The Brooklyn Nets boast “the best shooter in the world” on their bench.
That’s what Kyrie Irving believes, at least.
The first month-plus of the 2022-23 NBA season has seen the emergence of Yuta Watanabe, a 28-year-old forward who’s spent time with three franchises since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2018. The George Washington product, who was the first Japanese-born player to earn an NCAA Division I basketball scholarship, has been a deadeye shooter from 3-point range and has carved out an important role for himself in Brooklyn.
Watanabe currently is dealing with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of game action since Nov. 20. But that didn’t stop Irving from offering glowing remarks about the wing after last Wednesday’s home win over the Toronto Raptors.
“He’s (Watanabe) the best shooter in the world right now,” Irving told reporters, per Nets Wire. “You know, stats prove that 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. He makes the game a lot easier for us and when you have guys that are willing to sacrifice their body night to night, you want to reward them. Especially when they?re shooting the ball well.”
The stats do, indeed, back up Irving’s claim, at least for now. Watanabe currently leads the NBA in 3-point percentage with a very impressive 57.1% clip. To put this further into perspective, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 49.4% mark ranks second in the league.
Is Watanabe’s red-hot shooting streak sustainable? Probably not. But at the very least, it appears the Nets have found a capable scorer off the bench, something every team needs if it wants to make a deep playoff run.