The good folks at cbssports.com provide shot location data for selected games during the season. Typically, I make use of this data as a sanity check on a player’s two-point percentage. For instance, it can be useful to distinguish poor two-point shooters that take too many mid-range shots from those that just can’t finish near the rim.
Data isn’t available for every player and it’s not complete for most players – cbssports.com only has its hamsters running on about 15% of games, those involving a ranked team or a tournament game. Furthermore, the location recorded for individual shots has some error associated with it. I’m guessing it’s in the 3-4’ range. Still, one can safely distinguish a 2’ shot from an 8’ shot and a 10’ shot from a 17’ shot and that can be valuable information we can’t get without doing a lot of work.
I thought it would be interesting to use the shot charts to identify the players that are exceptional in one area or another. The kind of thing we can’t do with conventional data, and the kind of thing we can’t easily do simply by watching a lot of games.
Best FG% inside 6’
– Min. 50 shots…Kyle Kuric, Louisville (56/68, 82.3%). At 6-4, Kuric’s not the name you’d expect to see here, but he had enough hops and fast break chances to maximize his chances. Or at least, that’s the theory I’m going with.
– Among returning players…Rodney Williams, Minnesota (41/53, 77.4%). Williams is a dunking specialist and his production near the rim continues to make him an effective offensive player despite the slow development of other parts of his game.
– Min. 100 shots…Anthony Davis (173/230, 75.2%). Honorable mention: Ricardo Ratliffe, Missouri (190/253, 75.1%). Given that these guys were among the best two-point shooters in the nation, it’s not surprising to see that they dominated close to the rim.
– Among returning players: Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State (129/184, 70.1%). Thomas’s freshman season most strongly compares to Luke Harangody. The more I look at Thomas’s stats (great) and his draft stock (not great, at least yet), the more I think he’s headed down the Harangody career path (illegal cross-race comparison aside). He might be a great college player that won’t get the full attention of pro scouts. Given that there aren’t a lot of dunks in these numbers, Thomas’s close 2P% as a sophomore was pretty amazing.
Highest percentage of shots inside 6’
– Min. 50 shots…Wendell Lewis, Mississippi State (62/69, 89.9%). I suppose if you already have Dee Bost, Renardo Sidney, and Arnett Moultrie in the lineup, you need someone like Lewis to patiently stay out of the way. He took just 9.1% of the Bulldogs’ shots last season and I suspect few of those were the result of his teammates intentionally giving him the ball. He made 63% of his close attempts.
– Min. 100 shots…Davante Gardner, Marquette (129/146, 88.4%). Gardner was extremely efficient in a year where his minutes were limited by a combination of coach’s decisions and injuries, and the production is easy to understand since he shot almost exclusively near the rim. This approach also generated a bunch of free throw attempts, of which he made 76%.
Best mid-range FG% (6’-20’)
– Min. 50 shots…Mike Scott, Virginia (110/205, 53.7%). Obviously, Scott didn’t just sneak over the arbitrarily-selected minimum threshold here. Actually, he ranked second in the country in the percentage of his field goal attempts that were from mid-range land.
– Among returning players: Anthony Collins, South Florida (28/53, 52.8%). USF’s freshman point guard was just 7-of-24 on three-pointers last season. I’m expecting an increase in production from there as a sophomore. Sure, his 53 mid-range attempts are a small sample, but he was also an 85% shooter from the free throw line, so the shooting touch is there. Let him heave it, Stan Heath.
– Min. 100 shots…Mike Scott.
– Among returning players…Deshaun Thomas (67/143, 46.9%). Keep in mind, there were only 31 players that had 100 mid-range shots recorded. Still, it’s impressive to see Thomas pop up as exceptional as both a finisher and a mid-range jump shooter.
