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Jul 29 2014

Kyle Korver and ‘the most unusual three ever hit’

Over at Grantland, Zach Lowe wrote a feature on Kyle Korver, the 3-point genius who, against all odds, has become one of the league’s most dangerous offensive weapons. He’s coming off a season where he converted 3s at a ridiculous rate of 47.2 percent, playing a career-high 34 minutes/game and helping the Atlanta Hawks reach the postseason. He also made at least one 3-pointer in 127 consecutive games, breaking Dana Barros’ record of 89.

And somehow, Korver keeps getting better. Though he’s 33, and heading into his 12th NBA season, he was one of the 19 players invited to the USA National Team training camp held July 28-Aug. 1. Not bad for a second-round pick.

In case you’ve forgotten, the 6-foot-7 Ashton Kutcher look alike first made a name for himself 11 years ago with the Sixers. He was drafted by the Nets with the 51st pick in the 2003 draft, then immediately traded to Philly for $125,000, which would cover summer league. Korver struggled as a rookie under Randy Ayers, who tried getting the sharpshooter from Creighton to develop a mid-range game. That didn’t work, at least not immediately; he shot 35.2 percent from the field (with a 2P% of 28.3) in his first year.

But Korver’s career took off the next season when the Sixers hired 3-point friendly Jim O’Brien.

Here’s Lowe:

In the team’s very first practice, Allen Iverson ran a two-on-one fast break with Korver filling the wing. Iverson dished to Korver behind the 3-point arc. Korver took two dribbles, nailed a 17-footer, and waited for the applause.

O’Brien was livid. He screamed for Korver to look down at the 3-point line. O’Brien told him that if Korver ever passed up another open 3-pointer, he would remove him from the game. Korver remembers one thought flying through his head during O’Brien’s tirade: This is awesome.

Korver led the league in made 3s that season, establishing himself as perhaps the league’s deadliest shooter. But he would not be pigeonholed as a spot-up guy chilling in the corner. He liked moving too much for that. Korver grew up in Lakewood, a small town within Greater Los Angeles, and he fell in love with the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s. “Everyone on that team was running, cutting, and passing,” Korver says. “To me, that’s still perfect basketball.”

To fully understand what Korver meant to Philly, it’s important to consider context. In part due to personnel, and in part due to coaching, the Sixers never had a lights-out 3-point shooter before Korver’s arrival. In the six seasons (1997-2003) under Larry Brown, the team finished last in 3-point attempts thrice, second-to-last twice, and 24th once. They had capable shooters, like Keith Van Horn, Aaron McKie, and briefly, Toni Kukoc, but they were nowhere near as effective as Korver. Even if they were, they’d likely have been underutilized with a 3-point opponent like Brown calling the shots.

Korver was, in many ways, the perfect 3-point specialist for the mid-2000s Sixers. With his smooth stroke and underwhelming athleticism, he fit all of the white-guy-shooter stereotypes. But unlike predecessors Van Horn, Kukoc, and Matt Harpring — who arrived with unfair expectations — he could shoot the lights out, and just as importantly, played with a 3-point friendly coach.

Korver’s Sixers tenure ended in his fifth season, when he was traded to Utah for Gordan Giricek and a first-round pick, a move that opened up playing time for Thaddeus Young and created cap space for the 2008 offseason. (Philly would end up needing every penny of its Korver savings for its five-year, $80 million offer to Elton Brand.) Though in spite of his short-lived Sixers tenure, he remains the franchise’s last, and perhaps only 3-point ace. In just 337 games, he nailed 661 3-pointers (1,618 attempts) at a 40.9 percent clip, good for second on the Sixers all-time leaderboard. (Iverson  leads with 885, but needed 2,864 attempts). It’s possible, if not likely, that Korver is — and will remain — the best 3-point shooter in Sixers history. If and when a Sixer surpasses Iverson’s total, it’ll likely have more to do with the changing pace of the game, than the player himself.

On that note, I’ll leave you with highlights from a classic Korver performance from his sophomore season in a 106-104 overtime win over the Pacers. He finished with 23 points off the bench and hit seven 3s, including “the most unusual three ever hit” (1:20).

