Experts make their picks: Who is your favorite three-point shooter in the BCL?
MIES (Switzerland) - The 2020-21 Basketball Champions League season is so different to previous ones in so many ways, except a few things - we are seeing the same amazing level of three-point shooting as we've always had in this league!
There is, of course, a very objective way to measure just how good and effective a three-point shooter is, and his shooting percentage cannot line. But why someone is your favorite can be a totally different thing, and sometimes it comes down to subjective criteria you can't even explain.
We'd like to hear your opinion on the three-point shooters we have in the BCL this season and, to get the ball rolling, we've asked our experts to weigh in.
Igor Curkovic picked D'Angelo Harrison, Axel Julien and Sasu Salin. Diccon Lloyd-Smeath picked Matt Lojeski, Thad McFadden and Kyle Wiltjer. Dimitris Kontos picked Andrew Andrews, Vitor Benite, R.J. Hunter and Steven Gray (list in alphabetical order, not by preference).
D'Angelo Harrison (Happy Casa Brindisi) -- Igor
Happy Casa Brindisi had a tough task finding somebody to replace Adrian Banks' scoring this season. But they somehow ended up with an upgraded package, because D'Angelo Harrison can score in bunches, while also spreading the defense all the way to halfcourt with his endless range.
Harrison went 12-of-24 from beyond the arc in his last two BCL games, so it's probably better for you to judge him by those two games, instead of the 0-of-7 start over the first two games. Harrison gets Brindisi 22 points per game in the Basketball Champions League, and 19 in the Italian League, while having four games with four triples over there.
The most impressive part about his shooting stats is that he's gone 29-of-29 from the charity stripe in the BCL this season! Still, it's only the most impressive part because we aren't tracking shot distance (yet) here. Once we do, don't be surprised to see D'Angelo leading the league in shots made from 30 or more feet.
Axel Julien (JDA Dijon) -- Igor
Don't go all "what!? He's not even the best shooter of his own team!" and pointing fingers towards David Holston. I am the biggest Dave Holston fan of all the Dave Holston fans, and I'd put the ball in his hands any time when the game is on the line.
But, at the same time, Julien does the damage without you even noticing it. Julien shot 37 percent from deep in France two seasons ago, then went to 38 last season and 39 this season, while jacking up five attempts per game. At the same time, he's 12-of-27 from deep in the Basketball Champions League, good enough for 44.4 percent.
Those are just the numbers, but the feeling suggests that he's not missing a lot of them. Don't know if we can find the numbers, but I'm fairly certain Julien never missed a shot after going for a right-hand dribble pull up.
Okay, he definitely did. But you get the picture, you're so focused on stopping Holston and Alexandre Chassang that Julien flies under the radar and ends up with 16 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals - those are his actual season averages, by the way.
Sasu Salin (Iberostar Tenerife) -- Igor
Here's the deal: With everybody talking about Giorgi Shermadini and Marcelinho Huertas as the biggest threat of Iberostar Tenerife, and then Bruno Fitipaldo fitting in so perfectly with them, you kind of lose track of the fact that Sasu Salin in probably the MVP of the season for Tenerife.
His shooting takes up a lot of gravity for defense, allowing others to work. And if you take your eye off of him, you're done - 17-of-32 from deep in BCL this season; 45.2 percent in Liga Endesa over 17 games, including 17-of-31 in his last six over there... He's a fire emoji, for sure.
This season saw him put up 34 points against Galatasaray, which was the most points he scored in a game since 2009, when he had 35 for Espoon Honka against Lappeenrannan NMKY. He was 17 back then...
Matt Lojeski (AEK) -- Diccon
Great shooters are the most acute weapon a team can have. If their opponent knows that they can’t afford to leave an inch of space for them to get a shot off, it opens the floor for everyone else. What they also do, is make the game look so simple on offense - and all of these are exactly what Matt Lojeski brings to AEK.
Everyone knows that AEK will set that pindown for Lojeski. Everyone knows that he will time his cut, use his strength to create separation, then accelerate through the screen and let the shot go. As soon as it leaves his hands, everyone knows it’s going in as well. That doesn’t mean there is anything that anyone can do to stop it.
He’s so experienced and surgical with what he does that he’s become immune to every type of defensive coverage. If they trap the screen, he’s finding the screener for an open dunk, if they try to “Top-Lock” and deny him the screen his positional size advantage means he can seal position under the rim.
His timing makes it really difficult to fight through, and if you go under, well, nah, let’s not even talk about going under.
AEK made the Final again in Athens and during the entire Final Eight tournament, Lojeski was at his best exactly when AEK needed him. When it gets to the crunch this year, you already know what he’s going to do and you already know that nobody can stop it.
Thad McFadden (Hereda San Pablo Burgos) -- Diccon
Basketball players are a bit like a singer’s “Essentials” playlist on Apple music. Most players have the odd anthem but usually, they also give you a bunch of fillers. Thad McFadden’s BCL highlights are more like a Sean Paul mix, every song is a banger.
Kobe once said “When the shots u take r the shots the defense wants u to take but r the shots ur comfortable taking,” when describing the riddle that Steph Curry poses to defenses.
