Category Archives: Shot Charts

Point distribution charts of the top 10 scorers

After experimenting with point distribution charts for teams and with J.R. Smith’s shooting explosion, I thought it’d be fun to apply the same ones for the top 10 players in points per game this season.

As usual, these graphs visualize points per game across six different locations on the floor: restricted area, in the paint (non-RA), mid-range, corner three, above the break three, and three throws. This time however, those graphs of the 10 players will also include the exact points per location below them and where that production ranks among the 480 players to log playing time this season. All of that is according to NBA.com.

Also, the axis for the 10 players will vary depending on the player, but at the very end of the post I’ll make a common one to show each of the 10 charts in a single GIF, sorted from the highest scorer to the lowest.

With all that said, here are the point distribution charts of those at or near the top in points per game:

1. Kevin Durant – 32.0 points per game

Kevin  Durant 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 7.71 (14th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.65 (21st)
  • Mid-range: 5.66 (8th)
  • Corner 3: 0.43 (209th)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.82 (4th)
  • Free throw: 8.69 (1st)

To get a feel for just how large Kevin Durant’s graph and others on this list really are, we can compare the league’s leading scorer to Kendrick Perkins’ graph because PERK:

durant perk

Click to enlarge.

Perk’s looks minuscule compared to Durant’s, who’s just an offensive shark and in the top 25 in every category except corner threes. It might also be worth noting that just behind Durant in points around the rim per game is none other than Tony Wroten, somehow at 7.62 points per game and good for 17th-best.

As for three-pointers, I’m not sure how common this is and how often it’s been noted before, but Durant shoots better on pull-up attempts (42 percent) than catch and shoot ones (38.7), according to SportVU. Weird, maybe?

Onto number two in points per game:

2. Carmelo Anthony – 27.5 points per game

Carmelo  Anthony 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 5.04 (76th)
  • Paint non-RA:  1.20 (tied-108th)
  • Mid-range:  8.77 (3rd)
  • Corner 3: 0.52 (182nd)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.08 (9th)
  • Free throw: 5.92 (7th)

One of the more unusual charts I’ve looked at, Anthony gets a respectable share of points around the rim but he’s in the middle of the pack when compared with the top 10 in points per game. Ahead of him across the league are the likes of Timofey Mozgod, Alec Burks, and Tobias Harris. Melo also gets very little points from the corner three, but that’s common for high scorers with range.

As for the above the break threes, Anthony’s one of five on this list to crack the top 10 in points from that area of the floor. He also feasts at the line, another common theme with the top scorers.

What makes Anthony’s chart so odd is the mid-range game. This is the first chart where I’ve noticed both a great deal of points in the high-efficiency zones of the floor and the dead zones. Durant’s is like that, but not to the extent of Melo’s.

3. LeBron James – 27.0 points per game

LeBron  James PPL

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 12.00 (1st)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.73 (60th)
  • Mid-range: 3.20 (68th)
  • Corner 3: 0.92 (108th)
  • Above the Break 3: 3.52 (57th)
  • Free throw: 5.64 (8th)

Confirmed: LeBron James feasts around the rim. He made me change the range on his chart to a max of 12 points per location, though a couple other players eventually did the same thing so whatever. His graph is a good example of an efficient one, though, and how it should show quite a few points on the left side. In fact, out of the top 10 scorers, James is the second-most Moreyball-like of the top 10 scorers in that 81.75 percent of his points come around the rim, from three, or from the stripe.

You might be able to guess who’s in first place on that list. Third place in that mentioned stat is…

4. Kevin Love – 25.8 points per game

Kevin  Love PPL 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 6.73 (26th)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.89 (47th)
  • Mid-range:  3.35 (59th)
  • Corner 3: 0.69 (144th)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.61 (6th)
  • Free throw: 6.51 (3rd)

Love’s the first player on this list to not lead or be near the top in averages from one of the first three shot locations. In terms of non-point guards in this list (eight players), he averages the least amount of points from those first few spots but still gets a decent amount from around the rim.