Stick around for a few minutes and you’ll catch an Iverson game-winning buzzer beater.

  • Evan

    I really enjoyed Korver while he was here, and was really happy to see Zach Lowe write that article about him. He really is a very underrated offensive weapon. Kyle Korver will be the type of player the Sixers will need to add in the coming years (whenever they decide they feel like attempting to contend) to put them over the top. Obviously right now it doesn’t matter that our team doesn’t have a single shooter on the team, but great shooters that cut and move without the ball are some of the most entertaining players in basketball. And that record he set this year for consecutive games with a three pointer shows he is a model of consistency.

    By the way, who was the announcer in this highlight? I have never heard a more uninteresting call on a game winning shot. Hopefully he was the pacers local announcer because that would explain a lot, haha.

  • robbybonfire23

    Iverson, to contribute the math that was bypassed in the article, hit 31 per cent of his 3-point attempts, in his career. This is the hallmark of a selfish player – taking far too many long distance shots (something we are apparently supposed to admire and be in awe of), while amassing a LOW career shooting percentage in doing so. And we honored this man? For what, being piggish and a Me-first/Team-last ball hog?

    This is the curse of the 3-point shot era: all “Showtime” and far too little team cohesiveness or penetration of the defense strategy.

    • Kevin

      This man must have done something extremely awful to you in life… What does an article on Kyle Korver have to do with AI again?

      • robbybonfire23

        Come on, Kevin, I don’t mind anyone with ABILITY, like Korver, for starters, gunning it up from outside all night long. What I mind is for a 31 per cent shooter from there taking far too many shots. Last man on the bench can hit 31 per cent from 3-point range. You take your team out of the game quickly any night an Iverson-type outside shooter is really cold from downtown. Figure – he was 31 per cent from there for his career, so that some nights he was “hot” and hitting close to 40 per cent from there. And some nights he was “cold” and hitting, what, 25 per cent from there? And yet you still allow him to run your offense point production into the ground?

        Wish I still had my stats from those days, I maintained a record of the percentage of Iverson’s team total of shots, and the percentage of Iverson’s team total of points scored, every game. It was dreadfully on the negative side. It is stats like that that truly reveal a player’s value to a team. Iverson was costing this team a handful of games, on balance, every season he suited up. I have had it with players like that, and you know how I feel about so many coming out of college now who are cut from the Iverson mold.

        These games are won via high percentage play calling and executing. Giving Carte Blanche every game to one of the worst outside shooters in the NBA is giving your opponent an advantage just for showing up. This player was focused on getting his 25-30 points every night, at whatever cost in efficiency, to his team. O.k. if I don’t buy into high scoring totals when the percentage efficiency numbers are not there to back them up?

        For the 10,000 time, here, RATES of PRODUCTION, not totals, RULE!

        • Kevin

          To Say Allen only cared about his production and not the team winning (which is what you insinuate when you say he was focused on getting his points at whatever cost) is more than a bit absurd to be honest. Whether you liked him as a player or not, to suggest he would do anything that would stop his team from excelling intentionally seems a bit strange since he consistently placed his body on the line and went 100% at all times. Did he take bad shots? Sure. Did he miss passes at times? Sure. But did he also have the ball in his hands with 1 second on the clock because no one else shot? Often. The gameplan for this team for many years was to get Allen the ball and get out of the way. Shouldn’t your disdain be more towards the coaching and management that adopted that philosophy rather than the player that went along with it.

          In 2000-2001, Iverson scored 33% of the teams points while missing 36% of the teams shots. He also had 22% of the teams assists. In 2007-2008 playing with other talent in Denver, he scored 24% of the teams points, while missing 22.5% of the teams shots. He also had 29% of the teams assists.

          For reference, The best player in today’s game, LeBron James, scored 25% of his teams points this past season while missing 19% of the shots. He also had 26% of the teams assists.

          In Kobe’s 08′ Championship season, he missed 24.5% of the teams shots while scoring 25% of the teams points. He had 21% of the assists as well.

