NBA Stats

Jun 6 2013 3:12PM

Feeding the Corners

One thing that every military leader knows is that the supply line is just as important as the front line, whether that translates to building and protecting your own supply line or disrupting that of your opponent.

So we applied the science of network analysis, which is traditionally used in electrical engineering, computing and most recently, social networking, to better understand how Miami and San Antonio have been setting up their valuable corners three-point shots with such devastating effect throughout the playoffs.

Summary of Findings:

  • Teams shoot corner-threes better than threes elsewhere on the line (in regular season, they shot 38% from the corner compared with 35% elsewhere and in the post season, about 37% compared with 33%).
  • So it's no wonder that with all that three-point line running around the basket (the line is about 692 inches, counting only the part that is in front of the basket), those two, three-foot corner areas -- 10% of the whole shooting area along the line -- account for about 28% of all three-point shots attempted and 30% of all three-point shots made.
  • For the two remaining teams, the numbers are even more impressive. During the regular season, Miami hit an amazing 43% of their shots taken from the corner and San Antonio shot a not-too-shabby 41%. And the corners comprised even more of the two team's three-point shooting (43% Miami and 39% San Antonio). The shot accuracy has cooled a bit in the postseason, but it's still above postseason league-wide averages (39% for Miami and 40% for San Antonio), with Miami keeping their high corner composition (43%) and San Antonio dialing it down (34%).
  • Table 1: Corner-Three Shooting

    What makes corner threes even more interesting is that they are the only shot on the area of the court that almost requires a team effort to make.

    As Table 2 shows, league-wide, nearly all (96%) of made corner-threes were assisted, compared to 80% for other threes and many fewer for other shots.

    Table 2: Assisted Shots by Location

    Then, looking at Miami and San Antonio in detail, some clear differences emerge -- not in terms of shooting, but in assisting:

    Together, the two teams have hit 83 corner threes during the playoffs, the Heat hit 48 and the Spurs hit 35.

    On both teams, the two players with the most threes accounted for about 54% of corner threes, and the top four players made up 80% or more. (Table 3).

    Table 3: Corner-Threes by Player

    Again, what is particularly interesting isn't so much who's shooting, but who's feeding the shooter.

    Consistent with our assist rate stats above, 81 of the teams' 83 corner three-point field goals (97.5%) were assisted, however...

    For the Heat, LeBron James had -- by far -- the most assists of any player (23), feeding almost 50% of Heat's corner threes and accounting for 69 assisted points in total.

    For the Spurs, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker combined assisted on 63% of the Spurs corner threes.

    Table 4: Corner-Three Assists

    Figure 1 below shows the corner-three "network" for each team.

    The "vertices" (the bubbles) show each player, with the size of each vertex proportionate to the number of corner-threes made.[1]

    The "edges" (the lines) show the number of corner-three assists made by each player to the shooter, with the direction of the arrow indicating the player assisted, and the width of the line proportionate to the number of assists.

    Figure 1: Corner-Three Network

    Click image for larger version

    It's clear that LeBron sits in the center of Miami's corner-threes, but LeBron has four good corner-three point shooters at his disposal and he doesn't play favorites.

    Table 5: Corner-Three Assisting Player / Shooter Dyads

    [1] The Heat's Anderson, and the Spurs' Duncan and Splitter, had no corner-threes, and are included in the graphic because of assists.