You could have interviewed every general manager in the NBA and asked them who would lead the league in three-point shooting one month into the season, and more likely than not, every single one of them would have gotten the answer wrong. Most people would have picked names like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, or Trae Young, but none of those guys even cracked the top five names.
The league leader in three-point percentage is Brooklyn Nets sharpshooter Yuta Watanabe who is shooting a scorching 57.1% from beyond the arc this season. It may be early in the year, but his teammate, Nets superstar Kyrie Irving, is already proclaiming him the best shooter in the world.
“He’s the best shooter in the world right now. The stats prove it right now. He’s the best shooter in the best league in the world right now. We just want him to remain confident and shoot the opportunities that he gets out there,” Irving told reporters after the Nets’ win over the Toronto Raptors on November 23 via SNY.
“He makes the game a lot easier for us. We have guys that are willing to sacrifice their bodies night to night. We want to reward them, especially when they are shooting the ball well.”
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Kevin Durant Has High Praise for Yuta Watanabe
In a season filled with drama and turmoil, Watanabe has been one of the few bright spots for the Nets. And to make his story even sweeter, the level of production that he is putting forth this season was completely unexpected as he is a non-guaranteed deal.
With Seth Curry unable to stay on the court consistently, Joe Harris’ continued shooting struggles, and TJ Warren yet to make his season debut, Watanabe may not only be the Nets’ best signing of the offseason. He also is transforming into their most important role player. But as great of a success story as Watanabe has been, Durant says the Nets have come to expect big performances from their sharpshooter.
“He’s playing great, we love his energy. He’s hitting big shots for us. So, you always get excited for your teammates, especially guys who come in and don’t necessarily have a guaranteed spot on the team but work their way into the rotation and put their imprint on the game from Day 1,” Durant said of Watanabe to the New York Post.
“So, I’m excited for him, and at this point, I think we should expect that he’ll go out there and play good basketball. I’m not saying he’s going to make every shot and shoot 70 percent from the floor for the rest of the year, but he’s playing solid ball on both ends of the floor. But we expect that from him now.”
Durant: ‘Everybody Wants to See Our Team Fail’
The Nets’ win over Toronto came after a disappointing loss to a depleted Philadelphia 76ers team missing three starters. It was also Ben Simmons’ first trip to Philadelphia since forcing his way out via trade last February. As expected, the star forward was aptly met with a chorus of boos from fans.
But Durant says the Nets will face hostile environments each time they play road games. Because the reality is that everyone is hoping for their downfall.
“There’s a lot of emotions, you just want to play well. We know the fans are going to be involved and get excited — not get excited, but just bring their best. But that’s in every arena. Everybody wants to see our team fail. Nobody likes Ben, nobody likes Ky, nobody likes myself, so it might be like that at every road arena,” Durant told reporters via ESPN.
“So, it’s just something we got to deal with. But I thought [Simmons] did a great job of just handling it and playing his game, and we had chances to win, but we just didn’t.”
The Nets are starting to put it all together. They can be back at the .500 mark with a win in their next game.