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The Threat Of The Corner Three

Sometimes in the NBA, it’s the little things that tell the biggest story.

As the league gets smarter and more comfortable with analytics, teams are realizing the value of the deep ball — particularly the corner three. Even in transition and semi-transition, teams are often looking to stretch a defense by getting the ball into the hands of their shooters. As a result, the rate of three-pointers is up slightly over last year’s record breaking numbers; just over 25% of field goal attempts are from behind the arc, per basketball-reference.com’s season averages.

And no team has embraced the power of the corner three more than the Washington Wizards. They take the most shots from the corner in the league, at 9.1 attempts per game. Truly, the corner three is an incredibly efficient shot; the Wizards, for example, shoot 50% on such attempts for a 75% effective field goal percentage. As the new-old adage goes, the only thing better than a corner three is a wide open attempt at the rim.

Few players are more aware of the power of the corner than Trevor Ariza. 28% of Ariza’s shots this year have been lofted from one corner or the other, and he’s made 14 of his 26 attempts from those zones. The corners are Ariza’s best friends:

Other areas of the floor aren't nearly as kind to Ariza.

Other areas of the floor aren’t nearly as kind to Ariza.

So defenses have to respect Ariza’s prowess from the corners, and he knows it. And that awareness can open up a whole different avenue for a player. In the clip below, Ariza uses the threat of a corner three in transition to force Dirk Nowitzki to commit to stepping out and challenging him. Ariza commits the shot fake, which gets Dirk out of position and allows Ariza to blow by him for the easy layup.

It’s a simple thing, and it’s just one play in a game that saw nearly 200 total possessions. But it also serves as a nice reminder that the NBA is a game of deception. Often, the most efficient tools serve as misdirection, causing an opponent to sell out to stop one action in order to facilitate an easier opportunity. For this one play, Ariza used what his opponent knew of him to create a better look.

Pretty sneaky, Trevor.

Statistical support courtesy of nba.com/stats

Andrew Lynch

When God Shammgod created the basketball universe, Andrew Lynch was there. His belief in the superiority of advanced statistics and the eventual triumph of expected value-based analytics stems from the fact that he’s roughly as old as the concept of counting. With that said, he still loves the beauty of basketball played at the highest level — it reminds him of the splendor of the first Olympics — and the stories that spring forth from the games, since he once beat Homer in a game of rock-paper-scissors over a cup of hemlock. Dude’s old.