The Cornermen of the NBA

The Cornermen of the NBA

Jul 10


Some people believe the corner 3 is the smartest shot in the NBA. I’m not sure, the dunk is usually effective. What is clear is that the corner 3 is the best jump shot on the court, and as a result, analytics people tend to revere offenses like the Spurs that seem to always get nice open looks from the corners. The corner 3 is a very useful offensive device.

About 1 of every 16 of NBA field goal attempts is a corner 3. League-wide they go in about 37% of the time, which is the highest percentage of any 3-point shot. This is due to the fact that the 3-point line is closer to the rim at the corner than it is anywhere else; it’s easier there. However, that’s not all; due to the nuances of court spacing, penetration, and collapsing defenses, teams also tend to get open shots in the corners a lot.

With this in mind, guys who can shoot effectively from the corners are welcome additions to any NBA offense. So who are these guys? Who are the best cornermen in the NBA?

In the shortened 2011-2012 season, 26 NBA players attempted at least 80 corner 3-point shots. Ray Allen led this cohort with an incredible 50% FG% from the corners*. Corey Brewer was last; he made only 25 of 87 attempts, good enough for 29%, or 8% below the league average.

*During the playoffs, Ray Allen (injured, and small sample size) shot 38% on 26 attempts from the corners.

Interestingly, many of the league’s top corner shooters have recently signed new contracts or been involved in such discussions; Here’s the top 10 corner 3-point shooters in the NBA**:

1. Ray Allen 50%
2. Courtney Lee 49%
3. Steve Novak 48%
4. Nick Young 48%
5. Chase Budinger 47%
6. Jamal Crawford  46%
7. Ryan Anderson 45%
8. Danny Green 44%
9. Jason Terry 44%
10. Brandon Rush 44%

**minimum 80 attempts

These shooters provide 2 vital resources to their teams. Not only can they make these shots at an effective rate, but as spatial anchors in the corners they spread the floor and can prevent the defense from cheating, or double-teaming.

But what about teams? Which teams shot best/worst/most/least from the corners?

1. Golden State 46%!
2. Boston 43%***
3. Houston 43%
4. Orlando 42%
5. Oklahoma City 41%
6. San Antonio 41%

As a collective unit, Golden State is as only 4% less effective than Ray Allen. When Steph Curry is on the floor, Golden State may just be the best shooting team in the NBA.

4 or 5 of these 6 teams have the reputation of being “smart” teams; it’s not surprising to see the analytical teams atop this list. 4 of these teams went to the playoffs.

***Interestingly, facing the loss of Ray Allen, rumors here in Boston indicate the Celtics are trying to figure out a way to acquire Courtney Lee, the #2 most efficient corner shooter in the NBA last season. Don’t forget they also just acquired Jason Terry, #9 on the list.

1. Philadelphia 31%****
2. Utah 32%
3. Charlotte 34%
4. Toronto 34%
5. New Jersey 34%

**** The addition of Nick Young should help; he’s lethal from the right corner, where he hits about 57%!

Most (Corner-3-point attempts per game):
1. Atlanta 6.76
2. San Antonio 6.73
3. Portland 6.36
4. LA Clippers 6.18
5. Denver 6.09

1. Charlotte 2.15
2. Utah 2.55
3. Memphis 2.91
4. Philadelphia 2.95
5. New Orleans 3.12

It’s interesting that Atlanta and San Antonio shoot over 3X as many corner 3′s as Charlotte.

The bottom line is that not every team or player is equipped to succeed from the corner, but the events of the last few weeks make it clear that there is increased value for free agents who are really effective corner shooters. Teams that place one of these guys in the corner are capable of keeping opposing defenses honest in an important way; look what happened when Bosh hit those corner 3′s against Boston.



  1. Zebulon


    Golden State’s 46% on Corner 3′s can’t be an accurate stat – only 6 players in the NBA shot over 46% on Corner 3′s, and not one of them is on the Golden State roster.

    The GS Average is approximately the mean Corner 3 %’s of their entire roster of players. If none of their players are above 46%, the average of their percentages can definitely not be that high.

    • Kirk

      Thanks for your comment; several players shot above 46%, but only a few qualified considering the minimum attempts. For example, Klay Thompson shot 49% in 57 attempts, and Steph Curry hit 65% of 23 attempts.


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