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The Corner Test.

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Published: October 31, 2018

The corner three is one of the most efficient shots in basketball, why? It is the closest distance three point shot in regards to proximity from the basket, especially the short corner. The corner three allows more floor space on the fast break for the ball handler. When a fast break has capable shooters running the floor, they often fill the lane by leaking out to the corners, opening 2 or 3 options for the ball handler, instead of just him putting his head down and attacking the basket. It also is one of the easier places to get to from either setting a screen or having a screen set. It’s a great shot that opens the floor and is effective in almost every set and on the fast break.

An issue with this shot and the Pelicans is that teams seem to be shooting quite a lot of corner threes against them. The problem really isn’t the percentage the Pelicans are giving up from the corner, which is 40.5% (Per CleaningtheGlass.com) It’s the amount. It’s been 6 games and teams have shot a total of 44 corner 3’s versus the Pelicans. On the flip side of this the Pelicans have only attempted a total of 26 corner 3’s during this stretch making 48% of them.

Below is the Defensive shot chart from the first 6 games, the right corner is specifically giving them the most trouble. (from austinclemens.com)

It’s not just “teams are taking plenty of corner threes” it’s also how they are happening.

Examples from the corner.

Jokic draws a double from Julius Randle, forcing Jrue Holiday to cut off the base line and Solomon unnecessarily swipes for the ball, these three actions leave Malik Beasley wide open in the corner

 

Here, Davis is on Jarrett Allen, who is not a shooting threat. Randle thinks he sees an opportunity for a steal (Allen isn’t showing ball), misses and darts past leaving Jared Dudley open.

 

The Pelicans run a switch heavy defensive scheme that relies primarily on Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis’ ability to guard multiple positions and cover up mistakes. Davis also changes almost nearly every shot around the rim. It’s evident in the way teams are playing and how the Pelicans are reacting in the games Davis has missed (Jazz, Nuggets). Here, Gary Harris drives to the rim both Randle and Mirotic collapse the paint to stop the drive. Monte Morris sneaks out of the paint for the kick out. When Davis is out of the lineup the Pelicans defense seems to try to overcompensate, shown by both bigs collapsing.

 

Sometimes you can’t fully blame the defense for open shots, the nets run a screen heavy offense and some great baseline out of bounds plays, the ball travels pretty much the entire length around the arc and Joe Harris uses a slip screen to get open and hits the shot, Moore also gets lost from the ball movement.

 

A no call happens and Mirotic hits the deck, since he’s the only big the Pelicans have in the game the Jazz take full advantage and push the ball in transition. The Jazz fill the lanes perfectly, Ingles leaks out to the side, Donovan Mitchell is on the baseline, Gobert is trailing, Rubio gets set into the corner and gets the open shot off. If Hill leaves Crowder he has  non contested layup, if Moore leaves Mitchell he is open on the baseline. 4 versus 5 fastbreaks against teams like the Jazz who have elite execution and  who, returned most of the same team are going to be rough.

Patience will pay off.

It seems like most of the open corner threes the Pelicans have given up so far have come from unnecessary doubling of the ball handler or getting beat on the screen. When there is a defense that relies a ton on switches, doubling can often have a negative outcome, if a proactive approach isn’t taken regarding players that are left open often we see reactions, such as a late close. Lineups not featuring Anthony Davis are so focused on not giving up points in the paint that it sometimes leaves players open on other parts of the floor. When a defense is good, they can afford to defend the corners and often will not double players elsewhere, because they trust the rest of the defense. I also think it is important to give other teams and players recognition for good plays rather than always blaming the defense. The good news is communication and familiarity will eliminate some of these issues, like who switches on the screen, and who defends who on the break and who goes where when certain sets are run. The more time passes the more we will see the Pelicans defense adjust, they are certainly capable of doing so.

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