The Extra Pass: Where Do Great Offenses Get Their Shots?

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The Extra Pass is a new daily column that’s designed to give you a better look at a theme, team, player or scheme. Today, we narrow in on where great offenses are getting their shots.

On the surface, the best offenses in the league don’t seem to have much in common other than star power. Take the Nets and the Rockets, for example. They’re ranked 8th and 9th in offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions), and yet they couldn’t be more different. The Nets play at the league’s slowest pace, the Rockets play at the league’s fastest pace. The Nets are great in isolation and bad in the pick-and-roll, the Rockets are great in the pick-and-roll and bad in isolation. The two teams are like night and day, but they both get the job done. How?

Because the Rockets, Nets, and and the other top offenses in the league share a common trait, and it has nothing to do with pace. It’s all about location, location, location.

The Corner 3

The 3-pointer from the corner is one of the most efficient shots in basketball, and there’s a reason for that. First, it’s the shortest 3-pointer you can take, but more importantly, almost all shots coming from the corner are on catch-and-shoot opportunities as opposed to dribble pull-ups. The NBA average for corner 3-pointers is 38.5 percent — an impressive number when you consider the league shoots 34.8 percent on all other 3-point attempts. That’s a substantial bump.

Quantity matters

There’s a pretty strong correlation between teams that attempt lots of corner 3-pointers and overall offensive efficiency. The top eight teams in corner 3-point attempts (Rockets, Spurs, Heat, Nets, Clippers, Nuggets, Lakers, Knicks) are all top ten offenses in efficiency this season. The stats show that the best offenses in the league manufacture lots of spot-up opportunities in the corner.

There’s a pretty good team missing from that list

Did you catch that Oklahoma City wasn’t on the list? If you did, good eye. Oklahoma City has the most efficient offense in the league, but they’re just 22nd in attempts from the corner. What’s the deal?

It has a lot to do with the fact that their best players, the guys who use almost all of the possessions, rarely spend anytime behind the arc in the corner. Kevin Durant has taken only 13 attempts from the corner this season. Russell Westbrook has only taken 12. That being said, when the Thunder do shoot a corner 3, it’s almost always wide-open, and it’s usually going in. The Thunder shoot 45.7 percent on corner 3-pointers this season, by far the best percentage in the league.

Quality matters as well

Now that the top offense is accounted for, what about the tenth? Similar to Oklahoma City, the Golden State Warriors only shoot the 20th most attempts from the corner, but they’re right behind Miami for second in overall percentage at 43.8 percent.

You can safely say that for the league’s ten best offenses so far this season, the corner 3 is a big part of what they do. A lot of that can be attributed to defenses compensating for stars like Durant, Carmelo Anthony and others, but for a team like Houston or San Antonio, it’s a focused effort to create those shots and to find players who excel at hitting them. Danny Green is one of the best corner 3-point shooters in the league, and he was out of the league for a bit before the Spurs snatched him up.

Who are the best corner 3 guys in the NBA?

I almost guarantee you’ll do a double take here, but the leader in made 3-pointers from the corner this season is…Metta World Peace! He’s shooting 46 for 100 from that area this season, and he’s quietly been a rock for the disastrous Lakers, whose offensive issues aren’t really the problem.

Another interesting name that actually leads the league in corner attempts is Nuggets forward Corey Brewer. His shooting has been badly needed, mainly because Andre Iguodala has clanked his way to a 15-for-67 (22 percent) performance from the corner this year.

The usual suspects are on the leader board as well. Steve Novak is shooting a whopping 52.3 percent on 65 attempts. Ray Allen, perhaps the greatest corner shooter of all-time, is shooting 52.4 percent on 63 attempts. With Shane Battier also knocking in the third most makes in the league at a solid 46 percent clip, Miami almost always has a deadly spot-up corner shooter on the floor for LeBron James or Dwyane Wade to kick it out to.

And that’s kind of the point. The league’s greatest offenses will always be driven by star players, but they’ll be fueled by the corner 3.

Stats from NBA.com were used in this article.

Celtics’ Gordon Hayward says he’s open to returning this season

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BOSTON (AP) — Celtics guard Gordon Hayward says he is open to playing this season, but says it will depend on how fast he is able to heal and show progress as he works his way back from a broken left ankle.

Hayward was at TD Garden on Friday for Boston’s matchup with the Utah Jazz, the team he left this past summer in free agency after seven seasons to sign a four-year, $128 million contract with the Celtics. He was injured in Boston’s season opener at Cleveland.

Wednesday marked a milestone in Hayward’s recovery process, when he was able to shed the walking boot he’s been using since his surgery in October. He will continue to wear a protective brace during the rehab process.

He said he doesn’t know how long he will have to wear the brace. But he said he is now allowed to do some shooting and begin working more on mobility.

 

Russell Westbrook triple-double keys OKC in 3OT thriller vs 76ers

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 27 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists, and Oklahoma City and the Philadelphia 76ers went basket-for-basket in a three-overtime thriller before the Thunder pulled out a 119-117 victory on Friday night.

Andre Roberson scored the winner with 10 seconds left for the Thunder. But one of the early contenders for NBA game of the year belonged to Joel Embiid and Westbrook as they drove, blocked and rebounded their way toward one big play after another.

Embiid scored 34 points in 48 minutes with an achy back and rallied the Sixers from a 17-point hole.

Embiid, Philly’s franchise center and social media star, grabbed his lower back when he took a hard foul on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter. Embiid grimaced during timeouts on the bench and trudged into position a few times.

Embiid sucked it up and carried the Sixers in the fourth and the first overtime. His feed to a charging Ben Simmons on the baseline for a two-handed dunk tied the score at 94-all with 53 seconds left in the quarter. The Sixers closed the fourth on an 11-0 run.

Embiid scored the first bucket of OT and the Sixers led for the first time in the game. The Sixers’ five-point lead with 1:20 left in overtime was wiped out on Paul George‘s 3-pointer and a Westbrook bucket that made it 102-all. The Sixers blew their final possession on an ill-conceived 3 for Dario Saric.

Round 2 was just as fun.

Westbrook and Robert Covington exchanged 3s and George tied it at 109 on a driving layup. Westbrook and Embiid swapped buckets that kept it even and the Sixers had one more chance to win it with 1.2 seconds to go in the second OT.

Embiid and Westbrook combined to score eight straight points in the third overtime, and Embiid even waved goodbye as the crowd went wild when Steve Adams fouled out of the game.

But Embiid seemed gassed at the end and there’s no telling how the heavy workload may affect his availability the rest of the week.

The Sixers were featured on ESPN on Friday as part of Philadelphia All Access, and Sixers’ related content was aired throughout the day on all platforms.

“I’m not a fan,” coach Brett Brown said. “I like living behind closed doors.”

But Brown understood the exposure would help build the brand and serve as a recruiting pitch of sorts to any free agents intrigued about becoming part of The Process. The Sixers put on a show in the fourth until Embiid gave them a scare.

Embiid’s health woes have dogged him since his college career at Kansas and every slip, ache or bump throws Sixers fans into a panic. Embiid has been banged-up lately but he calmly went to the line and made both free throws. He fell again when he tripped over Adams, who earned a foul, and sank two more free throws to make it 78-72.

 

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder won in triple overtime, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.