The thing that makes 3-point shooters so valuable these days isn't just the fact they're able to nail shots from deep and tally up points in a hurry, it's the way opposing teams are forced to defend them. In basketball, there's a sort of "gravity" that surrounds 3-point shooters. When sharpshooters like Duncan Robinson are on the court, opposing teams can't stray too far away from him without risking an easy 3-pointer. It's as if there's a magnetic force, pulling opposing defences out of the paint and toward the perimeter.
It takes a little while to develop this so-called gravity. If you're a 32% 3-point shooter like Toronto Raptors big Chris Boucher was for the first three season of his career, teams are going to sag off of you, clogging up the paint and creating all sorts of offensive problems. Thankfully for the Raptors, that old 32% 3-point shooting Chris Boucher appears to be dead. In his place has arisen a new Chris Boucher, one who bears far more resemblance to sharpshooter Matt Thomas than ever before.
So far this season Boucher is shooting 48% on 3-pointers. He's averaging 1.8 3s a game on 3.7 attempts. That average is the eighth highest in the NBA for centres and his shooting percentage is the second-best in the league for centres who average at least three 3-point attempts per game.
Unlike with Thomas or Robinson or any other sharpshooter, teams haven't totally adjusted to Boucher's 3-point shooting yet. They're not closing out with the kind of speed you'd expect for a player shooting nearly 50% from behind the arc.
"It’s probably in the scouting report a little more than it was before or it was last year, but I think I still find a way to get open," Boucher said.
They're not totally abandoning him behind the line as they may have a year ago, but the 28-year-old is still getting plenty of opportunities to set his feet and line up his unorthodox 3-point shot.
Eventually, however, if Boucher continues his hot shooting, teams are going to have to adjust and so will he. He said he's already pump faking a little more than he was last season, but still, the difference hasn't been that noticeable. If or when teams do adjust, it will open things up for Boucher and everyone else on the floor.
"For example, you can’t really double Pascal and leave me in the corner," Boucher said. "So I feel like as a defender you’ve gotta kind of stay home when I’m on the court and that opens things up for the other guys. And that helps me with my cuts too. It’s really about learning. I feel like I’m trying to figure out how to use the ability of me shooting but also not just settle for shooting 3s."
That will be the next step in Boucher's development. Right now things are coming pretty easy for him from the outside. If he's open, he'll shoot it. As those split-second decisions become even faster with teams closing out harder, his ability to process what's happening and either fire away or make the correct read will become even more important.