Please keep Shawne Williams in the corner

Please keep Shawne Williams in the corner

After a career resurgence in the 2010-11 season with the soon-to-be-cross-bridge-rival New York Knicks, Shawne Williams has lost his way. A 40% marksman from beyond the arc just a season ago, Extra E has turned in a 25.8% clunkfest in 19 games in New Jersey — and that’s including his half-court heave against Philadelphia.

What’s happened to him? Let’s break it down.

Shot location

In New York, Williams rarely created his own shot, particularly on the perimeter. Usually Mike D’Antoni buried Williams in either corner, giving an additional option to a slashing Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, or Danilo Gallinari to kick to when the defense collapsed inside. Extra E rode those open opportunities, making more than 75% of his three-pointers from the two corner spots.

Williams preferred shooting from the corner areas, and it showed in the numbers. 69% of his three-point attempts came from the left and right corner, and he shot markedly better from them. In 2010-11, Shawne shot 44.3% from beyond the arc from the corners, and just 32.4% everywhere else. This season, 27 of his 64 three-pointers{{1}}[[1]]The two half-court heaves excused[[1]] have come from the wings and the top of the key, 30% more often than last season.{{2}}[[2]]Huge thanks to mySynergySports for the video to log this information.[[2]] It may only be inches further on the wings — nine, to be exact — but every inch at every angle makes a difference to a shooter locked in to one area.

In New Jersey, Avery Johnson has used Shawne differently, drifting him on the wings and allowing Anthony Morrow and Jordan Farmar to roam the corners more often. Both Farmar and Morrow are good shooters, but they can make threes consistently at all spots around the arc. Williams can’t. If anything, the Nets should focus on spacing Morrow (or Farmar) and Williams on opposite corners, giving Deron Williams (or Farmar) two options to read and kick to on either side of the floor.

Here’s an example below:

On this play, Anthony Morrow sets up at the top of the key, with Shawne Williams in his spot, the right corner. Morrow dishes to Kris Humphries, cutting down the lane looking for a pass.

Morrow has a decision to make here. He can curl off Shelden Williams to the left corner, where there’s nothing but open space, or slide to the right corner, forcing Shawne Williams out of his comfort shooting zone.

Morrow elects to do the latter, thumbing to Williams to slide up around the arc (it’s easier to see in the video.)

As it turns out, Danny Granger collapses on Kris Humphries attacking the basket, leaving Shawne (and Morrow) wide open, but Shawne’s not a particularly efficient threat from the wing even while wide open, and he misses the 3. The full video below:

Williams is at his best when he’s allowed to float in the corners and become forgettable. The corner 3 is the closest three-point shooting area in the player’s frame of vision when he attacks the basket, making it the easiest 3 for a big man or a slashing guard to dish out to. When he’s out on the wings, not only is Shawne outside of that player’s normal line of vision, he’s further from the basket than he’s accustomed to shooting from.

Shot selection

The shift in location isn’t the sole issue; even when adjusting for shot locations, Williams still struggles shooting from beyond the arc this season. His percentages from dipped from 44.3% from the corner and 32.5% from everywhere else season ago to just 27.1% and 22% this season, respectively.

His dips in percentage this year stem from defense, balance, and just plain bad luck. Many of Williams’s misses come with a defender’s hand in his face as he pulls up to release, sending his body leaning sideways or backwards in order to properly avoid the contact. Sometimes, it appears he does it just for the hell of it; he’ll be wide open and still fade out, shielding against invisible contact.

There are also times this season where he’s set up perfectly, wide open, shoots in rhythm, and bricks the shot. To which I say: it happens. Cue shrugs in the air.

But when he’s a) in the corner, b) got space to release the basketball before a hand’s in his face, and c) shooting with his feet under him, he’ll more often than not knock it down. If he’s fading away on the wings, you can all but guarantee that Kris Humphries will have to fight for a rebound.

On Wednesday night, the Nets put Williams in the corner throughout the game with encouraging results; Williams shot 3-5 on corner 3’s (0-3 from the wings), all from the left corner. As expected, Extra E didn’t create any of his shots alone, they came from ball movement and the general threat of Deron Williams attacking the basket:

The easiest way for the Nets to maximize their points with Shawne Williams on the floor is to bury him in those corners. He’s made a living making threes from 23 feet even rather than 23’9″, and even the slightest bit up the rounded edge of the arc throws off his masterful shooting ability. If Avery Johnson keeps utilizing him on the wings and the top of the key, the Nets are in for some rough shooting nights, but as long as the Nets can find him for open, balanced looks in the corner off drive-and-kicks, I’d expect his currently low three-point percentage to increase drastically throughout the season.