Love’s graph is the prototypical efficient kind anyway, confirming how he scores nearly 80 percent of his points either around the rim, from three, or from the stripe. The king of efficiency among this group goes to the league’s fifth-leading scorer, however:

5. James Harden – 25.3 points per game

James  Harden PPL 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 6.17 (37th)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.54 (tied-70th)
  • Mid-range: 2.51 (89th)
  • Corner 3: 0.51 (185th)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.77 (5th)
  • Free throw: 7.76 (2nd)

Nearly 85 percent of Harden’s points come from the spots that generate the most points per attempt, though he’s still in the top 100 in each of the least-efficient locations. He’s also the only player besides Durant to be in the top five in points from both above the break threes and free throws per game, though Kevin Love narrowly misses out on joining that club too.

6. Blake Griffin – 24.1 points per game

Blake  Griffin 12 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 11.46 (2nd)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.87 (tied-49th)
  • Mid-range: 4.33 (23rd)
  • Corner 3: 0.27 (240th)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.15 (tied-301st)
  • Free throw:  6.00 (6th)

Just how many of Griffin’s points from the non-restricted area part of the paint are from either dunks or near-dunks that turned into double-pump layups? Regardless, we have our first near-triangular chart and the second player to score over 10 points per game from a single shot location. There’s also a smidge of blue crossing over the three-point areas thanks to whatever plays were drawn up to get Griffin a score from there.

7. Stephen Curry – 23.5 points per game

Stephen  Curry 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 3.38 (137th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  1.38 (86th)
  • Mid-range:  5.11 (13th)
  • Corner 3: 1.34 (63rd)
  • Above the Break 3: 8.43 (1st)
  • Free throw: 3.88 (31st)

Arguably the most unusual chart, in my opinion. Curry feasts from outside the paint, one of the stats worth noting being that he averages over one more point per game from the above the break three than third-place Damian LillardRyan Anderson is in second-place at 7.8 but…sigh.

8. LaMarcus Aldridge – 23.3 points per game

LaMarcus  Aldridge 12 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 5.70 (53rd)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.15 (36th)
  • Mid-range:  10.96 (1st)
  • Corner 3: 0.00 (Meh, tied for last)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.13 (308th)
  • Free throw: 4.33 (21st)

Maybe worth noting, maybe not: It took until Aldridge to get to a player who hasn’t made a corner three this season.

And that mid-range game. Aldridge looks like the least-efficient of this bunch as over half of his points come from the dead zones of the floor. In fact, while he scores a whole two more points from mid-range than second-place Dirk Nowitki, he averages nearly six more possible points (25.94 total for LMA) from that area than second-place Carmelo Anthony (20.00) in that stat. Unfortunately, he can’t make every one of those attempts and average nearly 40 points per game. Shucks.

9. DeMar DeRozan – 22.7 points per game.

DeMar  DeRozan 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 4.29 (97th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.13 (tied-37th)
  • Mid-range:  7.42 (4th)
  • Corner 3: 1.46 (51st)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.91 (233rd)
  • Free throw: 6.50 (4th)

Among this list, DeRozan’s chart is my favorite just from the shape his points form.

But, like Aldridge, it’s a bit of a weird one. DeRozan sits comfortably in fourth place in mid-range points, but he only makes a shade under 40 percent of his attempts. He does score the most points per game from the corner three among this group, however, and gets a decent chunk from the free throw line as well, more than the likes of Melo, LeBron, and Paul George, among others.

10. DeMarcus Cousins – 22.4 points per game

DeMarcus  Cousins 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 9.62 (6th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.75 (16th)
  • Mid-range:  4.03 (36th)
  • Corner 3: 0.00 (somewhere in last place)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.00 (take more threes, Boogie!)
  • Free throw: 6.01 (5th)

The most triangular chart of the top 10 scorers, Boogie feasts in the paint, at the line and, um, sometimes from mid-range where me makes 41 percent of his attempts.

