One of the biggest surprises for the Boston Celtics through the first quarter of the 2022-23 NBA season has been rotation big man Luke Kornet. Heading into the year, there was a ton of discussion amongst fans and media on what the C’s should do to bolster their big-man rotation. Plenty of members of the Celtics community were calling for some sort of move to bring in a back-up center.
Fast forward to today, the 27-year-old has proven to not only be a serviceable fill-in while Robert Williams III recovers from a procedure on his left knee, but a solid back-up option for Boston going forward. Over the first 21 games, he’s been an integral part of the successful Celtics second unit. Kornet is averaging just under five points in 13 minutes per game, while shooting a career high 68% from the field. On the defensive end, he has proven to be a solid rim protector, rejecting 1.3 shots per game.
However, no one’s really been discussing Kornet’s presence in the paint this season. The talk surrounding the seven-foot-two Texas native has been his unique strategy to defend the 3-ball. Whether you call it “the eclipse” or the “Kornet Kontest” the tactic has caught the attention of anyone who’s been watching the Boston Celtics.
Essentially, what Kornet has been doing is contesting three-pointers from afar. Instead of closing out in a traditional fashion, he leaps up with both hands, attempting to block the shooter’s sight of the basket mid shot.
As much of an eye-catcher as the move is, does it actually work?
Does ‘the eclipse’ benefit the Boston Celtics?
At first glance the strategy looks pretty silly. It’s just this big dude jumping at shooters while 15 feet away. Things change when you really put some thought into it though. Kornet, a seven-footer, who isn’t particularly gifted with the fastest feet on the planet, is finding a way to close out on shooters without risking getting blown by on a fake, or being whistled for one of those soft foul calls on a jumper (in an unrelated note, we hope Zaza’s coffee is cold today).
As long Kornet isn’t playing help defense on someone else’s man, the strategy doesn’t have a real flaw. If he’s supposed to be guarding a big, like he was the first time we saw the move on Oct. 28 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, then it allows his man to get into better rebounding position.
Following Monday’s victory over the Charlotte Hornets, Boston Celtics Head Coach Joe Mazzulla had some concerns about the move. He said that he’d like to see Kornet continue to perfect it because players are “getting better at attacking it.”
Kornet was later asked about his coach’s criticism and echoed points mentioned earlier in this article (don’t worry about it I know my stuff). He touched on how he usually isn’t in the best guarding position before he jumps, and that the jump allows him to at least have some sort of effect on the shooter. He explained:
“Usually by the time they’re driving I can have the time to land and turn (to get into guarding position).”
The question now comes up, how do we actually know if it’s effective? Is there a stat for this? Officially, the answer is no. However, “Heat Check” a YouTuber who makes NBA related videos, took a dive into the new move in a recent upload.
According to his research, Kornet has contested 12 3-point attempts using “the eclipse” and only three of them have fallen. With only 25% of shots dropping when Kornet does “the eclipse”, the tactic seems to be just as effective as a “tight contest,” which the NBA defines as when the closest defender is 2-4 feet from the shooter. Over two thirds of the league makes more than 25% of attempts that are tightly contested.
So, in short, the “Kornet Kontest” is about as effective as a tight contest, without the risk of being blown by on a drive or being called for a foul.