          Of course this is a small and random sample size, but it shows that Allen has at least at times had similar production to Kobe Bryant yet is some reason viewed so much different for a similar approach honestly (Also Funny that Kobe takes 4 3FG’s a game and makes just 33%). One player is heralded, the other is crucified. His production doesn’t match up nearly as well to LeBron’s, but who’s does? His numbers in Denver still are nowhere near horrible. Rates of production always rule Robby, I agree. However, only using them to put down or lift up players you have biases toward is very Howard Eskinish. I am of the belief that when evaluating numbers everything must be brought into the picture, otherwise it won’t be an accurate portrayal.

          • robbybonfire23

            You may call a prolific 31 per cent shooter from downtown a “team player,” a “leader,” a HOF player – anything you like, that is your prerogative. I’m not buying, but that’s just me.

            A really good baseball analogy here is the way Bill James, some would say deservedly, dumped on Steve Garvey, years ago, for his refusal to work the count and take walks to help his team, as a “notoriously selfish” ballplayer. Garvey, of course, in his quest for HOF consideration, was focused on getting his 200 hits every year, come hell or high water where his team’s fortunes were concerned.

            As a sports fan, statistician, and now casual Sabermetrician (where I used to be heavily involved), I focus on two things with these players, first, their innate ability; and second, how they harmonize with the players around them, and whether they make them better. I cannot say the Iverson’s and the Wiggins’ of the world make their teammates better, which, to me, is a serious indictment of their overall contribution. Wiggins, averaging 1 1/2 assists per 40 minutes in conference and NCAA play with Joel Embiid in the middle – well that represents, to me, the most egregious case of selfishness I can recall observing, where the game of basketball is concerned.

            You are absolutely right regarding the liability of the coaching staff for not controlling any out of control player. You mentioned it before I did, but I was coming to that. Great point and one that cannot be swept under the rug. Magic Johnson getting Paul Westhead fired was a truly sad day for professional sports in this country. So that now many of these maverick athletes have no one to answer to, especially with all the judicial, legal, agent, and union clout they have backing them up.

            Please, one request, Howard E. was never a “guru” of mine, and I come into the picture, where these players are concerned with no bias in favor or against. Where I get vocal is when some players are treated like a God in the press when my numbers tell me a different story. Sure, I didn’t like what Iverson brought to the table. And sure I think Sir Charles got screwed out of one, possibly two MVP awards he richly deserved, given his extremely high level of production starting with scoring and rebounding

            . Nothing personal against Iverson, nothing personal in favor of Charles, I just call them as I see them. Thank you.

  • robbybonfire23

    Ok, I did the math re the career comparison of A.I. and Kobe, and Kobe gets the nod, but in all honesty, not by as much as I thought.

    Iverson shows a PPX (total points divided by missed FGA) average of 2.13, which is abysmally low, put it in the D+ range; Kobe comes in with a lukecold career PPX average of 2.38, maybe a C grade, at best.

    Where it comes to their respective floor game, A.I. shows a mediocre score of 12.20. (SIngle digits here is Zach LaVine purgatory.) But Kobe is no gazelle here, either, coming in at 13.32. By way of comparison, Marcus Smart is coming into the NBA this next season showing a 17+ floor game score. Now that is really good.

    So my bottom line conclusion, here, is that A.I. grades about as overrated as I have always though; while Kobe looks like one of the most overrated players in NBA history.

    • Evan

      I know you love the stats, but can you ever use the eye test? If you watched A.I., it was clear he was the main reason they were even in the NBA finals against the Lakers. His supporting cast was also pretty awful. There is no way you can say he hurt the team if he was the only reason they kept winning.
      Kobe is an amazing player as well. Stats don’t cover the X-factors. When you watch these players play, you can see their ability to completely take over a game. That is what makes them special, and why everyone except the most religious stat followers accept their greatness. There are exceptions to every rule, and Kobe and Iverson are certainly exceptions. I loved the stats by Kevin as well, A.I. clearly got a good amount of assists.

