Ray Allen

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.

Watch LeBron James drop 33 on Raptors in Game 6 win

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Friday night was a step forward in maturity for the Cleveland Cavaliers — given the chance to close out a conference finals on the road, in a place they had struggled, the team stepped up and did so convincingly.

They did it following the lead of LeBron James, who attack the basket from the start on his way to a team-high 33 points and 11 assists. LeBron set the tone and the rest of the Cavaliers followed.

Above you can see just how LeBron racked up those points. It’s an impressive display.

Report: In surprise to nobody, Bismack Biyombo will decline option, become free agent

TORONTO, ON - MAY 27:  Bismack Biyombo #8 of the Toronto Raptors reacts after being called for a foul against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre on May 27, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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This is not only expected, but it’s also the move all of us would make. Unless you hate money.

Raptors big man Bismack Biyombo has a player option on his contract for next year, pick it up and he returns to the Raptors at $2.9 million. Or, he can decline the option and become a free agent, where he may make about $17 million a season. So what do you think he’s doing? From Marc Stein of ESPN:

Certainly, the Raptors can’t retain Biyombo’s services, it’s just going to be expensive to do so.

If $15 million (at least) seems a lot for a player who can only impact the defensive end of the floor because of poor hands and a limited offensive game, you would be correct. Welcome to the crazy cap-spike summer the NBA is about to experience. The market will be flooded with cash (at least 20 teams will be able to afford a max player) and players with a valuable skill hitting that market are going to get PAID. Biyombo can block shots and rebound like a beast, and in an increasingly small-ball NBA era those skills have value. Teams will live with having to play 4-on-5 on offense to have those skills on the roster.

The real question is which teams — the Lakers? — and how much of that cap space are they willing to give up for him? It’s going to be an interesting July.

Drake congratulated LeBron James in hallway after game

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Drake is a Toronto native and a huge Raptors’ fan. He’s officially the team’s “global ambassador,” although nobody knows what that actually means.

Drake is also tight with LeBron James.

As LeBron is running down the hall to get to the locker room and celebrate making a sixth straight trip to the Finals Drake stops him to congratulate him. And Drake is one of the handful of guys LeBron will stop and talk to.

Nothing wrong with this, either. Drake has walked a line the whole series — he’s a Raptors fan, he’s trolled LeBron and Kyrie Irving on social media after Toronto wins, but he’s close with Cleveland’s players and has been seen in the Cavaliers locker room plenty the past few seasons.

Some fan bases (we’re looking at you, Philly) would flip out over this kind of divided loyalty, but not Canadians who will just forgive and move on.

LeBron James leads Cavaliers back to Finals doing it his way

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LeBron James is the first NBA star of the social media age, and with that has come a volume of criticism that the greats before him — Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan — never had to deal with.

Even these playoffs, there have been chattering voices knocking LeBron for how he worked more to set up teammates — particularly Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — more than seeking out his own shot. Some people have always wanted him to be more Jordan, when he was always more Magic. Or Oscar Robertson.

And this playoff he knew that he could carry his Cavaliers to the NBA Finals through a diluted East, but if he wanted a ring he was going to need those other players to be confident, ready, and believing in the team.

You could see that all come together for LeBron James in Game 6. He attacked early and set a tone, then got everyone involved on his way to 33 points and 11 assists in what became a 113-87 win sending Cleveland back to the NBA Finals.

“I just had to bring my game,” James said in his on-court postgame interview on ESPN. “I had to bring my game, I had to be in attack mode from the beginning, trust my shot, and once my shot start going I can get my teammates involved and they was able to carry me down the stretch.”

LeBron James was getting to the rim with those attacks, check out his shot chart:

LeBron shot chart

LeBron also keyed the fourth-quarter 22-7 run that put away the game.

“There is only one LeBron James, and he makes a difference on any team he plays on, and he’s proven that,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said postgame. “It’s six Finals (in a row for LeBron), to compare him to our team — and I love our players, I wouldn’t trade any of our players — but you put him on any team and he’s a difference maker.”

LeBron’s critics will not be silenced. The man has made six straight finals, a feat not accomplished by anyone since a few legendary Celtics of the 1950s-60s (Bill Russell’s teams). It speaks to LeBron’s focus, skill, durability, and ability to lead teams.

Critics will point to LeBron being 2-4 in the Finals. That misses the point — making it to six straight is an amazing accomplishment, and LeBron did it his way. Not trying to be MJ or Magic or Oscar, just being LeBron James.

We should savor watching this guy play while we still can.