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Pistons signature play: The KCP transition three

The defense must always account for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s fastbreak three pointer.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball doesn’t produce a more “no, No, NO, YES!” moment than the transition three point attempt.

For fans of the textbook fastbreak, the shot signifies questionable decision making skills. It’s a big risk, big reward scenario: miss it and you blow a chance at a relatively easy bucket. Make it, though, and it provides a huge momentum shift in favor of the risk-taker.

For Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the transition three has become a shot the defense must worry about in Detroit’s transition attack. Not only could KCP bury a three but the shot creates counter moves and openings for his teammates as well. Sounds pretty good? Well, he could miss too.

The Play

If you’ve watched the Pistons for any amount of time, you’ve been a witness to one of KCP’s favorite shot types:

And again:

In both examples, the attempt comes off a forced turnover and Caldwell-Pope puts the exclamation point on the sequence. Hitting the three off a turnover is like pouring salt in the wound, it’ll make the offenses’ mishap sting that much more.

On the other hand, the shot could lead to a completely empty possession:

A big factor of the ‘no, No, NO, Yes!’ component is time and place. Above, the miss against Orlando comes with the Pistons up 18 and cooking. It’s easy to shrug it off. Below, the Pistons are down two possessions with just over two minutes against Brooklyn:

And again in New York:

There is definitely a hero-ball aspect to the shot. But boy, if he makes it.....


The shot, however, does set up counter moves:

As KCP sprints down court, he hesitates - as if to pull up - at the top of the key before he accelerates once again. The slight stoppage is enough to keep Tristan Thompson on his heels and gives Caldwell-Pope the space needed to score.


The transition three isn’t new to Detroit, there’s a certain point guard who also made the shot his own.

Mr. Big Shot - Chauncey Billups.

Community Question

The shot has a place in modern day basketball but do you agree with the high use of fastbreak three point attempts?