Although we're just a few games into the season, the shooting strategies of different squads have started to come into focus. A lot of teams—like the Warriors—continue to put more and more emphasis on three-point shots, while other teams—like the Rockets—have made a push towards getting more looks in the paint. Even the detested 15-19 foot distance shot has seen a slight uptick (as a percentage of total field goals and attempts) after seeing a big decline from the 2011-12 to 2012-13 season. So, is your team moving towards or away from the rim?
The chart above, by Aleksey Nozdryn-Plotnicki of ThinkDataVis.com shows the average location of shots made (red) and shots allowed (blue) by team, for the 2012-2013 regular season. Although corner threes mess with this metric, it still generally shows that the Warriors, Mavericks, Trail Blazers, Knicks, and Raptors tended to get more production away from the rim, while the Nuggets and Pistons scored more often at close range. This is corroborated by shooting distance data from NBA Stats: Those first five teams all saw 40 percent of their made field goals come from at least 15 feet (putting them in the top third of the league), while Denver and Detroit made less than a third of their shots from that distance.
While the NBA season is still young, there's been enough play to take a very initial look at how the shot patterns of teams might be changing. For example, 37.6 percent of the Clippers field goals came from 15+ feet last season, just 16th in the league. This year that figure increased by 11.7 points up to 49.3 percent, second only to the skinny-ass Trail Blazers in the NBA.
These numbers in a vacuum don’t mean much; some teams are drifting out of the paint and into more inefficient shots, while others are being chased off the three point line, also into inefficient shots. The opposite can be true as well, with teams driving more or jacking up more shots from outside. Still, it’s cool seeing which teams as a whole, are getting closer to or farther from the basket:
Including the Clippers, nine teams have seen a shift of at least eight percent*. There are some candidates for regression on this list—Wesley Matthews, Anthony Morrow, and Jrue Holiday probably won't keep shooting 50+ percent from beyond the arc—but there are some potential trends in here as well:
- The Clippers openly stated this offseason that they were moving away from "Lob City" towards an offense with more spacing and movement. They also added J.J Redick.
- The Knicks' three-point heavy offense faded down the stretch last season, and their attempts from 15+ feet are down to 40.7/game from 45.7/game last season.
- The Nuggets traded away Andre Iguodala—an otherwise brilliant guard who shot 31.7 percent from beyond the arc last season—and lost the boring half of McGee/Koufos center combo that accounted for 1,365 points last year.
- The 76ers and Celtics have both seen enormous roster turnover: Holiday, Dorell Wright, Nick Young, and Damien Wilkins accounted for 37 percent of Philadelphia's minutes last year, while Pierce, Garnett, and Jason Terry accounted for 34 percent of Boston's minutes. All are gone, as our the previous seasons' coaches, so it will take a little while the suss out the shooting identity of these tanking teams.
These numbers could change dramatically over the next few weeks—maybe Carmelo Anthony will start chucking up 15 threes a game—but, as the league becomes more distance-oriented, it's worth it to keep an eye on which way your team's headed.
*This isn't quite as arbitrary as it sounds: The average shift (in either direction) was 3.9 percent, so these are the teams that have seen a shift at least twice as large as the average.
Top chart via Aleksey Nozdryn-Plotnicki