Step Up & Step In: The Curious Case of the Nets Three-Point Shooting Splits

While the Brooklyn Nets take a ton of three-point shots, they have a much better success rate on their home court. Is it simply due to a small sample size, or is it something else entirely?

We've passed the quarter point of the 2018-2019 NBA season, which gives a foundation to determine how teams will play as the season progresses. The Brooklyn Nets have shown to be the team they were thought to be - an exciting young team that shows promise, but ultimately needs a talent infusion to really contend for a playoff spot (even with a healthy Caris LeVert, they were on the outside looking in). The Nets have also continued to showcase the three-point-heavy offense that has been their calling card the past few years. They're currently fifth in the league in three-point field goals attempted, with 34.4 attempts per game, and sixth in three-point field goals made per game, with 12.0. However, their makes have been mostly attributed to their shooting volume, as their three-point shooting percentage is 17th in the league, at 35%. Their lack of consistent three-point accuracy becomes even more evident when you examine their home-road splits, which are among the most drastic differences in the league. Is this simply due to a home court advantage, or is it something else? We'll dive deeper below.

Struggles on the Road

The Nets are an above average three-point shooting team at home, where they shoot 36.4%, good for 13th in the league. However, on the road that percentage drops to 33.5%, which drops them to 16th in the league, giving them a home/road three-point shooting split of 2.9%. The Nets have been struggling to shoot on the road all year; as recently as last week, they were 4.8% less accurate from three on the road, but a recent 50% from three night at Madison Square Garden coupled with a few poor shooting nights at home have diminished this split. However, this home/road split of 2.9% is still the 8th worst differential in the league (for the record, the 4.8% differential was the third worst at the time). This split is reflected in the shooting of their players; the table below shows the shooting splits for Nets players with at least 30 attempts on the season:

The question is, what's causing these splits? What's causing DeMarre Carroll to shoot so much better at home, and what's causing Joe Harris, one of the best shooters in the league, to be only slightly above average on the road? While it could be attributed to the sample size of 28 games, it just might be something else.

Better Competition?

Could the Nets' road woes be a product of the teams they're playing on the road? It appears not, as the Nets have actually faced stiffer competition at home; teams they face at the Barclays Center have an average winning percentage of .555, compared to .486 winning percentage of teams the Nets have faced on the road. This difference in difficulty is reflected in the Nets' home (4-10) and away records (6-8), as they have a better record against worse teams. Interestingly enough, the Nets also shoot better from three in losses (35.8%) than in wins (33.4%). Regardless, the quality of the opposing team doesn't seem to have an effect on the Nets' three-point shooting percentages.

Better Defense?

The next category to look at is team defense. Teams the Nets have played at the Barclays Center are currently allowing home teams to shoot 34.62% from three. Inversely, the teams that the Nets have faced on the road are allowing visiting teams to shoot 34.49% from three. The defense of the home and road teams are essentially identical, so the shooting splits don't appear to be due to the level of defense faced. Furthermore, defender proximity to the shooter doesn't appear to be the cause for this split. The table below shows the percentage of three-point attempts, based on the closest defender's location, taken by the Nets when at home and on the road:

Location 0-2 feet 2-4 feet 4-6 feet 6+ feet
 Home  2.61%  17.68%  40.00%  39.71%
 Away  1.17%  12.83%  39.36%  46.36%

(Table was made using stats from stats.nba.com)

As shown in the table, the Nets are actually getting better looks on the road, taking fewer "very tight" (0-2 feet) and "tight" (2-4 feet) shots, while taking more "wide open" (6+ feet) shots. On the season, the Nets are hitting a higher amount of their "wide open shots" (40%) than their "open shots" (34.5%), "tight shots" (23%) and "very tight" shots (25%). This is as expected - teams typically shoot better when they are less defended. However, these statistics indicate that the Nets should actually be shooting better on the road than at home. The combination of opposing team defense and defender location indicates that the Nets' poor road shooting is not caused by opposing teams, but is a product of something the Nets are doing on offense

Shooting Distance?

It may seem like a no-brainer, but the closer a player is to the basket, the easier it is for them to make a shot. The same can be said for the Nets three-point shooting, as they are hitting 39.0% of threes taken less than 25 feet from the basket, compared to 32.6% of threes taken from 25-35 feet away (for our purposes, threes from 35 feet or farther away aren't a good indication of shooting prowess). And here lies the reason for the Nets' struggles. At home, 55.74% (267/479) of their three-point attempts are taken from 25-35 feet away, which they're hitting at 34.5%. On the road, their percentage of three-point attempts from 25+ feet jumps to 63.52% (303/477), which they're hitting at only 31.60%. To put it simply, the Nets are consistently taking more difficult shots on the road, which they're hitting at a lower rate. The key to fixing the Nets road three-point struggles is to shoot closer to the basket - they're hitting a very respectable 37.1% of their road three-point attempts taken from within 25 feet, which would place them 8th in the league in road three-point accuracy. By improving their shot selection, the Nets give themselves a path towards better road three-point shooting.

Moving Forward

When looking at home/road splits, it's easy to get bogged down in the numbers and struggle to locate where improvements need to happen. Luckily for the Brooklyn Nets, the path towards fixing their road three-point shooting is clear: shoot closer to the basket, and those shots will fall. Step up and step in - the improvements will follow suit.

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