Nets’ Yuta Watanabe continues to build his case for All-Star 3-point Shootout candidacy

Yuta Watanabe, Brooklyn Nets
Nov 17, 2022; Portland, Oregon, USA; Brooklyn Nets small forward Yuta Watanabe (18) shoots the ball over Portland Trail Blazers power forward Justine Winslow (26, left) during the second half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA’s unlikely 3-point percentage leader Yuta Watanabe of the Brooklyn Nets shook off some rust from getting sidelined by injury and resumed building his case toward his inclusion for the NBA All-Star Week in Utah.

Kevin Durant is a lock to make his 13th All-Star appearance, while Kyrie Irving continues to build his case with his strong play since his return from an eight-game suspension.

But Watanabe could be the third Nets player to make it to the mid-season classic to participate in the 3-point Shootout.

After making just 1 of 6 three-pointers since his return from a hamstring injury, the Japanese sniper has since connected on 9 of 15 from deep during the Nets’ nine-game winning streak.

Watanabe is leading the league in three-point percentage (.540) and is the only NBA player this season shooting above 50 percent entering Wednesday’s games. He’s mastered the corner 3, hitting 68.6 percent (24-for-35) from the NBA’s shortest 3-point distance. He’s at his best from the left wing, shooting 76.5 percent (13-for-17).

The 28-year-old journeyman, playing on a non-guaranteed deal with the Nets, credits their All-Star leaders for his rise this season.

“I’m not expecting myself to keep up that number, but I’m going to keep shooting with confidence. The reason I’m shooting well is because of KD (Kevin Durant), Ben (Simmons), and Kyrie (Irving). I’m playing with those greats. They get doubled all the time, so I’m always open, and my job is to make those wide-open shots. 

Yuta Watanabe via Hoopshype

Not only for his shooting, Watanabe has become an integral part of the Nets’ resurgence from a slow start to the season.

The Japanese forward is averaging career highs in minutes (18.0), points (8.0), and assists (1.0) on top of his NBA-best 3-point marksmanship.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo