Last season Sixers rookie Hollis Thompson was the only rookie, among those who attempted at least 50 three point attempts, to shoot better than 40% from three point range.
It's a pretty good accomplishment. So far only one rookie this year would qualify for that accomplishment: Thompson's teammate, Jerami Grant.
So Hollis Thompson's start to the season was rather underwhelming. Thompson shot a disappointing 34.5% from three point range in November, then followed that up with a disastrous 30.6% from three point range in 9 December games before missing nearly a month due to an upper respiratory infection that caused him to lose 20 pounds.
When Thompson came back, he found his minutes reduced. Thompson played only 18 minutes per night during his first 11 games back after returning from the illness.
"He was out for so long, and really out of my mind for a while when he came back," Brown said about Thompson's missed time. "Now he has his feet settled, and he's playing with confidence."
With that drop in playing time came even more struggles from the field for Thompson, who shot only 32.9% from the field and 27.0% from three point range during that 11 game stretch.
The combination presented a little bit of a chicken and egg scenario where it's hard for a shooter to get into a rhythm with sporadic playing time, but it's hard to justify giving playing time to a shooter who isn't connecting.
Hopefully Thompson's excellent performance against the Nuggets can help him get out of his slump.
Thompson scored a career-high 23 points last night in the Sixers 105-98 win over the Nuggets, their third straight win at home. Thompson scored 19 of his points in the first half, where he was a perfect 6-6 from the field, including 4-4 from three point range and 3-3 from the line.
Thompson has averaged 15 points per game in 26 minutes per night in the last 3 games, while connecting on 3.3 of his 5.3 attempts per game from three point range, good for 62.5% from three.
More importantly, the team has played better offensively. The Sixers have the worst three point percentage in the league at 30.3%. In fact, they have the worst three point percentage since the Sixers shot 29.9% from three in 2001-02. To find a non-Philadelphia team that has shot less than 30.3% from three point range you have to go all the way back to the Denver Nuggets in 1993-94, which was practically a different game back then. Teams, on average, attempted less than 10 three point attempts per game in the 1993-94 season, compared to the 22 per night that is averaged now.
However, the Sixers have shot 38.9% from three point range over the last 3 games, making 12.3 per contest. The improved shooting, largely on the back of Thompson's increased effectiveness from deep, has been a big part of the reason the Sixers have a 97.1 offensive rating over the last 3 games when Hollis Thompson has played, compared to a 91.2 offensive rating when he has been on the bench.
"We've had more three's in the last 3 games, and it's a difference maker," Brown said. "Hollis is a big part of that.
"He's mentally tough. There's a quiet toughness in him that would surprise people," Brown said about Thompson. "He's soft spoken, he's a gentleman, but there is a competitor in there.
"To see him come out and do what he did and get rewarded for all of that is just fantastic for him," Brown said, talking about how hard Thompson works in practice. "I think it is also a good statement to make in front of the other young guys. They see him in the gym working, and though he hasn't been rewarded, he doesn't go away. He doesn't complain."
As we noted earlier in the season, Hollis Thompson was making minor adjustments to his shooting release to try to get his shot off quicker. Perhaps the changes that were made are now becoming second nature for Thompson. Perhaps Thompson was just in a shooting slump to start the season, one that became even tougher to climb his way out of after coming down with the illness that kept him out for so long.
Whatever the case may be, if Thompson can continue to maintain his effectiveness, having another reliable shooter out there along with Robert Covington would go a long way towards making the Sixers a viable offensive team.