Spurs: Recent trends show no-brainer adjustment is needed
By Josh Paredes
If you were following the San Antonio Spurs' throughout their dominant run through the early 2000s, you're familiar with just how devastating they were with the corner three. From Brent Barry to Michael Finley to Bruce Bowen, there were always talented 3-point shooters available to complement the Big Three. Lately, that shot has been left in the dust in the Alamo City.
In an article about the emergence and usage of the corner three for ShotTracker, Stephen Shea explained how the Spurs popularized it and used it to great success. "It gave San Antonio an edge before other teams caught on," he says. "For more than a decade, the Spurs were regularly in the top three in corner three usage."
Flashing forward to recent years, the corner three has largely been an ignored shot in San Antonio. In 2019-20, the first season they missed the playoffs in over two decades, their 6.3 corner attempts per game were the fifth-least in the league. Last season, they shot fewer corner threes than any team but the Orlando Magic.
So far this season, the Spurs are averaging seven 3-point corner attempts per game. While an improvement over the last two seasons, only four teams in the NBA shoot fewer.
Why the San Antonio Spurs need to bring back the corner three
The corner three not only spreads the floor for the Spurs but it's historically been a big part of their success. After their loss to the Pacers, San Antonio leads the league in 3-point percentage from the corner, making 26 of 49 attempts for 53.1%. They buried five of their seven shots from there against Indiana.
With the departures of LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan come opportunities for the young core to take shots from everywhere on the court, and they have plenty of guys capable of burying corner threes.
Lonnie Walker, Doug McDermott, and Keldon Johnson immediately come to mind as candidates to become the team's next Bowen from the corner. While Keldon has had a very slow start from deep to begin the season, he's shown he can knock down corner threes in the Olympics, in the preseason, and in the regular season.
For whatever reason, Keldon has a much smoother stroke from the corners, even nailing one in crunch time against the defending champion Bucks in Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, Doug McDermott buried 42.4% of his shots from the corners last season and 43.1% the season prior. Lonnie Walker shot 35.4% and 34.5% from corners over the same span. I haven't even brought up Bryn Forbes, who shot 45.5% from the corners last season in Milwaukee.
With so many attackers constantly probing the lane and looking to set up shots, the Spurs could only benefit from spreading the court even more by taking more threes from the corner.
Hopefully, Coach Popovich can find more opportunities to get the Spurs back to their old ways by incorporating more of the shot that once helped make them so dominant.