      • robbybonfire23

        Evan –

        It’s not about “loving” stats. Maintaining stats is a lot of time-consuming work. The reason anyone undertakes this work load is to obtain an informational edge, where we are talking investment-arena records; and where sports teams and players are concerned, to probe into their innate talents and flaws much more deeply than anything obtainable from shallow, knee-jerk media numbers, starting with the media focus upon totals and averages of points scored and rebounds as being the primary indicators of whether a player had a good game or is having a good season.

        Not for one minute am I fooled by these ball hog players who “take over a game.” Registering a low percentage of successful shots, game to game, may be “taking over a game at crunch time” to some, but to me it represents a tangible ~ cost ~ to the player’s team, in the win column.

        Also, Evan, take into consideration the “P.R.” factor. A lot of this media adulation for high-profile players is the way a league and a team market their product. Every sport needs marketable individual stars, especially those teams with poor won-lost records.

        Yes, A.I. was decent in the assist column, I give him his due, there. Same as Wiggins is a decent defensive rebounder. But A.I. was a liability as a shooter, and Wiggins cannot or will not set up teammates, and I don’t give a player a “pass” when he is glaringly defective in a major-component game category.

        So like A.I. all you want, fine with me. His career is done and that is my primary satisfaction, where he is concerned. Thank goodness he is not 22 years old now, and will not be on the scene to muck up a nice Embiid-Noel connection team.

        • Evan

          But how do you explain A.I. leading the Sixers to the finals, a fluke? And obviously Kobe has had a great deal of help along his career, but he must be doing something right if he has won 5 championships. My point being that there are players that can be good without posting exceptional statistics.
          Also, I agree with the idea of percentages being more important than totals. What is your opinion on Player Efficiency Rating? A.I. ranks 48th all time in PER, and Kobe ranks 20th.

          • robbybonfire23

            Who won those Finals, Evan? That question opens the can of worms as to what the hell this organization was doing in not grabbing the guard from Lower Merion who led his high school team to the state championship, in the subsequent draft, in lieu of taking Iverson. Hindsight being “perfect,” and all that, who among us would say that was not a mistake?

            76ers got to the Finals once, with A.I., same as the Eagles have gotten to the Super Bowl a couple times. You satisfied with getting that far but no further, because I sure am not?

            I will be honest with you – and I will look this up and hope to sort it out – I am not familiar with the specifics of what PER entails. I just hope it isa more accurate and meaningful stat than the redundant NFL QB rating, which factors in QB completion pass percentage AND yards per attempt, when there is an over-lapping there so that the bottom line figure is misleading and biased toward high percentage passers.

          • Evan

            I am not trying to compare Kobe vs. Iverson, and obviously it would have been better to take Kobe. I guess you are on an island then. Obviously the Sixers never won the finals, but the fact that A.I. even took that rag tag team that far was incredible, and although the success with him was short, it was almost entirely due to him. I am still not convinced you watched him a great deal, maybe you simply look at the stats, because there are intangibles they cannot measure. You are the only person I have ever met who denies A.I.’s status as a great Philadelphia 76er, and when he is inducted to the hall of fame, you will be the only bitter one in the entire city.

          • egoldwein

            Aright… On the one hand, it’s fair to say that Iverson was overrated/inefficient/poor defensively. On the other, he was still an amazing talent and scorer, and was a major part of the reason the Sixers were successful in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Could his shot selection have been better? Sure. Did he deserve an MVP? That’s debatable.

            Who knows how he would have been perceived a decade later, now that everybody’s following the advanced stats. (Perhaps that would have led to better coaching). Regardless, he’s a one-of-a-kind player; his style/talent/personality — not his efficiency — is where he gets his rep. But that’s not a bad thing. Nobody has, or ever will impact the NBA the way he did.

          • robbybonfire23

            An “amazing scorer” does considerably better than showing a 2.13 PPX (total points divided by missed FG attempts) for his career. This stat is interesting for its strong correlation with baseball’s batting average. You wouldn’t want a .213 hitter in your lineup who is not a pitcher, but that is what the 76ers had, all those years, with Iverson.

