Friday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets was a microcosm of something bigger. Collectively, Landry Shamet and Joe Harris shot a bonkers 12-of-20 from deep, making up more than 50 percent of Brooklyn’s total 3-point makes versus Charlotte. That’s been a trend as of late, the twosome knocking down a whole heck of a lot of outside shots.
Quietly, Brooklyn has found its own version of the “Splash Brothers.” Not the same, not as good, but the idea is the same.
Since the All-Star break, only two players have connected on their catch-and-shoot looks with more accuracy than Shamet’s 54.2 percent success rate. Over the course of the full season, Shamet’s splash twin, Joe Harris, ranks within the top-3 in catch-and-shoot three-point percentage at 51.5 percent, just behind Tony Snell and Joe Ingles at spots 1 and 2, respectively. Harris has considerably more attempts than Snell a bit more than Ingles.
Give either sharpshooter a large window of space and it’s basically a death sentence. According to NBA stats, on 3-pointers that qualify as “wide-open” with a defender six feet away or further, no one in the entire association has been better at knocking down wide-open threes than Joe Harris at 58.5 percent. Even after a slow start to the season (shooting just 25.6 percent from three in his first 11 games), Shamet’s 54.8 percent on wide-open trey-balls is a top-10 mark since the All-Star break.
The recent 3-point festivities have only thrust the Splash Bro-oklyn (trademark pending) up the historical rankings. The head honcho tweeted it out on the official account, but Joe Harris recently moved up to third all-time in 3-point percentage (43.78 percent) behind Steve Kerr and Hubert Davis. Shamet, meanwhile, sits at spot number 47 all-time at 40.04 percent, just ahead of NBA Hall of Famer Ray Allen — and at just 24 years old, he’s got plenty of time to add chapters, no, volumes to his legend.
“We joke about how many jacks we’re going to get in a game. That’s our word for it,” said Landry Shamet after Saturday’s practice about hunting three-pointers alongside Joe Harris in games.
How each player goes about getting his “jacks” differs.
Two long (*sigh*) seasons ago during his breakout 2018-2019 campaign, shots similar to the one below comprised a heavy majority of Joe Harris’ 3-point shot diet. Standstill, poetically balanced attempts with Joe’s shoulders and legs swaying in full synchrony as if he was being judged on his form like a professional diver were the norm.
These regimented attempts are fine and dandy, but they do present limitations come playoff time when defenses tighten up on unsuspecting prey like a snare trap. Joe felt that first-hand against the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2019 first-round series, shooting just 33.3 percent from three with his precious airspace minimized to a mere peephole.
To counter, the Virginia product added certain things to his arsenal to create windows of opportunity should a defense stick two arms and maybe even a foot up in his jersey. The one-dribble 3-pointer, for example, has become a valued part of what Joe does on a night-to-night basis — a shot he discussed with Sports Illustrated’s Michael Pina just last year.
“I’m always trying to find windows, find space. A lot of those catch-and-shoot opportunities are few and far between right now,” said Harris to Pina in 2020. “If I don’t have space initially, off of some sort of screening action, then I utilize one dribble.”
He’s added other things, too, to counterbalance a hyperaggressive defense. Though they aren’t a regular part of Joe’s militant shot profile, he’ll occasionally mix in some fancy footwork into his one-dribble threes to further negotiate openings of opportunity.
“I just work on little stuff like that to create space,” said Joe Harris after Friday’s game against the Hornets. “For me, a lot of times it’s really just about trying to hunt and find space to get shots. So whether that’s moving without the ball, or then when you have it — fly-bys, side-steps, things of that nature — I have been working on it.”
For reference, a “fly-by” is a forceful style of closing out to a shooter in which a defender, quite literally, flies right on by the offensive player to interrupt his shooting rhythm. For the most part as a defender, you want to close out with as much control as humanly possible to refrain from soaring out of the play after closing out. But for a shooter as terrorizing as Joe Harris, those balanced countermeasures can be crumpled into a ball and tossed out the window — a fly-by closeout tends to be of necessity to avoid a three-point bombing from Sir Joseph Buckets.
So what’s the natural counter to a tactical fly-by closeout? A side-step three-pointer while the defender crashes into the
stands empty seats, of course! Duh!
Shamet presents a little more fluidity and freeness while shooting threes compared to our old friend Joe. He’s far more likely to attempt a shot without his balance fully in check; his feet sometimes facing away from the hoop on his release, his hips still turning, and his momentum carrying his body across the sideline on the follow-through. This twitchy escape-dribble three-pointer looks like it was ripped straight out of a Duncan Robinson highlight tape. Just nasty!
Much like Joe, Landry’s been expanding and evolving his game as well, though not necessarily with jitterbugging step-back looks to avoid a hard closeout. Instead, Shamet’s shown moderate creativity while handling the ball in the open court to counter a tight defense.
Shamet’s sudden influx of improvisation with dribbling was not by design; rather, circumstance forced this sudden evolution after James Harden went down with a hamstring injury and Tyler Johnson exited with a non-contact knee sprain in the same week. One week later, third-string point guard Chris Chiozza fractured his right hand and was ruled out for the season. With a need at the lead-guard position, Shamet stepped into place.
With 40 total assists to 34 turnovers (a near 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, eh) in the three games that Shamet has usurped “point guard” duties, it remains to be seen if the role is a viable one for the Wichita State product. Though admittedly, the flashes have been there. He’s looked like his college self by making plays in the pick-and-roll, flicking bounce passes to the rolling big with his off-hand (!!) after streaking off a screen.
Unlike other players of his archetype, Shamet’s more than capable of keeping his head up while dribbling. He can survey the floor patiently to find the perfect look while keeping a live handle, like he does here by finding the eternally cutting Bruce Brown.
To be clear, I don’t see point guard as a long-term home for the Kansas City native — it’d be a misuse of his roaming 3-point sniping talents. But these reps as a ball-handler do hold importance for Brooklyn’s short-term and long-term future. Should a possession stall out and the ball swings Landry’s way, thanks to the experience he’s currently undergoing, there’s a good chance he’ll feel confident enough to try and reverse the damage by creating something out of nothing.
Some old sayings are old sayings for a reason: Practice makes perfect.
Kevin Durant knows from “Splash Brothers.” Of course, he played with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. A week ago, on a podcast, he gave Harris the ultimate compliment.
“Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the best shooters I’ve played with,” Durant said. “Joe Harris is definitely right up there, getting there.”
Other Practice Notes:
James Harden is set to travel with the Nets on the road trip to Miami. Now granted, this doesn’t mean Harden is on the cusp of playing. Rather, he’s joining his squad to get in some practice to simulate actual play. Steve Nash put it simply, “in order to do workouts, he has to travel.”