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Diagnosing Shooting Woes

To be honest, the shot chart above does not look like it belongs to a winning team. It looks like it belongs to a cellar dweller. That, my friends, is the Sixers' team shot chart through 51 games. After the jump we'll take a look at why there is so much blue and gray on the court, who's to blame, and what shots the Sixers should be looking to create after the break to sprinkle in some more red. All images and data were culled from nba.com/hotspots/, be sure to check out that link.

To me, the most-alarming part of the Sixers shot chart is the low percentage they convert at from inside the lane. 56.8% seems a tragically low percentage. Let's see how it compares to the other 7 playoff teams in the East.

  1. Boston: 58.1% (1831)
  2. Cleveland: 60.7% (1421)
  3. Orlando: 57.6% (1462)
  4. Atlanta: 57.9% (1506)
  5. Miami: 55.3% (1498)
  6. Philadelphia: 56.8% (1858)
  7. Detroit: 58.0% (1339)
  8. Milwaukee: 54.8% (1747)
As often happens when you go looking for a stat to support your theory, a different notable stat pops up. In this case, it's the frequency of attempts inside the paint. The Sixers lead all the playoff teams in the East (the number in parens above is the attempts), they've attempted 28 more than the Celts who are second, and a whopping 437 more attempts than Cleveland, who is dead last among the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams.

The conclusion, the Sixers get shots in the paint the most, but convert at the third-worst rate among playoff teams, although the percentages aren't disparate enough to be meaningful.

Moving on, the topic of this post was meant to be strengths, weaknesses and patterns of the Sixers shot selection, as a whole. First, let's get the weaknesses out of the way. This isn't a post meant to rag on Lou Williams any more than I have in the past couple of weeks, but we're going to start with him. First, take a look at his shot chart.

The first thing that should jump out at you is his horrible percentage on point-blank shots, 46.7% is unforgivable. Beyond that, though, there's an extremely alarming trend here. Take a look at all the blue areas in the middle of the floor and on the left side above the foul line. Lou is shooting a combined 24.1% from those five zones and he's taking nearly 30% of all of his attempts from that area. At this point, someone should be looking at these numbers and adjusting his game, he's absolutely killing the team with those shots. Might I suggest moving Lou to the right side of the floor for his isos and pick and roll opportunities so he can get shots he's hitting at a higher percentage?

For a point of reference, this is what the entire team's chart looks like if you remove Lou. Note the huge increase in percentages from the five areas we just talked about. Also note the percentage on layups.

That's enough negative for now, let's talk about some positives we can glean from this data. We'll begin with Marreese Speights.

His unreal percentage in the lane shouldn't surprise anyone. He's a dunking machine and his touch around the hoop is stellar. The thing I like most about this chart, however, is his percentage in two areas: the elbow and along the baseline. Speights' low-post game is extremely advanced, but that's only one facet of a modern power forward's game. To be a truly elite offensive weapon, a four needs to be able to give playmakers options. Options on the pick and roll, options when they drive to the hoop, and options when they're looking to bust a zone. In the long run, Speights' touch from 15-18 feet is what I believe will make the difference between being a decent rotational player and a potential all star. So far this season, he's shooting 26/56 on mid-range jumpers, 46.4%.

Two more charts that I'd like your feedback on. The first is Andre Iguodala's.

My quick impression of this chart is that Iguodala has regained his form as an elite finisher. 70.6% on layups and dunks is right up there with the best in the league. My second impression is that I don't know what to make of his jumper numbers. If he could cut out the angle threes, he'd be shooting very well from deep, but if you go just inside the arc, to the elbbows, he's a pretty good shooter from angles and terrible from straight on. The heartening thing is that he's a pretty good shooter from his favorite spot on the floor, the right elbow extended.

And finally, I have no analysis of this last chart, please give me your thoughts on it in the comments. Mr. Royal Ivey...

Over the next couple of games I'm going to try to track how many shots Lou Williams and Iguodala get in their "sweet spots" and how many times they shoot from their ice cold zones, and why. This article from the NY Times (mentioned in the comments of an early post by Scott Brosius Would Make A Good Neighbor) opened my eyes to this type of analysis and I think it could really help us understand the affect good defenders and more importantly, good defensive strategy can have on a player's offensive performance.

Again, if you have some time to kill at work, check out NBA Hot Spots, there's a ton of info there.
by Brian on Feb 17 2009
Tags: Basketball | NBA Hot Spots | Shooting | Sixers |