The NBA is becoming more of a perimeter-oriented league on offense, with teams emphasizing spacing and the three-point shot over scoring in the post. In practice, that means teams are leaning more on big men who can shoot. The increasing popularity of playing small forwards like Carmelo Anthony in the "stretch four" position isn't just a fad — it represents a new way of thinking about how the five players fit together on the court.
For the most part, coaches opt to put players with existing skills into these roles instead of acting as if a big man will be able to run around the perimeter like a much smaller player. But the Utah Jazz seem to be taking a different path, because new head coach Quin Snyder is now encouraging third-year center Enes Kanter to shoot three-pointers. From Jody Genessy for the Deseret News:
“Coach Q came to visit me and we went to a gym. He said, ‘You know you’re going to shoot some threes this year, right?’ ” Kanter said, smiling. “I was just like shocked that the first time he met me he gave me that confidence. It means a lot to me.” [...]
“I’ve been working really hard on the three,” Kanter said. “My teammates and my coaches give me that confidence. I really appreciate it.” [...]
“I talked to [fellow Turk and former Utah Jazz center Mehmet Okur] before the preseason and he told me to use my legs and he talked to me about it a little bit,” Kanter said. “I think he really helped, too.”
In Snyder’s offensive system, the power forwards are supposed to occasionally stretch the floor by extending their roam beyond the 3-point line. Snyder said that applies to backup big Trevor Booker, too. [...]
"I believe he has 3-point range, so if he’s taking long twos, just from a percentage basis, it’s not good for him, it’s not good for us," Snyder said. "We want to attack the rim and get good stuff there. The long twos for a guy that can shoot threes, it’s just got to be a habit of his to space behind the line."
Kanter attempted only one three-pointer in each of his first three seasons, hitting his lone attempt of 2012-13. The shock goes deeper, though, because he's not even much of a mid-range shooter. A quick look at his shot distribution last season shows that he didn't spent most of his time inside:
Kanter had some success from some of those mid-range zones, although it's hard to say he performed so ably as to compel Snyder to have him go even deeper. This is a bold move based on very little evidence that it will work.
Regardless, it is possible to see Snyder's rationale. The Jazz are low on talent, so starting Kanter at power forward next to Derrick Favors allows the team to allot its minutes in a way that gives its most promising players the most playing time. At the same time, very few teams play two interior-only big men together, which means that one of these players will need to expand his repertoire at both ends of the floor. Of the two, Kanter is the obvious choice. And while it's a bit of a stretch to ask him to go right to shooting threes, stats indicate that the long two is the least efficient shot in basketball.
However, working in theory is very different from working in practice, and it's easy to see how the Jazz could choose to ditch this plan after a few weeks. Kanter has attempted three shots from deep so far this preseason in Utah's two games against the Portland Trail Blazers. He made one in the opener Tuesday, which is nice. But on Thursday this happened (via EOB):
No basketball fan wants to see bricks like that one on a regular basis. We wish Kanter luck in his attempts to expand his game — it will be good news for his career and team if it happens. If not, then we'll always have this video of him teaching Jazz radio announcer David Locke how to say "three-pointer" in Turkish:
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