During last night’s game, early in the second quarter, this tweet from Evan Zamir caught my attention.
If you don’t know Evan, he’s the man behind NBAwowy.com and has some the most detailed NBA stats available at his fingertips. That difference in Kawhi Leonard’s shooting percentages is significant and really surprising given that there is a difference of just a few feet or less between corner three-pointers and those from other locations. I was curious about how unique this imbalance shooting accuracy was so I grabbed a larger group of players to compare Leonard with.
Using numbers from NBA.com (which are slightly different than Evan’s numbers) I looked at all players who had attempted at least 50 three-pointers from both the corners and above the break this season. From there, I calculated how much better, or worse, they shot on corner three-pointers as compared to above the break three-pointers. The embedded spreadsheet below shows the three point shooting difference for each of those players. A positive difference means they are better from the corner. A negative difference means they are better from above the break. The spreadsheet will default to the table, but clicking over to the chart tab lets you see a simple visualization.
As you would expect it’s fairly common for players to be more accurate from the corners than from other locations. However, that difference definitely runs to the extreme for some players, with Leonard being one of them. The average for this group is to be about 4.3 percentage points better from the corners. But Leonard joins a group of 25 different players who were at least 10 percentage points more accurate from the corners. This includes well-regarded shooters like Ben Gordon, Kevin Martin and Martell Webster. It also includes some players who probably should be much more selective with their three-point shooting overall, like Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer and Courtney Lee.
Almost as interesting as these players who rely on the corner so heavily for their three-point accuracy are the small group of players who shot much worse from the corners. Andre Iguodala, George Hill, Terrence Ross, Carmelo Anthony, Vince Carter and Nick Young were all 10.0 percentage points or worse from the corners. These are mind-boggling numbers, especially given that we’ve already removed players who attempted 50 or less from those locations. These are relatively reliable sample sizes and very bizarre patterns. I’m not entirely sure what the explanation is, and it may be different in the case of each player, but it’s definitely an oddity.