That triangle, though. It’s pretty neat, so there’s that.

Lastly, below is a GIF comparing each chart at once. It goes in the order of highest-scoring to the lowest:

Top 10 scorers on Make A Gif

All but Aldridge score at least half their points on locations in the center or left side of the graph. Harden’s chart seems to be the most efficient, though LeBron is just too effective around the rim. Regardless, it’s nice to see a variety of charts, especially the triangles. Don’t forget the triangles.

Any other thoughts are certainly welcome.

J.R. Smith’s shooting spree in charts

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J.R. Smith’s shooting chart over his last seven games.

While the Knicks’ season is veering off a cliff, J.R. Smith has come out with guns blazing in each of his last seven games, for better or for worse. He’s been one of the league’s leading scorers during that stretch at 23.7 per, much of it thanks to emptying the clip from beyond the arc by attempting 12.7 threes per game (!!!) and doubling his total attempts for the season in just two weeks. This was all capped yesterday afternoon when he set the record for attempted threes in a game with 22, a decent summary of the Knicks’ season and something only believable if it happened to, well, Smith himself.

But while some of those attempted threes have been cringe-worthy, Smith’s shooting over the last seven games has averaged out to decent efficiency: Nearly 24 points per game on about 18 shots and shooting splits of 48.5/46.3/100. Beyond the arc is where Smith’s done most of his damage, and by fooling around with similar charts I’ve used to visualize point distribution for teams we can see the shift in Smith’s scoring from his first 63 games to his last seven and even last three where he’s averaging 29.3 points. (If only that kind of scoring were sustainable, for NBA Twitter’s sake.)

The first chart we’ll look at is point per location from the normal six areas of the floor: restricted area, in the paint (non-restricted area), mid-range, corner three, above the break three, and free throws. As an example, below is Smith’s point distribution per game through his first 63 outings:

jr smith ppl england

Smith’s scoring weighed heavily toward the above the break three, for better or for worse, with nearly six points (5.62 to be exact) coming from that area of the floor. No other area gets as many as three points, with mid-range being the second most frequent scoring area at 2.86 points per.

Now, below features the graph previously mentioned along with his scoring distribution per game over his last seven outings and last three:

Smiff PPL

Click to enlarge. Quite helpful!

The very first chart provided shrinks considerably thanks to the max values provided to fit in Smith’s recent, unreal three-point barrage, and for the most part that’s all where he’s scored from. About three-fifths of his points coming from that scoring zone over his last seven games and two-thirds over his last three. The corner three and mid-range areas get some attention as well, but anywhere inside the paint and at the stripe has been mostly neglected.

Lastly, here’s a GIF of the increase:

smiff ppl on Make A Gif

While Smith’s upped his three-point attempts, the uptick in usage from 20.8 in his first 63 games to 25.9 over his last seven hasn’t hurt his overall efficiency. In fact, during the recent stretch, Smith’s effective field goal percentage is 62.2 compared to a pedestrian 48.6 during his first 63 games.

Below hopefully shows that increase from five spots on the floor, minus free throw shooting. A reminder should be given that Smith’s shots recently have largely come from the perimeter. He’s only taken a combined two shots per game from the two areas inside the paint.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

And like with points per location, below is a GIF of the increase in EFG% across the three stretches of games:

smiff EFG% on Make A Gif

Surely this isn’t sustainable, though there’s only four games left for the Knicks so we might see Smith lock and load until season’s end. New York doesn’t play another game until Friday anyway, giving him plenty of time to rest his shooting hand.

Edit: Previously, I mentioned that Smith holds the record for games with 10+ 3PA with four, but according to Basketball-Reference there’s actually a tie between multiple players for seven straight games of 10+ attempts. There’s still time for Smith to join that group as his streak is still alive, but for now he has a few games to go.

All stats are according to NBA.com.

