Just Around the Corner

Published: October 10, 2012

Jake takes a look at how small adjustments in the Hornets’ 3-point shooting could make a huge difference for the offense.

I didn’t get a chance to watch the Hornets game on Tuesday. But, as I checked twitter every now and then during the game, I was excited that Ryan Anderson and Darius Miller were shooting well from 3-point range.

And then I looked at the box score.

0 for 11 for everyone else; hopes dashed.

In Monty Williams’ two seasons as head coach, the New Orleans Hornets haven’t exactly been an offensive powerhouse. While the team’s offseason acquisitions were nice, none are going to transform the offense overnight. But, a little improvement in the team’s 3-point shooting should make a big difference.

The Importance

I’m not going to break out into full on discourse about why the three point shot is vitally important to an offense. I’m sure you know why. But, I want to point out some ways in which it helps the Hornets.

The three point shot is important for spacing in Monty’s half court offense. Having solid 3-point shooters around the arc stops teams from packing the paint. Last season, the Hornets ranked 22nd in 3-point shooting percentage. For the season they shot 33.3% compared to the league average of 34.9%. But that wouldn’t be enough by itself to makes teams cheat off the Hornets’ shooters. The team averaged merely 11.8 3-point attempts per game last season–good for last in the league. For comparison, the league average was 18.4 attempts per game. That’s a difference of 6.6 per game. It’s no wonder teams would often pack the paint against the Hornets last season.

If opponents game plan the Hornets the same way for the coming season, then it’s going to be a long year offensively. The Hornets prized number 1 pick Anthony Davis is going to have a hard time putting points on the board if he is constantly double teamed. Count that and one for Robin Lopez despite his strong showing on Tuesday.

This will also be a problem for the Hornets guards. As we’ve seen in summer league and preseason thus far, Austin Rivers likes to get into the lane and attack the rim. That’s great, but it’ll be harder when teams cheat off a perimeter defender and have an easier time with help defense.

Eric Gordon is a similar type of player. He likes to attack the hoop off the dribble. It’s a problem when there are too many bodies in the paint to score. It’s doubly bad when only poor shooters remain to kick the ball out to on the perimeter–even if they are open.

But, there is hope.

Ryan Anderson and the Corner 3

The corner 3 is the shortest and therefore most efficient 3-point shot in the game–going in at a much higher percentage than from anywhere else behind the arc. Hoopheads love offenses that are sound from the corner. Additionally, a great corner 3 man absolutely anchors his defender to the spot. This effectively takes the defender out of the play since he is too far away from guards or big men in the paint to provide good help defense. If he does try to help out, then the corner man is open for a high percentage shot. The corner 3 can be devastating if you’re good at it.

The Hornets attempted the 5th least corner 3’s per game at just 3.12 per game. The top team attempted more than double that at 6.76 per game. It’s encouraging that the Hornets were not in the bottom five of corner 3 percentage, just attempts, but for a slow paced, half court offense the Hornets desperately need all the high quality looks they can get. With teams slacking off the perimeter and clogging the paint, it’s no surprise that the Hornets took the 3rd most shots from 10-15 feet per game and ranked 13th from 16-23 feet.

Enter Ryan Anderson.

Anderson, as he showed last night, is a terrific shooting big man. But, most importantly, he has a great corner 3. Anderson shot a fantastic 45% from the corner last season–good for 7th in the league for players with over 80 attempts. This is going to help create space down low for Davis, Lopez and Jason Smith as well as open up lanes for Rivers, Gordon and Greivis Vasquez to attack the rim.

The Other Pieces

Eric Gordon has a reputation as a great shooter. No one will doubt that, but he doesn’t exactly light it up from behind the arc. He is a career 37% shooter from 3-point range which is above average but hardly astounding. Additionally, during the 2010-11 season Gordon only shot 33% from the corner spot. While his presence on the court will surely help the Hornets’ offense, he won’t space the court and fix the team’s 3-point shooting by himself.

The Hornets’ signing of free agent guard Roger Mason Jr. didn’t cause the excitement Davis, Rivers or Anderson caused, but he should prove to be an important role player. Last season, Mason Jr. shot 51% from the corner 3 and 38% overall from deep. For comparison’s sake, Marco Belinelli, the team’s main deep threat last season, also shot 38% overall from 3-point range but just 40% from the corner. While he might not get much burn with the starters, expect Mason Jr. to be an important player for the second unit.

It’s also worth noting that Gerry V, in one of our previous In the NO podcasts, noted Jason Smith is also working on his corner 3 shot. It seems like a safe bet Monty knows where the team needs to improve.

While the Hornets struggled with the 3-ball last season, the team has added pieces that should improve their shooting. The best part is that the Hornets will still play top 10 defense and only minor improvement from 3 should significantly help the team win more games. I trust Monty knows what the offense needs.


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