When the shots u take r the shots the defense wants u to take but r the shots ur comfortable taking #curryriddle— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) May 22, 2015
That quote also perfectly describes what Thad McFadden does for San Pablo Burgos. Off-balance, fading left, fading right, off the dribble, hand in the face from any range, and off glass without calling bank.
This is the language that McFadden is fluent in. He also never stops running off the ball and when you add that to the constant smile on his face that he plays with, it must be so infuriating to play against.
McFadden is already and BCL Champion and Final 8 MVP but somehow you get the feeling that he’s far from finished with us.
Kyle Wiltjer (Turk Telekom) -- Diccon
The last Power Forward in the BCL that could shoot the ball like Kyle Wiltjer was Dusan Sakota and he ended up with a Championship. Whichever team Wiltjer is on automatically has to be considered a title threat as well, and for exactly the same reason.
Wiltjer’s release is butter. It’s also fast and high. A hand up is not enough and if you are closing out, you may as well forget about it. And if you do manage to stay tight, he shoots off such a wide, stable base that he can hit you with pump-fakes and jab-steps but remain balanced enough to let it go if you don’t bite.
Even after all of that, we haven’t discussed what really makes Wiltjer such a tough cover. He is at his most efficient from the toughest spots. Above the break and top of the key is his home.
Turk Telekom love to park him on the slot or the wing to punish teams that like to help off the nail. If the defender even takes half a step to jab at help, it’s curtains down, we hope you enjoyed the show, goodnight.
Andrew Andrews (Darüssafaka Tekfen) -- Dimitris
Every team would love to have a point guard who poses a credible three-point threat but, as anybody with an addiction to chocolate can tell you, you can have too much of a good thing: Unless your point guard's name happens to be Steph Curry or Damian Lillard, he could easily start taking threes he should not be taking rather than focusing on his tasks as a facilitator.
Andrew Andrews is not running that risk, and that's by no means because he is a reluctant shooter. The Darüssafaka point guard seems to always know where to find the best option on every possession, the way a real floor general does, so his shot selection is almost always a natural product of the flow of the game.
When he does decide to take a shot beyond the arc, Andrews' upper body strength and vertical lift gives him a huge advantage, because it's almost as if on his way up he can rip off the arms of any defender who decides to lower them. That leaves the defender with two equally bad options, to either give Andrews too much space or foul him as he pulls the trigger.
Vitor Benite (Hereda San Pablo Burgos) -- Dimitris
It's no wonder that Vitor Benite likes to watch videos of 1980s NBA three-point shooting contests because there is something old-fashioned about the Brazilian international's shooting pattern, but in a way that even someone who is not nostalgic about old times can appreciate and find endearing.
Benite's feet barely get off the ground when he shoots the ball, and he would probably be the first to admit that he is not the most athletic player out there. But what he lacks in athleticism he gets back in craftsmanship, and with interest.
Nobody works as hard as Benite to create space, from the clever way he runs off the ball to him employing a full array of pump fakes, or using his body and his dribble when he has the ball in his hands.
But perhaps his biggest virtue is that he is doing all that in order for the team to find the best shot - even if that means passing the ball to an open teammate - and not in order to shoot high volumes no matter what. It's a truly rare quality in a great shooter, but then again not anybody gets to be captain of the reigning BCL champions.
R.J. Hunter (Galatasaray) -- Dimitris
There are pure shooters and then there are natural-born shooters so pure there is something primal about not only their shooting form, but also about their interpretation of what constitutes a good shot - like when they decide to stop and pop from 9 meters out on a fast break.
RJ Hunter is the sort of player who can produce moments of beautiful basketball purity like that and, this touch of genius makes the mechanics of his stroke or the fact he frequently shoots off balance when he comes off a screen almost irrelevant.
Opponents are always wary the former Celtic can pull up at any moment, from any spot, so his presence on the floor often has a warping effect on defenses - this is something his detractors tend to ignore.
It would be very interesting to continue enjoying this purity of Hunter's shooting in the Play-offs but Galatasaray's campaign ends in the Regular Season, so here's hoping he is back in the league next season .
Steven Gray (Peristeri) -- Dimitris
No matter what happens from now on with Peristeri, Steven Gray will always have Vilnius. Even if he never plays another BCL game in his career, the 31-year-old American swingman will always be the guy who, on October 27th, 2020 hit 10 triples on just 13 attempts in a single BCL game.
Because of his detached disposition Gray would never tout his own horn, but the truth is his accomplishment is so difficult to replicate that Jimmy Baron, the only one other player in the five-year history of the BCL to have made 10 triples in a single game, needed 15 attempts to pull it off.
Gray's shooting form does not resemble that of a high-volume three-point shooter and maybe his stroke is not as buttery-smooth as one would expect, but his brilliance lies in the fact that his shooting is simply his preferred weapon in an otherwise vast arsenal.
So, while many players like to say that they take whatever the defense gives them, Gray is among the select few with the skills, attributes and physical tools to actually score in every possible way the wit of man has devised - and when he decides to pull up from beyond the arc, you just know it must have been the best look the team could get at the time.