Updated point distributions in graphs

About a month ago, I fiddled around with graphs visualizing how many points a team scores from specific shot locations. While it was something I enjoyed working on, there wasn’t a whole lot of space to include both GIFs and pictures while looking at the difference between a squad’s offense and defense. Back then, I went with GIFs but now I’ll include some photos of the graphs with updated percentages.

I also left off effective field goal percentage this time around so I wouldn’t flood a post with a ton of huge pictures. What’s left is a percentage of points a team scores at six areas on the floor: restricted area, in the paint (non-RA), mid-range, corner three, above the break three, and free throws.

In the future I’ll experiment more with these types of graphs, but for now these are the ones for each team over the entire season, both on offense and defense. They’ll probably appear blurry but clicking on the picture, then zooming in helps a ton.

Also, below the picture are links to team graphs for offense only and defense only. Enjoy, hopefully:

offense-defense

Offense-only graphs.

Defense-only graphs.

Similar to what I mentioned in the first post, the graphs for the best and worst offenses and defenses just aren’t the same as one another. Take the Heat, Clippers, and Mavericks as the top three offenses, for example. Thanks to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Miami scores a ton of their points in the restricted area — 36.5 percent, to be exact and fourth-highest in the league. Meanwhile, the Clippers are near the middle in point distribution from a few locations, but with the help of Blake Griffin they get just under one-fifth of their points from the free throw line. Dallas, with a nightmare of a scorer to gameplan for in Dirk Nowitzki, is weirdly balanced in all locations as they don’t appear too high or low in any of them.

Defenses are more similar as Indiana and Chicago both concede a bunch of points from mid-range. The Spurs and Warriors, in third and fourth place in defensive efficiency, respectively, have similar mid-range portions of the graph but allow more points in the paint (non-RA) region than the top two teams. Overall, it would seem like offenses would want their offenses to shift as far to the left side of the graph as possible and the opposite for defense.

I’ll actually admit these graphs are slightly misleading, one reason being that corner threes don’t jump out in them but are nonetheless important to team success. Attempts per location looked about the same and points per location was slightly different when comparing offense to defense. In the future, though, I’ll sort by the latter stat but I had a really weird time calculating it last night and this morning and ran out of time to put those graphs together.

Lastly, below are two tables of the top and bottom five teams in point distribution for each shot location. One table is for offense and the other for defense, starting with the former:

All stats, including ones used for tables and graphs, are according to NBA.com. 

Shot locations and shooting efficiency in graphs

LeagueAvg

The percentage of a team’s points, sorted by location.

Sometimes I get bored and look for unusual topics to post about, which eventually leads to spending too much time on something like making graphs revolving around scoring and defense.

The graphs I made are pretty basic, I suppose. I might have fun with more over the weekend but I’ll just show what I fooled around with already. Basically, there are four different graphs for every team: team point distribution across six locations, team effective field goal percentage in five of those spots, and the same two for a team’s defense. All of the stats I used were from NBA.com.

The point distribution graphs show what percentage of a team’s points come from the restricted area, paint not in the restricted area, mid-range, the corner three, above the break three, and free throws. I experimented with field goal attempts per spot, but the graphs compared to point distribution looked about the same.

Below is a GIF of all 30 teams, sorted in alphabetical order. (The picture above the first paragraph was the league average for point distribution.)

Team points on Make A Gif

I can certainly post individual team graphs at another time, but I chose not to here for the sake of the amount of space it would take up.

That doesn’t mean we can’t compare some, though.

Portland and Houston are quite a contrast in styles, given one’s love for the mid-range jumper (and for a very legitimate reason) while the other neglects that part of the floor.

They both value the three equally, however:

Portland-Hou on Make A Gif

Philadelphia is somewhat similar to Houston except they rarely score from the corner three and their mid-range game is more prevalent. Also, they might have the right idea on offense but as we’ve seen recently they don’t score all that well and they struggle to defend. More on that in a bit. For now: POOR THADDEUS YOUNG.