            Go ahead, run PPX on the best guards in the game, college and NBA. It is an eye-opener. Start with people like Chris Paul and Rondo, in recent years. A.I. just does not stack up with any group on a higher level than the journeymen of his time and of today.

            And as for “charisma,” I put it up there with the current “clubhouse mentor” nonsense in baseball, wherein the presence on active rosters of old guys who are completely washed up has to be explained, somehow. I am surprised Jamie Moyer, the most notorious clubhouse mentor of them all, somehow was not allowed to pitch up to the age of 60.

            Look, you produce or you make excuses. A.I. needs a lot of people covering for his glaring inadequacies, with the “leadership” and with the “charisma” zingers, I notice. lol.

          • robbybonfire23

            I guess that puts the legacy of one Michael Jordan into perspective, where it belongs. I didn’t realize A.I. had made people forget Jordan, so quickly.

          • robbybonfire23

            Marginal players abound in the HOF of all sports. It’s like the Academy Awards, more of a popularity contest, with a lot of politics thrown in, than anything else, as per David Stern being inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame when everyone knows he masterminded so many draft lottery fixes to keep the networks happy, the ratings high, and the New York market tuned in.

            So enjoy A.I.’s induction ceremony, your privilege to do so. And when will the Phillies be honoring “the greatest manager in Philadelphia history?” Bet you will be there for that occasion, too. I just reserve the right not to fall for the P.R. hype when they go to the extreme of making “legends” out of glorified journeymen like Allen Iverson.

          • Evan

            Advanced Stats aren’t everything Robby, the point of sports from a fans perspective is to watch and enjoy the players, not fickle over their shooting percentages. A.I. led the Sixers to a lot more wins than anyone since Sir Charles, and led the team in win shares almost every year. I am aware he never won a championship, but in my lifetime he has been the most exciting player to watch and helped the team win and stay relevant. And you mentioned Rondo a few posts up? He is just as bad of a shooter as Iverson, but since he doesn’t shoot as much his PPX is much higher. The Celtics haven’t needed Rondo to shoot the last few years because of Garnett and Pierce and he doesn’t want to anyway. Iverson threw up tons of bricks but led the team to more wins than they would have gotten without him in the process. And don’t tell me Rondo was the leader of their championship team, because he wasn’t. I guess we can just agree to disagree, because this conversation is clearly going nowhere.

          • robbybonfire23

            Good point, Evan, re Rondo being in the same class as Iverson, as a shooter. Rondo shows just 2.19 PPX for his career, so far, to 2.13 for Iverson. Poor comparison example on my part.

            I must correct you on one point you make and that is your statement that Rondo’s PPX is higher “because he doesn’t shoot as much.” PPX is always total points divided by missed FG attempts, so you can accurately compare any two players, in that regard, with no bias. It is not like a “totals” stat, wherein the more opportunities you get, the higher your raw numbers.

            It is honest to say that Iverson took a lot of shots, scored a lot of points, as a result, and missed far too many shots (41 per cent shooter overall, 31 per cent shooter for his career from beyond the 3-point arc.) It is positively dreadful that a player would gun up so many errant shots, over the course of his career, relative to established par percentages. Attaching “excitement” to all this incompetence, leaves me out in the cold.

            Chris Paul does much better than Rondo and Iverson, at 2.55 PPX for his career, to go with his outstanding floor game.

          • Evan

            Yea that was my mistake with the PPX I already asked you about that on another post. And I completely agree Chris Paul is waayyy better than Iverson I wouldn’t dispute that. Also, I wasn’t asserting that Rondo wasn’t important, my point being he just wasn’t the only offensive option as Iverson was on the Sixers.

          • robbybonfire23

            How can a low-percentage shooter be considered an “offensive weapon?”

