Washington’s first two campaigns in Charlotte, he flashed excellent 3-and-D potential. This year he’s missed time with an elbow injury, but during the 21 games he’s suited up for, he’s shown his budding stroke and defensive acumen have finally formed. Now he’s one of the best 3-and-D weapons in the league.

Washington is shooting 43.0% from deep off 4.8 attempts per game from the power forward position helping drag opposing big men away from the rim, allowing teammates LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges to find space in the lane to work with. According to Cleaning the Glass, the Hornets are +10.2 points per 100 possessions better with Washington on the floor, adding further proof the sweet-shooting PF is one of the most valuable offensive role players in the league.

This season, the Charlotte Hornets have been awful on defense, landing 28th out of 30 teams in defensive rating. Washington can hardly be blamed for their deficiencies on the less fun side. He’s holding his assignments to -0.3% under their normal shooting average, and per Dunks and Threes he’s in the 90th percentile in the NBA in block percentage at 4.3%, helping provide excellent rim protection and backline defense for his teammates.


9. Otto Porter Jr.

Otto Porter Jr

Otto Porter Jr. has bounced around the league, traveling from Washington to Chicago to Orlando before finally landing in Golden State this season. The way things are going in San Francisco in 2021-2022, Warriors management would be foolish to let Porter’s journeys continue next year.

Otto Porter Jr.’s been the quintessential 3-and-D player for Golden State. He takes nearly two-thirds of field goal attempts from beyond the arc, and he’s connecting on 40% of his shots. The former Georgetown player hasn’t tried to do too much this season. He comes in with a minuscule 14.3% usage rate (41st percentile out of all forwards), and he averages only 0.6 turnovers per game. Porter has put his ego aside for the good of the team and played mistake-free basketball, helping propel the Warriors to the fourth-best offense in the association.

Otto Porter Jr. checks off all the hustle stat boxes on the less fun side of the ball. He contests 3.1 shots per game, and he averages 1.4 deflections per contest, both excellent marks considering he only plays 21.2 minutes nightly. He’s also been a steal magnet for the Warriors. Per Dunks and Threes, he has a 2.3% theft rate, good for the 86th percentile league wide.


8. Grayson Allen

Grayson Allen

Grayson Allen came into the league in 2018 and immediately made a name for himself as a long-distance marksman who couldn’t play a lick of defense. Four campaigns and three teams later, Allen finds himself in Milwaukee, still shooting the ball at a high clip from beyond the arc and suddenly playing excellent perimeter D.

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo lives off his bull-rushes to the rim, and to succeed, he needs room to breathe. That’s where Allen comes in. He’s the consummate floor-spacing wing. He takes 7.0 of his 9.9 total field goal attempts from beyond the arc, connecting on 38.9% of his tries. The former Duke star cannot be left alone, giving The Greek Freak one-on-one opportunities.

On defense, Allen is suddenly going 110%. He’s contesting 6.2 shots per game, and he’s averaging 1.4 deflections per game, which shows he’s bought into the Bucks culture of hustling and playing D throughout every minute of every game. More importantly, Grayson Allen has begun to launch out to the three-point line, holding his men to a stingy 28.2% from deep, 7.1% lower than their standard three-point shooting mark.


7. Keldon Johnson

Keldon Johnson

If you don’t live in Southern Texas, you might not have heard of Keldon Johnson.

Here’s a quick primer:

- He starred at Kentucky

- He was drafted in the first round by San Antonio

- He played on the USA Men’s Basketball Team over the summer

- He’s become one of the top 3-and-D players in the league in this, his third season in the association

Keldon Johnson isn’t your typical 3-and-D wing. He only takes 3.5 three-point shots per contest. He has a solid midrange game, and he’s a high-flyer who can do damage on the rim. Still, he’s hitting 44.9% of his looks from deep. As Johnson’s career continues to unfold, he should morph from a player who’s been tasked with doing a little too much on this year’s version of the undermanned San Antonio Spurs into the role he’s shown he’s best suited for, a top-three 3-and-D player in the league.

San Antonio has a very un-Spurs-like 17th rated defense this season. Players like Dejounte Murray, Doug McDermott, Tre Jones, and Bryn Forbes have struggled to keep their men in front of them. Keldon Johnson hasn’t had that problem. He’s holding his assignments to a stingy 43.4% hit rate from the field, and the Spurs are a full 5 points more miserly on D with the Virginia native on the court.


6. Luke Kennard

luke kennard

The Clippers have been without superstar Kawhi Leonard for the entire season as he recuperates from a knee injury. Their other superstar, Paul George, has also missed significant time with an elbow issue. LA’s other team has still managed to go 19-19, good for seventh place in the Western Conference. Luke Kennard can’t take full credit for the Clippers’ solid play, but his 3-and-D ability has undoubtedly been a blessing.

