Yuta Watanabe leading NBA in 3-point shooting amid Nets emergence

Look at the NBA leader in 3-point percentage and it’s not Joe Harris or Desmond Bane, or anybody with the surname Curry. 

It’s Yuta Watanabe, the latest bargain find by Nets general manager Sean Marks. 

“He’s definitely got a flamethrower right now,” said Harris, who has two 3-point crowns himself. 

Watanabe comes into Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia shooting a white-hot 57.1 percent from behind the arc, tops among all qualified players. With Kevin Durant drawing attention and Ben Simmons pushing the tempo, Watanabe has gotten clean looks — and made the most of them. 

“Yeah, my shots are easy because of KD, Ben, those guys pushing the ball, giving me great passes,” Watanabe told The Post. “So I’ve got to appreciate them for giving me great passes. And my job is just make those open shots. So, I’m going to just keep shooting with confidence. I know I can do that.” 

Watanabe had been a fan favorite in Toronto and was well respected in Memphis. And Sunday the Japanese small forward was an unsung hero in the Nets’ 127-115 win over his former team with 16 points and 4-for-6 shooting from deep. He hit all of his 3-pointers in the pivotal fourth quarter, walking off the Barclays Center floor to a standing ovation and warm congratulations from Durant. 

Yuta Watanabe leads the NBA in 3-point percentage.
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

“He’s playing great,” Durant said. “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 d on’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. 

“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.” 

That non-guaranteed part is worth noting. Marks inked Watanabe on a team-friendly $1.8 million minimum contract on Aug. 28. It doesn’t become guaranteed until Jan. 10, and since he is too experienced for a two-way deal the Nets can’t rip up his pact even if they wanted to. 

But considering the way he has excelled as a floor-spacing big — even getting minutes as a 6-foot-8, 215-pound small-ball 5 — he has been a find. Watanabe has reached double figures in a career-high four straight games. 


Starting center Nic Claxton is expected back Tuesday after missing Sunday’s game due to personal reasons. 


T.J. Warren (left foot) and rookie Donovan Williams (G-League, two-way contract) are out. 


James Harden, Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid are out for the 76ers. 


Durant has reached the 25-point mark in each of the Nets’ first 17 games. The last player to do so was Rick Barry, who reached 25 straight in 1966-67.