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The Extra Pass: Where Do Great Offenses Get Their Shots?

Jan 26, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Ray Allen

The Extra Pass is a new daily column that’s designed to give you a better look at a theme, team, player or scheme. Today, we narrow in on where great offenses are getting their shots.

On the surface, the best offenses in the league don’t seem to have much in common other than star power. Take the Nets and the Rockets, for example. They’re ranked 8th and 9th in offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions), and yet they couldn’t be more different. The Nets play at the league’s slowest pace, the Rockets play at the league’s fastest pace. The Nets are great in isolation and bad in the pick-and-roll, the Rockets are great in the pick-and-roll and bad in isolation. The two teams are like night and day, but they both get the job done. How?

Because the Rockets, Nets, and and the other top offenses in the league share a common trait, and it has nothing to do with pace. It’s all about location, location, location.

The Corner 3

The 3-pointer from the corner is one of the most efficient shots in basketball, and there’s a reason for that. First, it’s the shortest 3-pointer you can take, but more importantly, almost all shots coming from the corner are on catch-and-shoot opportunities as opposed to dribble pull-ups. The NBA average for corner 3-pointers is 38.5 percent — an impressive number when you consider the league shoots 34.8 percent on all other 3-point attempts. That’s a substantial bump.

Quantity matters

There’s a pretty strong correlation between teams that attempt lots of corner 3-pointers and overall offensive efficiency. The top eight teams in corner 3-point attempts (Rockets, Spurs, Heat, Nets, Clippers, Nuggets, Lakers, Knicks) are all top ten offenses in efficiency this season. The stats show that the best offenses in the league manufacture lots of spot-up opportunities in the corner.

There’s a pretty good team missing from that list

Did you catch that Oklahoma City wasn’t on the list? If you did, good eye. Oklahoma City has the most efficient offense in the league, but they’re just 22nd in attempts from the corner. What’s the deal?

It has a lot to do with the fact that their best players, the guys who use almost all of the possessions, rarely spend anytime behind the arc in the corner. Kevin Durant has taken only 13 attempts from the corner this season. Russell Westbrook has only taken 12. That being said, when the Thunder do shoot a corner 3, it’s almost always wide-open, and it’s usually going in. The Thunder shoot 45.7 percent on corner 3-pointers this season, by far the best percentage in the league.

Quality matters as well

Now that the top offense is accounted for, what about the tenth? Similar to Oklahoma City, the Golden State Warriors only shoot the 20th most attempts from the corner, but they’re right behind Miami for second in overall percentage at 43.8 percent.

You can safely say that for the league’s ten best offenses so far this season, the corner 3 is a big part of what they do. A lot of that can be attributed to defenses compensating for stars like Durant, Carmelo Anthony and others, but for a team like Houston or San Antonio, it’s a focused effort to create those shots and to find players who excel at hitting them. Danny Green is one of the best corner 3-point shooters in the league, and he was out of the league for a bit before the Spurs snatched him up.

Who are the best corner 3 guys in the NBA?

I almost guarantee you’ll do a double take here, but the leader in made 3-pointers from the corner this season is…Metta World Peace! He’s shooting 46 for 100 from that area this season, and he’s quietly been a rock for the disastrous Lakers, whose offensive issues aren’t really the problem.

Another interesting name that actually leads the league in corner attempts is Nuggets forward Corey Brewer. His shooting has been badly needed, mainly because Andre Iguodala has clanked his way to a 15-for-67 (22 percent) performance from the corner this year.

The usual suspects are on the leader board as well. Steve Novak is shooting a whopping 52.3 percent on 65 attempts. Ray Allen, perhaps the greatest corner shooter of all-time, is shooting 52.4 percent on 63 attempts. With Shane Battier also knocking in the third most makes in the league at a solid 46 percent clip, Miami almost always has a deadly spot-up corner shooter on the floor for LeBron James or Dwyane Wade to kick it out to.

And that’s kind of the point. The league’s greatest offenses will always be driven by star players, but they’ll be fueled by the corner 3.

Stats from NBA.com were used in this article.

  1. supremekingz - Jan 26, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    Wow. Great article. Never knew the corner 3 was so important

  2. broadstbully - Jan 26, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Great article. But one thing confuses me. Am I to assume that you meant the Warriors are behind OKC and not Miami in corner 3 percentage? Or am I missing something?

  3. mazblast - Jan 26, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    Of course, when you always have somebody spotting up for the corner 3, you also always have someone way out of position for transition defense. Has anyone done any analysis in this area?

  4. Very Real News - Jan 26, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    Wow, one of the few times NBC Sports has produced something worth reading. And not only was it worth reading, it was very well researched and analyzed. Nice job Mr. Foster. Hopefully they’ll give you some more outlets…

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