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.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.