Highest percentage of shots taken from mid-range (6’-20’)
– Min. 100 total shots…Andrew Fitzgerald, Oklahoma (77/103, 74.8%). Fitzgerald made 42% of his attempts, which is quite solid. (You can basically treat mid-range FG% as you would 3P%. The average success rate is nearly identical.) His mid-range appetite explains how he could take 339 field goal attempts, zero three-pointers, and yet attempt just 78 free throws.
Best long range 2P% (13’-20’)
– Min. 50 shots…Mike Scott (65/116, 56.0%). If the shot chart data is to be believed, Scott lived in the 13-20’ belt. So much so that you wonder why he took just 20 three-pointers last season. There’s a decent outside shooter waiting to emerge here.
– Among returning players…Jordan Hulls, Indiana (24/54, 44.4%). Only 42 guys qualified here, returning or not, and Hulls was actually sixth-best among them, giving you an idea of how difficult these shots are. Only attempt them in an emergency, kids. Unless you’re Mike Scott.
Highest percentage of shots taken from 13-20’
– Min. 100 total shots…Steven Pledger, Oklahoma (49/141, 34.8%). Pledger and Fitzgerald rank one and two in this category. There are a few possible explanations for this, among them that the hamsters recording data at the Lloyd Noble Center might have had a bias towards inflating shot lengths. But remember that since data is only recorded for games involving top 25 teams, and the Sooners were not a top 25 team, they were facing difficult defenses in this sample. I’m inclined to believe the numbers given that OU ranked 246th in 2P% last season and barely got to the line. It follows that they probably weren’t challenging the rim often. Considering their inability to get easy 2’s, it’s a mystery as to why just 22% of their shots were three-pointers.
Fewest mid-range shots
(as a percentage of total shots)
– Min 20 3PA and 20 shots inside 6’…Kwamain Mitchell, Saint Louis (4/57, 7.0%).
– Min 50 3PA and 50 shots inside 6’…Elijah Johnson, Kansas (50/330, 15.2%).
(as a percentage of 2-point shots)
– Min 20 3PA and 20 shots inside 6’…Mitchell (4/25, 16.0%).
– Min 50 3PA and 50 shots inside 6’…Vander Blue, Marquette (40/203, 19.7%)
With these categories, I wanted to identify the guys that had the kind of game where they would have the opportunity to take mid-range shots and then see who passed them up the most. These are guys that ultimately took shots at the rim and from long-range more exclusively than anyone else. Johnson was a better finisher than Blue, making 66% of his shots (62/94) near the rim while hitting a measly 36% of his 50 attempts from mid-range.
As you might imagine, I was curious about the players that were on the other end of the spectrum. We’re all adults here, right?
Worst FG% inside 6’
– Min 50 shots…A.J. Walton, Baylor (24/67, 35.8%). In this (presumed) era of increased transferring, it’s probably a testament to Walton’s character that he’s stayed with Baylor. His offense is overmatched in the Big 12 and he must have a had a good idea at this time last season that he wouldn’t be starting in his last two seasons with Pierre Jackson coming on board.
– Min 100 shots…Russ Smith, Louisville (72/148, 48.6%). I could talk about Smith here, but you’ll soon see why that’s not necessary.
Worst mid-range FG% (6’-20’)
– Min 50 shots…(tie) Russ Smith (31/124, 25.0%), John Shurna, Northwestern (13/52, 25.0%). Louisville actually had three of the bottom five here with Peyton Siva and Chris Smith making the list.
Worst long-range 2P% (13’-20’)
– Min 50 shots…(tie) Russ Smith (13/51, 25.5%), Marcus Denmon, Missouri (13/51, 25.5%). It’s nice when the stats paint the same picture as the eyes. Any way you slice up the court, Smith had trouble making shots. It’s all the more impressive considering he took a whopping 36% of the Cardinals’ shots when he played. I realize Smith has a lovable personality and his game is entertaining. And being on a high-turnover, high-offensive rebound team, mid-range two-point attempts are not as bad of a deal as they are on a normal team. But Louisville will be much better off this season if Smith can help out his teammates off the dribble instead of chucking ill-advised shots.