Nylon Calculus is my favorite stats-oriented site and I check it a couple of times a week because I think they do a very job presenting advanced stats in a digestible manner. I think their post on the corner 3-pointer in the NBA is one of the best they’ve put out there. At this point, the efficiency of the NBA corner 3 has been well documented, but many grossly overestimate the role the shorter distance (22 feet versus 23 feet, 9 inches above the break) plays. As Nylon Calculus’ Seth Partnow (a great Twitter follow) argues, the power of the corner 3 isn’t in the shorter distance, it’s simply that a higher percentage of those attempts are “open looks.” To further prove this point, the corner 3 efficiency was found to exist in college basketball as well. According to a recent study, corner 3’s at the college level (where there is no “break” in the corner like there is in the NBA) were made at a higher rate than any other area. It’s not about the distance, it’s about the defensive rotations (and shot selection). For more on shot analytics, check out this post from October.
In fact across the NBA, corner 3s were made at a higher rate than long two point jumpers of the exact same distance. As mentioned above, those corner 3s were knocked down at right around 39%. Looking at some of the more granular shooting data released earlier this week, two pointers from 22 feet away or further were only converted at a 34.3% rate. While there are other explanations possible such as the the corner being an easier shooting background, a more likely explanation is that corner 3s are simply more open.