Luke Kennard ranks seventh in the NBA in three-point shooting (minimum 3.5 3PA’s per game) with a 44.1% mark, making the former Blue Devil one of the best high volume marksmen in the league. Kennard has one of the fastest releases in the association and has shown he can hit from distance with only a slither of space, helping him create room for his teammates. The Clippers have scored 5.4 points more per 100 possessions with Kennard on the floor.

Kennard’s never been known as a plus-defender, but he’s been getting after it on the less fun end in 2021-2022. He’s holding his men to a 43.5% connect rate from the field, showing he’s become a solid one-on-one defender. The catch-all defensive stats back up Kennard’s ascension into a solid ballhawk as well. He has an excellent 104.9 defensive rating, and the Clippers give up 1.6 fewer points with him on the court.


5. Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson, at 6-8, 210 pounds, has the prototypical size all teams covet in a wing defender. Add on his 43.1% mark from deep, and you have the recipe for a top-five 3-and-D wing in today’s NBA.

Cameron Johnson is the ultimate floor-spacing big. He takes over two-thirds of his shots from deep, and throughout 2021-2022 he’s proven to be one of the best spot-up options in the league, scoring 1.25 points per possession, a mark that lands him in the 93rd percentile. Johnson is essential to the Suns’ success because Phoenix’s other big men, Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee, are inside bruisers who push other centers towards the rim to deter shot attempts from Chris Paul and Devin Booker. Johnson is the opposite. He drags the power forward or center defending him out behind the arc, where he must be accounted for because of his deadly three-point stroke.

On defense, Cameron Johnson is an excellent inside-out defender. He holds the opposition to 58.4% from the field from less than five feet away from the rim, a superb mark that is better than Suns center and potential NBA All-Defensive Team candidate, Deandre Ayton who allows his assignments to hit at a 60.4% clip at the rack. Johnson also stymies the opposition into shooting 32.1% from deep, proving not only does he have the size and length to be a deterrent at the rim, but he also has the motor to rush out and contest looks on the perimeter.


4. Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball Is On Track To Become First Point Guard To Average 1.5 Steals And 1 Block For An Entire Season

You probably know Lonzo Ball’s story if you’re an NBA fan.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

- Lonzo Ball was drafted second by the Lakers, and his pops proclaimed he would be better than Magic Johnson

- Lonzo’s dad hyped him, hyped him some more, and then heaped on some more hype

- Lonzo buckled under the pressure from his dad and from playing for the Lakers. As a rookie, he shot 30.5% from distance and 45.1% from the charity stripe. In his second campaign, Ball connected on 32.9% of his three-pointers and clanked his way to an ugly 41.7% from the free-throw line

- He also buckled from playing on his dad’s BBB brand shoes, suffering two significant leg injuries in each of his first two seasons

- The bust birds came flying out, and Ball was traded to the Pelicans during the summer of his third year

- Ball’s dad shut his mouth, he shifted over to Nike, and he found peace in NBA purgatory (New Orleans)

Now Lonzo Ball is a valuable player for the Bulls, and he is one of the major reasons Chicago finds itself in first place in the Eastern Conference, two games up on the Brooklyn Nets.

The catch-all stats love Lonzo Ball.

Dunks and Threes’ EPM rates him in the 86th percentile of all players behind his excellent three-point shooting and steal rate.

Basketball Reference’s box plus/minus has him at 2.2 points above a replacement-level player.

Lonzo Ball has an 18.5% usage on the season, placing him in the 18th percentile among all point guards. Lonzo Ball can do more than play a 3-and-D role, but he’s taken a step back on the Chicago Bulls and let teammates Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan work their magic. Instead of handling the rock, he spots up 5.3 times per game, connecting on 41.0% of his attempts from distance.

On the less fun side, Ball is seventh in the league in deflections, getting his hands on the rock 3.3 times per game. And he’s 11th in steals clocking in with 1.8 per game. The former Laker has been a whirling dervish of activity for the Bulls, wreaking havoc against opposing backcourt players.


3. Bobby Portis

Bobby Portis

You never like to see a player go down with an injury, but Brook Lopez’s early season back problem has paved the way for Bobby Portis to shift into beast mode. He’s started 25 games at center in 2021-2022, and he’s helped the Milwaukee Bucks race off to a top-10 offense and defense.

Bobby Portis is a proper floor-spacing big, hitting 43.2% of his long-distance bombs, dragging out opposing centers beyond the arc, and clearing room for his teammates, Giannis, Middleton, Holiday to go to work at the rim without an opposing center guarding the lane. Making matters worse for the other 29 teams in the league, Portis doesn’t jack up wild threes as a defender races out to contest one of his shots from beyond the arc. Instead, he calmly lets the player fly by him before he steps inside the arc, where he’s hitting 48.4% of his shots from 16 feet to the arch.

