It’s not even debatable anymore: Corner three-pointers and attempts from the restricted area are the most valuable shots in basketball. The Houston Rockets have based an entire offensive identity on this line of thinking to great success, and every defense in the league’s foremost goal is preventing those specific tries. While the NBA has obviously come around to understanding the value of shots from deep, though, most players and teams would surely opt for an uncontested layup as opposed to dishing to an open teammate waiting beyond the arc. But the Golden State Warriors aren’t most teams, and Klay Thompson isn’t most shooters.
Asked by reporters why he passed up an easy dunk to find Thompson standing alone at three-point range in a recent game, Golden State’s Andre Iguodala expressed utmost confidence in his sharpshooting teammate and perhaps hedged too far in the understanding of expected efficiency:
Nobody is a bigger proponent of mining for open three-pointers than we are. Not only are those attempts incredibly efficient, but they also lead to an outsized percentage of offensive rebounders. And when a team boasts shooters like Thompson and older Splash Brother Steph Curry, it should indeed rely on treys for an outsized portion of its attempts.
Not at the cost of a guaranteed two points, though. We don’t have video of the play in question, but the Bay Area News Group’s Diamond Leung makes it seem as if Iguodala chose to pass to Thompson instead taking an easy dunk. Nobody is hotter than Thompson right now – he’s averaging 20.3 points per game on 55.1 percent overall shooting and an incredible 62.5 percent from beyond the arc in preseason play. If there was ever a case in which a player’s choice to find an open teammate for a three-pointer in lieu of scoring a sure layup would make sense, this would be it.
But it just doesn’t exist. As revelatory as Thompson’s exhibition play has been and as gifted a shooter as he is in general, he won’t make 66.7 percent of his tries from deep during games – the amount it would take for the shot’s expected value to trump the 2.0 of a simple dunk. However, Iguodala’s thought process is certainly on-point.
If he’s handling the ball on a 2-on-1 break with Thompson and the latter flares to the corner for a three-point attempt, Iguodala should make the pass on every occasion the defender is even partially within he and the basket. Contested finishes can be difficult for even a player of Iguodala’s ability at the rim, and Thompson is that dominant a shooter.