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Scotto: Yuta Watanabe would be ‘honored’ by invite to 3-point shooting contest

Brooklyn Nets v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

In the NBA’s 3-point contest, shooters start off in the left-hand quarter, then move around the arc till they end in the right-hand corner.

If Yuta Watanabe gets his wish and is invited to one of All-Star Weekend’s premier events in Salt Lake City this February, the contest could be over sooner rather that later. The Nets forward is shooting 76.5% (13-of-17) from the left-hand corner. That’s double the league rate. Now he might have some trouble from the left wing where he’s hit only 1-of-9 shots, but once he gets past that, if he can keep swishing, he’ll wind up in the left corner, where he’s only a little less effective than from the left. He’s 11-of-18 from there or 61.1%. Overall, from the corners, he’s currently at 68.6%. Here’s your chart, courtesy of The Sporting News...

“It would be an honor” to be selected, he told Hoopshype’s Mike Scotto recently and as Scott Rafferty of The Sporting News has also written, why not?

Yuta the Shoota has missed games this season with hamstring woes and so doesn’t qualify for the official 3-point shooting leader board, but Watanabe is shooting 52.3% from beyond the arc. That’s well beyond anything he has done in the past and six points higher than the official leader, Damion Lee of the Suns who’s at 46.4%. Assuming Watanabe remains healthy — and keeps shooting bullets at the basket — he should have enough attempts to return to the leader board soon.

Watanabe never shot this well before over the course of a season. Two years ago, he hit 40.0% from deep, then dropped to 34.2% last year, both years with the Raptors. When the Nets signed him on August 28 to a camp invite deal, he said he had hoped to improve his 3-point shooting. (He’s not just improved his 3-point shooting, but his shooting overall has gone up. Watanabe is hitting 60.0% of his 2-pointers as well, having never broken 50.0% in his four previous seasons.)

It’s not just good fortune. He’s changed his mechanics a bit. As Stephen Noh, Rafferty’s colleague at The Sporting News, wrote back in November...

The first is using a 1-2 step instead of a hop when he gathers the ball. When Watanabe first came into the league, he would jump after catching passes in order to set his feet. Now, he takes one very small step with his right foot before receiving the ball, then one small step with his left to align his body after catching it.

The second major change in his shooting form is that he no longer drops the ball down to his thighs when he catches a pass. Instead, he keeps the ball above his waist, moving straight into his shot. That has resulted in a quicker wind-up, which is very noticeable side-by-side.

Sustaining anything like a 50.0% rate over a full season would be a big help to the Nets, particularly with their two sharpshooters, Joe Harris and Seth Curry, still recovering from ankle surgery. It would also be historic. It’s only happened six times and not once in the past decade.

Harris and Curry were both part of the 3-point contest in 2019 with Harris winning the trophy.