Among other similarities are Atlanta, Brooklyn, Golden State, the Lakers, and Toronto all looking alike too.

Starting from the restricted area and going clockwise, the leader in points distributed to each category are: the Detroit Pistons (41.72%), Memphis (14.21%), Boston (22.62%), New York (21.41%), Miami (10.68%), and Houston (20.47%).

Below are graphs for where a team allows points:

Defense Distribute on Make A Gif

Among other teams, Indiana’s offense and defense are quite similar, for better or for worse.

The leaders in each category, starting at the restricted area and going clockwise are the Lakers (36.65%), Golden State (12.14%), Indiana (23.19%), Oklahoma City (18.98%), Miami (8.39%), and Phoenix (19.95%).

Effective field goal percentage from those areas of the floor — minus the free throw line — were another batch of charts I made for each team for the heck of it. You can really see where some offenses are great and others struggle from, though it won’t paint the clearest picture. The same goes for defense.

Below is offensive EFG%:

Team EFG% on Make A Gif

Miami’s efficiency is pretty freaky, especially when compared to Philadelphia’s. It helps when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh can score at the rim far above the average accuracy all while having shooters playing alongside them.

For Philadelphia, it doesn’t help when they’re a strong candidate to “Bobcat” and very few of their players can stretch the floor consistently, and Michael Carter-Williams isn’t one of them. Like mentioned earlier, the 76ers have a good idea on where to score on offense while playing at a frantic pace, but they don’t score anywhere near enough and their defense has fallen off a cliff.

Below is their contrast in their own EFG% and their opponents’:

philly on Make A Gif

Possibly noticeable in the GIF of offensive EFG% is Chicago, who also struggles mightily on offense but their defense holds its own.

Miami’s another interesting case. They can light teams up from the corners but that’s also a place opponents have shot well from.

Below is a GIF of the 30 teams and their defensive EFG% at certain spots on the floor:

Def EFG on Make A Gif

I also made GIFs of teams sorted by their offensive and defensive ratings, but overall there wasn’t a clear difference in those highly efficient in one area of the floor and those who struggle. Portland, for example, scores a bunch from mid-range with the help of LaMarcus Aldridge, but they’re also a top-5 team in offensive efficiency. On defense, the percentage they allow at the rim is quite good but they allow a ton of attempts from that area of the floor. Defense is weird.

In the future, I might fool around a little further with these kind of graphs for both teams and players. The ones listed here are pretty basic and obviously won’t paint a clear picture on offense and especially defense, but hopefully they were fun to look at and compare team by team. As (sort of) mentioned earlier, a page with every team’s graphs wouldn’t take long at all, though I chose not to include them here because of the amount of space it would take up when combined with GIFs.

Any thoughts, even if the graphs weren’t all that cool to look at, or requests on these are certainly welcome. Feel free to chime in.

Paul George and his hot hand from the corner three

It seems like Paul George takes that “next step” every season. He was the NBA’s Most Improved Player last season, but like Kevin Love in 2011 and 2012, there’s always curiosity about him winning it a second-straight time.

Arguably this season’s most obvious improvement in George’s game has been his comfort handling the ball while attacking just about every area of the court. That’s huge when he’s taken on a bigger load of the offense. He’s upped his usage rate from 23.5 percent in 2013 to 28.1, but trimmed his rate of turnovers from 15.2 percent to 11.8. He’s also been scoring more efficiently with an increase in his true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage, and free throw rate. In particular, measuring his usage and true shooting puts him in company with only nine other players this season.

While a lot of that has been aided by a mid-range jumper that makes George a handful to guard, he’s also been red-hot from the corners where he’s shooting a ridiculous 59 percent. That’s surprisingly not first but second-best in the league, minimum 20 attempts. (For Paul George’s complete shot chart, click here.)

Here are the top 10 shooters. I only included usage rate because I needed another category to help fix formatting issues, but that statistic will come in handy later.