          • Kevin

            Regardless of his inefficiency, Iverson still placed high among win shares yearly. It is mainly because he did what he had to do because of his teammates offensive ineptness. Despite this, he routinely stayed among assist leaders and generally led all players at his position in APG. I can say it 1,000 times…When he was placed around other offensive talent (in Denver), his shooting percentage rose while his shot attempts went down and PPG stayed relatively similar. It was that shooting efficiency many had asked for. It is pretty obvious he was asked to play a different role in that offense and he did well with what was asked.
            I’ve personally long been a fan of the PER. PER is a measurable developed by John Hollinger, who is highly thought of in basketball communities, at least by every account I have read. The statistic routinely places LeBron, Durant and Chris Paul among the top 5 players in terms of this efficiency rating, which shows that it is working by my standards. Iverson did a lot of things well. His shooting efficiency was not top notch many years in Philadelphia, we can agree on that. But as I said before, that is more a reflection on Management and Coaching and what they requested of him than himself. If this was not the case, he would have posted identical numbers in Denver, as opposed to the raise in efficiency (which came with not having to take 27 shots per game).

          • robbybonfire23

            Thanks for all that, Kevin. I would like to know more about PER, but am finding just sketchy, non-explanatory information about it?

            Primarily I am interested in whether the components factored into the mix are for scored for value, on a regression basis? If they are, that strikes a strong chord of validity, with me. But if they are not, well, in the NBA, on a regression basis, an assist has 3 1/2 times more positive value than the negative value of a turnover, so they should not be weighted equally. Plus there are many more assists compiled in a game than turnovers, so that each component “weight” should be considered, also.

            I will share my regression value findings for the 2014-2015 season here, as they start to take form, about six weeks into the season. The big three, of course are missed FG attempts (relative to total points scored); defensive rebounds and Assists. The other components are of minor impact, you might say, as tie-breakers.

          • Kevin

            That is something that of course could be looked into. What can be said is that Hollinger worked for years at ESPN (8 to be exact) before being employed again in an NBA Front Office.

            Here are some references explaining PER and how it is determined.

            1. http://www.basketball-reference.com/about/per.html
            2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Player_efficiency_rating
            3. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/113144-cracking-the-code-how-to-calculate-hollingers-per-without-all-the-mess

            As the Wikipedia article mentions, PER could possibly not reflect well on one who is strictly a defensive player, like Bruce Bowen, and who did impact the game despite his limited statistical contributions.

            The third reference is actually a version of the PER that identifies a
            specific weighted system, and produces almost identical results as
            Hollinger’s PER. This is not the actual PER mathematics, rather a variation of it using a weighted system.

          • robbybonfire23

            So it appears that “pace” is a big component in the PER mix. Unlike what I do which has no bias where it comes to a fast-paced team or game.

            Where Hollinger and I are on the same page is as regards quantifying defensive play vs. opponents, which is an extension of game defensive indicators we already have – Defensive Rebounds, Steals, and Blocked Shots. Years ago I used to do match-up comparison stats, centers vs. centers, etc. So that you could see how these players performed relative to their opposite number. This might be the best way to develop a comprehensive, or “round trip” grade for these players, not just go with the usual one-way totals.

          • Kevin

            In referencing the Kobe vs. Iverson comparison, Kobe was certainly a better player, but the 76ers would have been silly to take him over Allen in that draft. Allen was a sure thing to be successful, Mr. Bryant was far from, or he wouldn’t have fell to the 13th pick in the draft. Also, if I remember the NBA Finals
            Correctly, I remember Shaq’s dominance much more than Kobe’s. I remember Kobe being held in check (15 points on 7-22, 32%) by Aaron McKie until he hurt his
            ankle late in the game. He scored 27 PPG on 44% shooting the rest of the series. Shaq however dominated from start to finish, putting up a 40 and 20 game, 30 and 20, and every other game being 20 and 10+. I know and will openly admit Kobe Bryant was a better player than Allen Iverson, but I also know who
            the better player was at that particular point in their careers. Kobe leading the 2001 76ers doesn’t get past Toronto, bottom line.

            The point in bringing Kobe into the conversation initially was merely because I know how fond you are of him, even though your stats suggested you shouldn’t be. It was more of a point that while your stats may be effective in most cases,
            there was obviously an issue in regards to that one particular player (Kobe Bryant) and therefore it is reasonable to believe that they may be an issue with their reflection on another player (Allen Iverson).