Breaking Down Chris Paul

Breaking Down Chris Paul

Apr 24

When the Clippers got Chris Paul, they immediately became a playoff team. He’s obviously an incredible playmaker, and many consider him to be the best point guard in the world. Over his career Paul has averaged about 20 points and about 10 assists per game. But, I’m not sure many people realize just how good of a shooter Chris Paul is. He is a very good 3-point shooter, and an excellent midrange shooter. When we examine his shooting patterns, we quickly see he is very active in front of the basket, and relatively quiet along the baselines:

Inside the arc, Chris Paul shoots a lot more on the right side of the court than he does on the left. This effect becomes more drastic as he drives closer to the hoop and likes to shoot runners as he drives right. From outside the arc, he actually shoots more frequently on his left; he rarely takes corner 3′s.

But Chris Paul isn’t famous just because he’s an above average 3-point shooter. He can score really effectively within the league’s least generous zones; this is a quality of many of the league’s highest paid players. About half of all his field goal attempts come in midrange areas. Remember, the league shoots 37% of its field goals in these areas; CP3 shoots much more than that. But, not only can he get decent looks in the midrange, as you can see below, he is unusually effective there too. He is significantly above average in every midrange zone below; simply put, he is one of the NBA’s best midrange scorers:

Despite his midrange prowess, the graphic below reveals that Paul’s most effective shot is at or near the top of the arc; this is the exact right spot for a point guard to optimize as a means to prevent the defense from laying back, like they do with Rajon Rondo. CP3 averages 1.49 points per attempt here, keeping defenses very honest, and opening up driving opportunities. His weakest spots are midrange locations near the left base line, but he is hardly active there. Like Carmelo (see below), Paul’s shooting tendencies correspond well with his shooting abilities; his game is “aligned” like that.

In the end, it’s nice to see Chris Paul on a good team, with a chance to play in the postseason.


  1. ignarus

    I’d love it (more) if the points per attempt reference graphic on the last chart was bracketed by two numbers so we intense, nerdly types have a frame of reference by which to process “high” and “low.”

    Granted, the preceding figure shows FG%, but it’d still be nice not to need to cross-reference when the color scale is right there, pleading for an end to the unbearable ache, to be whole, understood. How can we look elsewhere for answers when those sad eyes grip us, begging for a spark of recognition and validation?

    Uh… apparently I had some sort of data-driven existential empathy seizure, so I’ll try to get this comment back on track.

    To sum up, a numerical range for the color-schemed PPA reference would be a nifty, helpful addition to an already seriously cool chart.

    • Sven Hoek

      I think the reason for that is, these are relative values. Otherwise, let’s make up an imaginary NBA all star. He has the highest FG% from each of these hexagonal regions. His 3pt% would look blue compared to his undertherim%. So I am thinking these are all normalized against the league averaged and color coded from that. The scale is relative not absolute and depends on what part of the floor you are looking at. Otherwise, I agree with you, give us a scale!

Leave a Reply