Top 10 Corner Shooters


Player
 
C3FGM
 
C3FGA
 
C3FG%

Usage
Mirza Teletovic (BKN) 13 21 61.9% 19.3
Paul George (IND) 32 54 59.3% 28.1
Mario Chalmers (MIA) 20 35 57.1% 17.0
Andre Iguodala (GSW) 17 32 53.1% 13.3
Marco Belinelli (SAS) 18 34 52.9% 19.6
LeBron James (MIA) 11 21 52.4% 29.5
Omri Casspi (HOU) 12 23 52.2% 18.9
Mike Miller (MEM) 14 27 51.9% 13.6
Darren Collison (LAC) 15 29 51.7% 19.9
Damian Lillard (POR) 15 29 51.7% 24.8
Anthony Tolliver (CHA) 18 35 51.4% 10.5

Over the years, other elite wings have been up and down with how many corner threes they’ve taken. That isn’t surprising when expanding players like George to that area takes away the impact of role players who specialize in shooting corner threes. (You could also say this about LaMarcus Aldridge, who has Wes Matthews and Nicolas Batum taking plenty of shots from the corners, and Dirk Nowitzki throughout his career.) Kevin Durant doesn’t take many shots from the corners at all while Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony have been hot and cold throughout their careers.

George is an exception along with LeBron James, who developed a killer right corner three last season. For George, he’s averaged about one corner three attempt per game since 2012, and though he tends to favor the right corner he’s been equally good (or in 2012, bad) from either side. He’s currently 13-for-24 from the left corner three and 19-for-30 from the right side with most makes coming from spotting up in transition, being the beneficiary of drive-and-kicks, and capitalizing on meltdowns from opponents while defending Indiana’s inbound plays.

90 percent of George’s corner threes this season have been assisted, a standard mark for that area of the floor. Lance Stephenson has been his main feeder, responsible for nine out of 29 assisted threes, according to NBA.com. That’s no surprise when Stephenson’s become capable (and sometimes obviously confident) of running the offense and finding shots for not only himself but everyone else. George Hill has been another primary passer to Paul George, responsible for seven assisted corner threes. I expected Roy Hibbert to have a similar impact, which he has been but primarily when George is either going to the hoop or on the left side of the arc. The difference in where each player assists to another is interesting in itself.

Is George’s current percentage from the corners sustainable? He’s on pace to take 116 attempts this season, or about 1.4 per game if he never took a game off. Mitch Richmond’s the only player to make over 50 percent of his corner threes, take over 100 attempts, and carry a similar weight of a team’s offense like George currently has, according to NBA.com. (Edit: Here’s a player comparison between that season and George’s 2014 campaign, via Basketball-Reference.)

Otherwise, shooting around 50 percent from the corners is usually reserved for role players, but ones that become incredibly valuable when defenses have to adjust for their shooting. Here are some players who came close to matching each criterion, sorted by the season. Richmond’s hot shooting is also included:

100 attempted corner threes, nearly 50 percent made, with a usage rate near 28%
(according to NBA.com)

Player Season C3FGM/C3FGA C3FG% Usage
Paul George (IND) 2013-14 69-116* 59.3 28.1
Joe Johnson (ATL) 2005-06 55-119 46.2 24.6
Rashard Lewis (SEA) 2004-05 66-134 49.3 24.0
Latrell Sprewell (NYK) 2002-03 54-116 46.6 22.6
Jamal Mashburn (MIA) 1999-00 74-157 47.4 23.8
Ray Allen (MIL, SEA) Any from 2000-07 A lot-A lot 40-45ish 27.0
Mitch Richmond (SAC) 1996-97 56-103 54.4 29.4

* – projected if George played 82 games.

In the second half of this season, variance will probably rear its ugly head towards Paul George’s corner threes. It would take him out of the hunt for the rare accomplishment previously listed, but it’s nowhere near the end of the world if that really happens. The corner three is a nice weapon for George just like it was last season, but it’s the other improvements like tightening his handles and adding a mid-range game that’s placed him among the league’s elite.

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