And, now, under new commish Adam Silver, the league is looking at that, and interestingly, in combination with a larger court, something I hadn't considered.
NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn and vice president Kiki Vandeweghe acknowledged in a recent interview with ESPN.com that the league office, at least in an exploratory fashion, has weighed expanding the dimensions of the court and the introduction of a 4-point shot. ...Thorn goes on to note the ducat value of courtside seats is a negative factor in expansion.
The NBA has employed a 94-foot-by-50-foot court since the 1940s. But Vandeweghe -- who went to two All-Star Games as a player and most recently served as an executive and head coach with the Nets before joining the league office in 2013 -- confirmed that the growing size and ever-increasing athleticism of players today prompted discussion about expanding the playing surface.
But, if you can get just a foot on either side, it will open up the floor a fair amount. Three feet on either end sounds about right. Two feet or so would be even better, though, as I'll explain below.
And, yes, it would make a difference. Both changes would make a difference. At Grantland, Zach Lowe recently had a good, in-depth piece about how NBA teams (for the most part) are moving ever more toward 3-ball offense. And, it makes sense. The simple math says that a 3-ball at a 36-percent shooting accuracy is like shooting a 2 with 54 percent accuracy, and you have to be inside 17 feet, maybe a bit closer, to do that with a 2. So, shoot away is sound coaching, if you've got a team that can shoot the 3 that well.
But, not everybody likes this.
Lowe also notes some folks, like Stan Van Gundy and Billy King, are worried about this trend, and suggest possible remedies. One of them is to make the current field goal worth 3 and the current 3-ball worth 4. However, this would lead to a new outbreak of what was made famous by Shaquille O'Neal, the old Hack-a-Shaq with three free throws instead of two.
My alternative? Which the NBA may now like, and should, because it also ties into the athleticism issue, and will open up the court even more?
Shoot the 4-ball, and make Antoine Walker's dreams come true. Walker famously said "there are no fours" when asked why he jacked up so many 3-balls, a sentiment backed by actions that got him on Deadspin's NBA Shit List.
I'd consider moving the 3-line in from its current 23-9 if we did this. Probably not all the way to the 22-0, matching the corners, as the David Stern League did briefly in the mid-’90s, but maybe 22-6, or if not, 23-0.
Then set the 4-pointer at, say, 26-0. Maybe 27-0. But no further out. We want the 4-ball to have about 25 percent accuracy for top shooters, making it the equivalent of a 2-ball at 50 percent. Maybe a bit lower, but no lower than 22 percent. I don't want the 4-ball to become a temptation away from 3s, but I want it, if this seems wise, to be a halfway legitimate shot, and not just a lucky freak.
Maybe, if we expand the court an extra two feet on each side, for 54 feet, we can make a 24-foot or 24-6 wing 4-pointer, just like the 3-point line cuts in below the elbows.
And Mr. Logo, Jerry West, is probably wishing he was balling in this league. If he played just with the 3 an option, he'd have scored 30,000 for sure. With this, and him actually chucking a few 4s, and having more room for 3s, he might have hit 35,000.
But, this doesn't go far enough. Silver and the NBA should adopt international in-bounding rules, among other additional changes to speed the game up and improve its flow.