Before the season started, I took a look at one area where the Nets truly excelled offensively last season – the corner three-point shot. After reviewing the numbers and seeing that the Nets were the second most accurate corner three shooting team in the NBA last season (of teams who attempted more than 400 corners three’s), I concluded that continued success from that spot on the floor would be key in helping the Nets make up for the lost offense in the Vince Carter trade.
Well, as most of you already know, the Nets have been a terrible offensive team this season, currently ranking dead last in the league in offensive efficiency. And, as fate would have it, the Nets are also one of the league’s worst corner three shooting teams. Coincidence? That’s for you, the consuming public, to decide.
Let’s start by looking back. The Nets shot .449 percent from the corner last year, second only to the Boston Celtics, who barely had the edge with a .451 percentage. About 8.5 percent (548) of the team’s total field goal attempts (6445) were corner three’s. Of those 548 shot attempts, the bulk of them were taken and made by Bobby Simmons (152 shots, 46 percent shooting), Jarvis Hayes (131 shots, 43 percent shooting) and Keyon Dooling (88 shots, 51 percent shooting).
Fast forward to 2009-10, and the numbers tell a different story. The Nets are currently shooting 30 percent from the corner, on 90 attempts. That’s good for third worst in the league, behind the Minnesota Timberwolves (28 percent) and the Indiana Pacers (an abysmal 23 percent). For those who will inevitably ask, the most proficient corner 3 teams in the league this season include the Sacramento Kings (52 percent, wow), the Phoenix Suns (45 percent) and the Cleveland Cavs (44 percent). In what shouldn’t be a surprise, all three of these teams are in the top 10 in offensive efficiency (Phoenix 1st, Cleveland 9th, Sacramento 10th), while the Pacers, Wolves and Nets all rank near the bottom in offensive efficiency.
Like last year, the concentration of corner three shots have been taken by a small number of players – Chris Douglas-Roberts (18 shots), Courtney Lee (17 shots), Bobby Simmons (22 shots) and Terrence Williams (13 shots). CDR, Lee and Simmons, our top three in attempts, are all shooting at 28 percent or below from that spot. Courtney Lee, who actually was quite proficient with Orlando last year shooting 43 percent, is only shooting 18 percent from the corner this year.
Actually, in a surprise considering his documented shooting woes this year, Terrence Williams is the team’s best corner three shooter. He’s made 7 of 13 shots from corner, good for 54 percent. While I absolutely agree with the Nets’ decision makers who want Williams to take the ball to the hoop more, he’s the one guy who probably should be shooting that ball from that spot.
Now, why the steep drop-off? In large part, the prolonged absence this season of Jarvis Hayes (out since game 1) and Dooling (out, came back, now out again), has a lot to do with it. These guys were two of your best shooters from that spot last year. Meanwhile, Bobby Simmons and his skills continue to erode, so he can’t be counted on to produce from that spot anymore, though he continues to shoot from there with gusto.
Second, the Nets just aren’t running as many plays for the corner as they used to. The Nets are now taking 4.9 percent of their total field goal attempts from the corner, compared with 8.5 percent last year. Not a huge difference, but extrapolate that over a full season, and it’s a few dozen less shots from what is considered a higher accuracy spot on the floor.
And third, to revisit another post – the Nets don’t move the ball around the floor as well as they did last year when they had both Devin Harris and Vince Carter (a good passer mind you) getting into the lane and kicking the ball out. Remember what Sebastian wrote about why the Nets fail against the zone? Players are not being decisive enough and are not swinging the ball from side to side like they need to in order to get open looks from the corner.