7/2/13

Corner 3 - The Future is Now

Before I get started, allow myself to introduce... myself. My name is Will Fifer and I'm very much looking forward to being a part of the DNB team. It is my goal that readers and Raps fans alike gain something fresh through my contribution. So... here's what I got - you be the judge:

The corner 3. Many consider it the best shot in the game. At a distance of 22 feet - opposed to 23.75 feet above the break - the corners represent the shortest distance from 3-point land to the rim. Some teams take advantage of the reduced 1.75 feet more than others. Among the best, the 2013 NBA Finalists San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat. The Spurs netted a total of 266 makes from downtown during the regular season and the Heat splashed a whopping 308. Comparatively, Dwayne Casey's Raptors deposited a meager 131 according to Vorped.com.

Undoubtedly, all offenses are not created equal and there is a vast talent discrepancy between the lowly Raptors and the class of the NBA. The likes of Demar Derozan, Rudy Gay, Alan Anderson and Landry Fields won't be mistaken for sharpshooters any time soon. However, Casey's offensive scheme hasn't made it easier on them, Derozan in particular. Derozan was the recipient of frequent off-ball screens that usually resulted in a jump shot. No, not the corner 3, but rather its nemesis, the worst shot in basketball - the long 2. Derozan derived much of his offensive output via long 2-point jump shots; many of which, distance wise, would qualify for the corner 3. In essence, Casey and Derozan toiled in tandem to sell a fair number of field goal attempts a point shy by designing and executing sets that yielded the long 2, instead of the corner 3.

Sounds crazy, right? Pining for a 23% career 3-point shooter to launch more 3's. Derozan's 3-point numbers are slightly misleading because he's taken too many out of range 3's, shooting a paltry 19-83 from distance above the break last year, which is consistent with his career numbers. From the corners, however, where he should be more often, he shot 12-37. This sample, albeit small and still only 32%, suggests that if Derozan shoots more 3's from the corner his percentage should see a hike in efficiency. Moreover, the corners produced more points per shot for Derozan than anywhere else outside of the paint. While he made a lower percentage of buckets from the corner 3 than he did in the mid-range, the extra point awarded on converted 3's more than made up for it.

Another young wing who entered the league with question marks swirling his jump shot was Kawhi Leonard.  He has since quelled a lot of his doubters just two years into his career, despite shooting worse than Derozan from above the break this past season (12-56). How then, you ask? The corners, where he netted a very respectable 50-119. Greg Popovich has access to better talent, sure, but he also knows how to get the most out of his players, whether it be maximizing their strengths or rectifying their weaknesses, instead of hiding them. Case in point, Leonard's 3-point shooting. One might wonder if Derozan would also flourish under Popovich, camping in the corners. Here's hoping Casey follows suit and implements a similar emphasis on the corners sooner rather than later so Raps fan can determine, not wonder.

follow Will on Twitter @monkeysampan

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