The worst shot in the NBA

The worst shot in the NBA

Mar 13

One of the things I think about a lot is where are worst shots in the league; in other words from a league-wide perspective, which spots are the least efficient shot locations. Obviously, the half-court heaves at the end of quarters are very low percentage shots, but what about “the normal areas” within the scoring zone? You might think that the so-called “long 2” is the easy answer, however one of the most striking things about my “all shots over 5 years chart” is that the bluest hues are in fact mid-range areas that aren’t that far from the hoop; in other words there are two court locations – symmetrically arranged – where NBA players as a whole are surprisingly inefficient.

I thought it would be interesting to look at one of these spots in depth, and evaluate shot performance there. Perhaps the most inefficient shot league wide is located on the left side of the court about 13 feet from the basket at an angle of about 45 degrees.

Collectively, the NBA shoots 36% from this spot, which is much lower than other places much further away from the basket. Why is this? I think 2 things are happening: 1) this is not a terribly easy shot to make, but perhaps more importantly, 2) this spot is frequented by big guys and is near the “edge of their range.” So this spot is within the domain of centers and power forwards, but these guys are not the league’s best shooters – even from 13 feet.  Consider the 5 players who have shot the most from this location over the last few years: Tim Duncan, Al Jefferson, Dirk Nowitizki, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Elton Brand – no guards or small forwards. The only relatively smallish guy near the top is David West, who shoots an abysmal 30% from this spot; as a rule you have to be tall to shoot regularly and/or comfortably from this area.

So who is good here? There should be added value for guys who perform very well at locations where the league struggles most. Over the last few years the players with the highest field goal percentages from this area*:

  1. Chris Bosh 53.3%
  2. Dwyane Wade 46.7%
  3. Tim Duncan 44.4%
  4. Rip Hamilton 44.2%
  5. Kevin Durant 44.0%

And here are the worst*:

1. David West 30.1%
2. Zach Randolph 30.4%
3. Pau Gasol 32.1%
4. Kobe Bryant 33.3%
5. Carmelo Anthony 33.3%

*minimum 25 field goal attempts

At 53.3% Chris Bosh is far and away the most efficient shooter here, and Tim Duncan is the most prevalent shooter at this location. The ability to shoot effectively from this zone is particularly rare in the NBA, which makes the anomalous efficiencies of Bosh, Wade, Duncan, Rip, and Durant even more valuable.

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