Bobby Portis doesn’t have the length that Brook Lopez has on defense. But what Portis lacks in reach, he makes up for in foot speed. At 6-10, 250 pounds, Portis isn’t a pushover in the lane, but he’s surprisingly light-footed, allowing the Bucks to play a switch-heavy scheme on the less glamorous end. Overall, Portis is contesting 9.2 shots per game, second on Milwaukee, and he’s forcing his assignments to 5.3 under their normal average, tops on his team.


2. Andrew Wiggins

Warriors Executive On Trading Andrew Wiggins- "Am I Going To Tell Him That He Will Never Get Traded At Any Point? No."

Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr, thinks Andrew Wiggins deserves a spot in the 2022 All-Star game.

“He’s one of the best two-way players in the league,” Kerr told reporters at a nightly press conference. “Night in and night out he gives us 18 or 20 points. He’s shooting 42 percent from the three, he’s guarding the most difficult player on the court every single night at the other end. He’s taken on the role defensively that is just crucial to our team with Klay [Thompson] out.”

Wiggins will probably not make his first All-Star appearance in the crowded Western Conference. Still, he’s transformed into one of the best 3-and-D wings in the league and has been a significant factor in Golden State’s success this season.

Kerr tasks Wiggins with taking on the most challenging perimeter assignment nightly for the Warriors. Despite the top-flight offensive weapons he’s responsible for, he’s holding his man to 42.9% from the field. Wiggins has the size and athleticism to shut down every type of wing in the league, and he’s also strong enough to switch onto big men and not get bullied on the block.

On offense, Wiggins is connecting on 43.5% of his shots from beyond the arc, helping Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole find room to operate in. According to Dunks and Threes Wiggins lands inside the 85th percentile on the fun side of the ball with +1.5 EPM.

Stephen Curry has been the Warriors’ offensive engine, and Draymond Green has helped propel them to the top defensive rating in the NBA. But without Andrew Wiggins’s capacity to harass opposing wings on defense and his much improved three-point stroke, Golden State wouldn’t have one of the best records in the league.


1. Mikal Bridges

Mikal Bridges

Nobody in the league works harder on the less fun side than Mikal Bridges.

He’s third in the league in distance run on defense, sprinting 1.28 miles around the court nightly.

Not only does he run himself ragged, hounding his assignments, but he takes on the strongest offensive player every time he steps on the floor.

“He guards the toughest guy every single night, sometimes 94 feet. All-Stars, 1A, 2A guys — Mikal is on them,” head coach Monty Williams said earlier in the season. “His value to our team, it’s hard to quantify. Because it allows for other guys, not to take a break, but they don’t have to chase those guys around the floor the way that he does.”

Mikal Bridges has excellent defensive numbers. He contests over six shots per game to go along with 2.2 deflections. He holds the best players in the world to a 44.9% field goal percentage, and he has an excellent 103.8 defensive rating.

His value to the Suns goes beyond statistics. As Monty Williams said, he sprints around the court, fighting off his screaming lungs and aching legs, hounding All-Star after All-Star so that his teammates Chris Paul and Devin Booker don’t have to. He frees them up to go to work on offense, putting his own ambitions on the back burner and allowing CP3 and Book to amass the huge numbers that lead to max contracts and a plethora of lucrative endorsement deals.

He’s the ultimate team player.

Bridges isn’t bad on offense either. He’s hitting 40.9% of his three-point looks while turning the ball over only 0.8 times per game.

Every team in the league would kill to get Mikal Bridges. His ability to play the best perimeter D in the league combined with his outside stroke could be the difference-maker in the Suns’ march towards the title this year.

3-and-D Role Players Are More Vital Than Ever

This modern version of the NBA is run by the handful of superstars who have the gravity to lead their team to a title. Still, those superstars can’t do it alone, and we’ve seen in 2021-2022 that the teams with excellent 3-and-D players reside at or near the top of the standings.

The Phoenix Suns own the best record in the league and have two of the ten-best 3-and-D players in the league, including Mikal Bridges, who lives in our top spot. The other top squad in the West, the Golden State Warriors, also landed two players on our list with Andrew Wiggins and Otto Porter Jr. Last year’s champion. The Milwaukee Bucks is the only other squad with two top-10 3-and-D athletes, Bobby Portis and Grayson Allen.

The other squads in the NBA can look on in jealousy of the Suns, Warriors, and Bucks, hoping they too can land two top-notch 3-and-D wings who can lock up opposing players on D and hit a high clip from distance on offense.

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