The corner 3; a small percentage of the offense with big predictive power

By Stephen Shea, Ph.D.

On average, the corner 3 accounts for between 6 and 7% of a team’s NBA offense.  Yet, it can be incredibly predictive of a team’s overall shooting efficiency.

Let C3PM/FGA denote a team’s made corner 3s divided by their total field goal attempts.  Chart 1 plots C3PM/FGA to the team’s eFG% for all shots.  (These numbers are courtesy of NBA.com and current through the January 24th games.)

Chart 1

Houston is a large anomaly in the data.  13.5% of their offense comes from corner 3s.  No other team is above 9%.  When we remove the Rockets, we get a trend line that is more true to where the rest of the NBA stands.  This is demonstrated in Chart 2.

Chart 2

In Chart 2, the two biggest contradictions to our trend are the Golden State Warriors and the Detroit Pistons.  The Warriors have an eFG% well above what their corner 3s alone would predict.  We don’t have to search far to see why.  The Warriors are shooting well from just about everywhere on the court.  The Warriors are 1st in the league in above the break 3P% and mid-range FG%, and they are 2nd in the league (behind only the Clippers) in restricted area FG%.

The Detroit Pistons have an eFG% considerably below where their corner 3 usage would predict.  When Stan Van Gundy took over Detroit, he implemented offensive strategies that we would consider analytically savvy.  Unfortunately, he lacked the personnel to execute the strategy efficiently.  The return of Jodie Meeks from injury, the addition of Anthony Tolliver and the waiving of Josh Smith helped reshape the roster to fit Stan’s offense.  The Pistons have been playing much better as of late, but a recent injury to Brandon Jennings will be tough for the team to overcome.

Final Thoughts

The corner 3 is the most efficient 3-pointer, and it’s the second most efficient shooting area (behind shots at the hoop).  However, the predictive power of the corner 3 seems to suggest more than the benefits from the corner shots alone (which are typically 6-7% of the offense).  Effective use of the corner 3 helps better space the floor.  This allows more room for players to drive and cut.  It’s also possible that a team’s effective use of the corner 3 reflects an analytically advanced offense all around.  Of course, we believe the analytically savvy offense is an efficient offense.

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