If one thing is clear about the new Brooklyn Nets under first-year coach Kenny Atkinson, it’s that the three-point shot is going to be an offensive staple. In two preseason games, the Nets have hoisted a total of 67 threes, including 22 from big men Brook Lopez, Justin Hamilton, Luis Scola, Anthony Bennett and Chris McCullough.
The Nets, who will play their third preseason game Tuesday night in Miami, made 14 of 34 three-pointers in their opening win over Detroit but tailed off badly to shoot 9-for-33 from three-point range in Saturday night’s loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Does that mean they will rise and fall depending on how well they shoot from distance?
“No,” Atkinson said. “What we’re preaching to them is open threes. The other night, there were too many contested threes.
“We’re trying to find ourselves. We don’t have like a magic number of threes we’ve got to hit. It’s just what the defense gives us. We’ve got to make the right decision in terms of what that shot looks like.”
Only five players return from last season’s Nets, who ranked 27th in the league with 18.4 three-point attempts per game. Atkinson was an assistant with Atlanta, which ranked seventh with 28.4 three-point attempts per game. It’s a different philosophy that reflects the changing NBA game, and the roster was revamped with that in mind.
Describing the trend in the NBA, Atkinson said: “I don’t think they like it because it looks pretty. They like it because it’s efficient. The goal of an NBA offense is to find the most efficient high-value shots. And then get those shots open, and it goes even higher in the metric rate.”
Hamilton, who shot only 12 threes in his three-year college career, turned himself into a 40.6-percent three-point shooter last season in Spain. That’s why the 7-foot backup center was a good fit with the Nets.
“I think the way the game has changed in the NBA, it’s better to space it out, giving room to guys like Jeremy Lin that attack the rim real well,” Hamilton said. “They’ve done analytics where corner threes are a big part of the game. For guys like me who can shoot the three, it works perfect.”
Lopez, who will sit out the Miami game, admitted it’s a major adjustment for him to step out to the three-point line at times. Lopez has made three three-pointers in 31 attempts in his eight-season NBA career. He and the Nets must find the right balance to also feed him in the post or in the pick-and-roll.
“For me personally, it’s just been getting used to spreading the floor all the way to the three, just taking those extra couple of steps, making sure we really open up the floor offensively,” Lopez said. “We want to get those open threes by moving the ball and having trust in one another, getting those hockey assists.”