Over the years, the corner three-pointer has become one of the more valuable shots in the NBA. Based on 82games.com analysis, the corner 3 is also the most efficient shot on the floor, averaging 118.8 points per 100 possessions, slightly above the low paint zones, which averages 117.1 points per 100 possessions.
It makes sense, too. In the corner, the three-point line is 18-inches closer than the three-point line around the wings and top of the arc.
While the Portland Trail Blazers utilized the corner 3 effectively last season, shooting 38 percent from the corner, there is room for improvement, and that improvement starts with LaMarcus Aldridge.
I’m not advocating that the Blazers shoot more three-pointers next season– not at all. The Blazers shot the third most threes in the league last season. They could shoot a few less threes and get some more looks inside the paint, if they wanted. I would, however, like to see the Blazers utilize the corner 3 more effectively than they did this season, with Aldridge taking more than the one corner 3 he took in 2013-14.
Aldridge is a great midrange, baseline shooter. He shoots above the league average on both the right and left side. I’d like to see Aldridge make a concerted effort to get his feet set outside the three-point line, and see if he can become a threat from that area.
Last season, the Blazers’ offense wouldn’t allow Aldridge to catch in that area. For his baseline touches, he received the ball in midrange post-up or pick-and-pop situationsl. Then, players like Nic Batum, Wesley Matthews, Damian Lillard, Mo Williams, or Dorell Wright were relocating to the corner on either side of the court and getting open looks when teams would try to double him.
This season, head coach Terry Stotts will face a minor predicament when playing Chris Kaman and Aldridge at the same time. Kaman is a more pure post-up player than Robin Lopez. The Blazers would rarely throw the ball to Lopez in the post and let him go to work. He’s a much better pick-and-roll big man. Kaman and Aldridge posting up at the same time might cause some spacing problems. Stotts should combat those spacing issue by sending Aldridge into the corner to see if he can be that stretch-four that is so valuable in the NBA today.
If Aldridge can be effective as a catch and shoot option in the corner, the Blazers have another offensive wrinkle to go to against teams like the San Antonio Spurs, who are so good at closing out on shooters and making them put the ball on the ground.
The change might be uncomfortable for Aldridge at first, but it is necessary for him to adjust his game as he gets older. Right now, Aldridge is the prime of his career, but who knows how long that will last? Having another weapon in the arsenal is never a bad thing for a big man in the NBA.
Looking around the league, the power forward position is changing. Chris Bosh has moved his games out beyond the three-point line, Serge Ibaka is working on his corner 3; It just makes sense that Aldridge, a great shooter already, should be able to figure out a way to utilize one of the best shots in basketball.
Placing Aldridge in the corner for some sets might have some unintended negative side effects, but I can’t foresee any real problems. Taking another big defender out of the paint would open driving lanes for Batum and Lillard to take advantage.
Last season, Lillard only shot 47 percent at the rim. Part of that problem was having two big men on the floor clogging driving lanes. If Aldridge roamed around the three-point line at times, obviously not all the time, it should free up some space for Lillard to finish at the rim without two shot blockers crashing down on him.
I know what you’re thinking, “How can I nitpick the Blazers’ offense?”
They were one of the best offensive teams in the league last season. That’s true, but the only way for the Blazers to improve is to turn up the defense and force some turnovers, OR become even more efficient offensively. As the Blazers didn’t make any defensive signings this free agency, the plan for improvement is simple. The Blazers want to score more.
If Aldridge emerged as a three-point threat, that would definitely help the Blazers accomplish that goal next season.