HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU — The San Antonio Spurs are a smart basketball team. For evidence, just look at their shot selection.
There are two different 3-point distances in the NBA. The arc is 23 feet and nine inches from the center of the rim, while the straight lines in the corners are just 22 feet.
The shorter distance makes a difference. Over the last five seasons, the league has shot 39.2 percent on corner 3-pointers and 35.2 percent on 3-pointers taken above the break (where the arc turns into a straight line). That difference in percentage produces an extra point scored every 8.2 attempts.
Smart teams know that a corner 3-point attempt is worth almost the same as an attempt from the restricted area (less than five feet from the basket)…
Shot areas, 2007-08 through 2011-12
|Above the break 3||35.2%||1.05|
The Spurs are one of those smart teams. Over the last five seasons, the league as a whole has attempted 27.6 percent of its 3s from the corner. The Spurs, meanwhile, have attempted 39.3 percent of their 3s from the corner, easily the highest rate over that time.
Richard Jefferson is Mr. Corner 3. As he did last season, he’s leading the league in both makes (29) and attempts (55) from the corners this year.
In his first season in San Antonio, corner 3s comprised 10 percent of Jefferson’s field goal attempts. Over the last two seasons, they’ve comprised 30 percent of his shots.
Most corner 3-point attempts, 2010-11 through 2011-12
%3PA = Percentage of total 3-point attempts
%FGA = Percentage of total field goal attempts
The Spurs’ offense has evolved over the years. They don’t rely on Tim Duncan post-ups nearly as much as they used to. In fact, of their 58 corner 3-pointers this season, only seven have come as a result of a post-up, and only two of the seven were Duncan post-ups.
Here’s one of the two…
Play 1: The post-up
Tony Parker gets the ball to Duncan on the left block, and then cuts through the paint. DeJuan Blair and Jefferson both flash into the paint from the weak side. The Clippers don’t double-team Duncan, but he kicks the ball out to Parker on the right wing, and Jefferson flares back out to the corner. Parker gets Jefferson the ball there, and Caron Butler doesn’t close out strong enough…
For the Spurs now, pick and roll is the game. Of their 58 corner 3s, 36 have come as a result of pick-and-roll action. And Parker has been the ball-handler in 17 of those 36 plays.
Play 2: The strong-side three
Parker drives right off a Duncan high screen. David Lee plays him soft, while Monta Ellis trails the play. Dorell Wright helps from the corner and actually gets turned around when he reaches for the ball. That gives Jefferson an easy look from the right corner…
Whether the initial action is a post-up or a pick and roll, ball movement is still critical. Of the Spurs’ 58 corner 3s, 57 have been assisted, with the only exception being a Jefferson three where he caught a Samuel Dalembert blocked shot right in the corner.
Of those 36 corner 3s off a pick and roll, 22 have come with just one pass between the pick and roll and the shot, like the one above. But 14 of the 22 have come from the opposite side of the floor…
Play 3: The weak-side three
Tiago Splitter sets a screen for Parker on the right wing. Brendan Haywood does nothing to keep Parker out of the lane and Vince Carter helps from the weak side. That leaves Jefferson wide open in the left corner…
Interestingly, only 22 of the Spurs’ 58 corner 3s have come off of multiple passes…
Play 4: The swing swing
Blair sets a screen for Parker on the right wing. Chris Bosh does a nice job of hedging, but Parker quickly gets the ball to Jefferson on the opposite side. As Jefferson catches the ball, Duncan sets a screen on LeBron James, who can’t close out on Kawhi Leonard, who takes the pass from Jefferson in the left corner and strokes the three…
The four corner threes shown above are all a result of an initial action (post-up or pick-and-roll), with the players finding the open man. But knowing the value of the corner three, Gregg Popovich will often design a play to get that specific shot…
Play 5: The out-of-bounds play
Manu Ginobili had a couple of 3s off this simple play early in the season. Parker takes the inbounds pass at the top of the key. Ginobili starts from the far corner and runs along the baseline off of two screens. Parker hits him in the left corner for the quick-hitting bucket…
Here’s a breakdown of the Spurs’ 58 corner 3s this season…
Spurs 58 corner 3-pointers, 2011-12
|Initiated by pick and roll||36|
|Initiated by post-up||7|
|Off an out-of-bounds play||4|
|From the right corner||30|
|From the left corner||28|
|One pass (after play initiation)||35|
|Zero passes (shooter catches blocked shot)||1|