You're more likely to be open in the corner. (Getty)
You're more likely to be open in the corner. (Getty)

For years, the corner three has been known as a valuable shot. When actual location-based shooting metrics came into vogue, this wasn't just confirmed, it was emphatically so. The ideas for this are varied. I've asked players about it and gotten everything from "the angle of the shot" to "how the defense reacts." But the most popular idea has to do with the "short corner" principle. It's the shortest three-pointer on the floor at 22 feet. 

But some research done by Nylon Calculus suggests that it's got nothing to do with the corner being "short" and more to do with the fact that you're more likely to be open from that spot. 

(Disclosure: I'm the editor emeritus of the network of sites of which Nylon Calculus is a part of.) 

Almost invariably these shots are described as the “shorter corner 3.” And it’s true, the line is 22 feet from the basket in the  corner, while it extends to 23 feet, 9 inches around the rest of the arc. However, that extra distance is not the primary determining factor in the increased accuracy of the shot. As Ian noted over the summer, field goal accuracy doesn’t materially change at any distance between 5 and about 24 feet:



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 percent. 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 percent 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. This notion arose when I was examining who were the shooters deadliest from the corners when left wide open. It seemed that an unusually high proportion of players corner 3 attempts were completely uncontested. Given how important corner 3s are to the modern game, how could the shot be one of the least heavily contested in the game? But upon closer examination, it appears to be true. Here are the proportion of shots taken between 22 and 24 feet from the basket by the distance of the nearest defender:



via Geometry, Distance and Corner 3s.

That last chart is extremely important. 36 percent of all long twos have a defender at six feet or more away from the shooter, as opposed to 52.2 percent on the corner three. For coaches who have defended the mid-range two as some sort of religious totem, it's more bad evidence. Again, this isn't an "advanced" metric. It's simply, "you are more open and will make more shots from the corner three vs. the long two." 

There are certainly other explantions for the higher percentage. Some players really do just prefer the angle. And just because players are more open from the corner doesn't mean that's a naturally-occurring phenomenon. You have to design plays for the corner like the best offense in the league, your San Antonios, Dallas' and the like do. But this is certainly compelling evidence and more reason to think that any conversation about how any shot at any time can be open isn't true. 

From the actual numbers, you're more likely to have room for your shot from the corner.