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The Decline of the Corner Three

 

There are NBA experts who would argue that an open three-pointer from the corner (nickname: the Corner Shortie) is the second-most efficient field-goal attempt an NBA player can take, behind only the wide-open dunk or lay-up. The Corner Shortie is about two feet shorter than a three from elsewhere on the court, and players generally shoot it more accurately. A bunch of role players (Bowen, Bruce) have made a lot of money in part by mastering the corner three.

In the off-season, we talked about how the 2009 Celtics managed to be one of the most accurate three-point shooting teams in NBA history in part by taking more of their threes from the corner.

In 2008, 409 of the C’s 1564 three-point attempts (26 percent) came from the corners.

In 2009, 417 of the C’s 1355 three-point attempts (31 percent) came from the corners, and the C’s made a league-best 45 percent of them.

This season? Through 21 games, only 22 percent of the team’s 398 three-point attempts have come from the corners, according to NBA.com’s Hot Spots data. Here’s the current chart:Picture 9

The team is on pace to attempt almost exactly the same number of overall three-pointers (about 1,550) as it launched in 2008, but, at its current rate, only 340 of those will be corner threes—about one fewer corner three per game than in ’08.

This is a big reason why the team’s overall three-point shooting percentage has dropped from 40 percent to 35.5 percent—from the top of the league to league average.

The C’s hit 45 percent of their corner threes last season, the best mark in the league among teams that jacked at least 400 Corner Shorties, according to this analysis at Nets Are Scorching.

So what’s going on?

Two things primarily explain the declining number of corner three attempts:

1) Ray Allen is taking about two fewer three-pointers per game this season as compared with last season;

2) Rasheed Wallace shoots a lot of threes, and very few of them come from the corners.

If you’re discussing the corner three in Boston, that discussion should start with Ray Allen. One of the interesting adaptations Ray has made as his age creeps into the mid-30s is to take a higher percentage of his three-pointers from the corner.

In 2008, 125 of Ray’s 452 three-pointers came from the corners—about 27.6 percent.

In 2009, 184 of Ray’s 486 threes came from the corners—about 38 percent. That’s a huge jump, and a smart one.

And it’s a trend that has become more pronounced through 20 games this season. Of Ray’s 91 three-point attempts, 38 of them have been corner bombs—a whopping 42 percent.

Here is Ray’s current Hot Spots chart:

Picture 10If their best three-pointer shooter is even more deeply in love with the corner trey, how in the world is the team taking fewer?

Well, Ray’s overall three-point tries are down from about 6.2 per game to 4.3 per game, so his increased affection for the Corner Shortie isn’t translating into an overall increase in the team’s raw number of corner threes.

This drop isn’t just a product of Ray playing fewer minutes this season. He is attempting about 4.4 threes per 36 minutes this season, down from 6.1 last season. His total shot attempts per game have dropped from 13.2 to 12.1, but still: Ray is taking fewer threes and more twos this season.

Anyone have a guess as to why?

Turning to reason #2: Sheed. He has attempted more threes (110) than anyone on the team, and only 11 of those have come from the corner.  We knew going into the season that the C’s would take fewer corner threes—both overall and as a percentage of total long-distance bombs—simply because of Sheed’s presence on the roster.

Sheed has never taken a lot of corner threes, and that’s a pattern consistent with big man shooters. The corner is not their domain. Most NBA offenses demand that they situate themselves in two places at the start of an offensive set: 1) In the post; 2) As the high screener somewhere near the top of the key or the apex of the three-point arc.

Expecting Sheed to jack from the corner is unreasonable.

The team’s other three-point shooters (Eddie House and Paul Pierce) are taking about the same number of corner threes as they attempted last season.

So this is likely how it’s going to be: A lot of threes, fewer from the corner and a slight drop in the team’s overall three-point shooting accuracy. If the shooters can hit, say, 37 percent from three this season, we should consider it a success.

  • Pingback: Hardwood Paroxysm » Blog Archive » Green From The Limit: Boston’s Shooting Less From The Corner

  • Vic De Zen

    As soon as Sheed was acquired, you knew that percentage would go down. The bigger issue is getting Sheed to convert the threes that he takes, no matter where they’re coming from on the floor.

  • Still enjoying #17

    good stats….interesting

  • George

    interesting… Maybe Ray is just accepting the role of #2 3PT shooter right now, and it works well (case in point, last game)… or maybe Ray’s just adapting his game as he gets older (FG% up, 3PT% down?) . Either way Ray is being smart, but I would love to see him back in the form of that first round series last year. Oh well, smart might be boring but it works.

  • http://Aol.com Matt

    I know why Ray is shooting less threes & more twos! I also know why his shoot’n % is down as well as his attempts are down as well. Hurts me to say it outloud and admit it. As great of shape as he is in…and as well as he takes care of his body…Ray is old. I know I know he isn’t old old, but he has a whole lot of miles on those legs. Running through screens on O and D and all the jump shots in games and even more in practice and on his own time. His elevation on all of his shots is not as high…(watch film from b4 joining the C’s and each year since) and he seems to has less stamina. His commitment to defense that he had never invested b4 anywhere else. (not to say that he is a stop’r but it’s the effort that counts) Combine that with playing with 3 other stAr players in truth kg & rondo equals a few less shots….especially since rondo is getting anyone and everyone looks plus he will be taking a few more I hope and since the team seems to be focused on getting kg the ball more. Look Ray wether he makes or misses is allways a nightmare to guard. You can’t leave him. You can’t dbl off of him. God forbid you loose him through screens or in transition….bang! Count it! Even IF he is slowing down and taking what the D gives him….it’s not a bad thing if anything all the penitration, drives to the hoop, and mid range is opening up his full arsenal which makes him even more dangerous that a guy whom only shoots threes! (memo to Eddie) I like the lower number of threes and I like him using all of his game not just the 3′s. We all know he will make them when the gAmes on the line. Every team in the NBA know that.

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