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Is Outside Shooting a Lost Art?

A common lament these days is that players can't shoot the ball. By this we take the intended meaning to be that successful jump shots from a distance are in decline, rather than a complaint that inside shots are going in at a lesser rate. The reality of course is that defense, and in particular defensive strategy arising from in depth scouting of upcoming opponents, has as much to do with the drop in field goal percentage compared to say the 1980's as any kind of lack of shooting ability.

Ever since the Pat Riley Knicks instituted the "no layups" mentality of fouling rather than letting your foe get an easy bucket (and in truth the bad boys Pistons and earlier era teams also brought this into vogue), and the officials turned a blind eye to the often flagrant nature of these fouls, it's been hard work scoring in the NBA!

We publish pages for every team (see Dallas team stats for an example) and individual player (see Peja Stojakovic stats) detailing their shooting exploits by four types --

  • Jump -- which amounts to anything beyond a close in range
  • Close -- as the name implies is any kind of field goal attempt from short range
  • Dunks -- those slams of which many a highlight film is made
  • Tip -- the less controlled efforts to tip the ball in after a teammate's missed shot
In this article we will focus on jump shots, with a number of different stat looks.
(All stats reflect games played through February 5th of the 2003-2004 season.)

1) NBA League Averages
While the three point shot is a popular option for many of the NBA's twenty-nine teams, the preferable result in most coaches minds on an offensive possession is to get the ball close in to the hoop for a short distance attempt. Here's the NBA shot selection so far:
Shot
Att.
FG
eFG
Ast
Blk
Jumper
67%
.367
.415
66%
4%
Close
26%
.535
.535
53%
14%
Dunks
4%
.908
.908
75%
3%
Tips
2%
.496
.496
0%
0%
Totals
100%
.437
.470
61%
6%
So two-thirds of NBA field goal attempts are "jumpers" by our definitions, with the field goal percentage being by far the lowest for any shot type, in part due to the three point attempts. Even adjusting for 3's (the "effective field goal %" or eFG) still leaves jump shots as low efficiency.
Dunks are of course the highest probability for success shot, but getting into position to attempt the dunk is the tricky part! Finally with over 61% of all made buckets also seeing an assist credited, the jump shots come in a tad higher at 66% having a valued passing component.

2) Team Jump Shot Stats on Offense
Before looking at the numbers we'd probably pick Sacramento and Dallas as the teams most likely to shine in this category -- are we right?
Team
Att.
FG
eFG
Ast
Blk
Pts
SAC
67%
.393
.458
73%
4%
50.7
MIN
77%
.419
.448
63%
3%
55.8
SEA
73%
.370
.447
65%
4%
53.2
NYK
73%
.395
.445
66%
3%
51.1
BOS
70%
.379
.444
68%
3%
48.7
HOU
69%
.382
.443
57%
3%
45.8
POR
69%
.389
.430
66%
4%
47.4
DAL
67%
.372
.429
63%
3%
50.7
ORL
69%
.378
.428
61%
4%
48.5
MIL
65%
.370
.419
70%
3%
44.6
TOR
72%
.369
.419
67%
2%
46.2
PHO
66%
.370
.416
60%
3%
44.7
CHI
68%
.367
.412
71%
4%
45.6
NOH
66%
.349
.412
69%
3%
44.2
IND
70%
.361
.410
66%
5%
44.8
ATL
68%
.371
.407
62%
4%
42.9
GSW
69%
.358
.407
65%
6%
44.8
PHI
66%
.364
.406
67%
5%
41.2
MIA
67%
.352
.404
67%
4%
42.2
LAL
66%
.362
.403
71%
2%
43.1
MEM
63%
.348
.403
74%
4%
41.6
UTA
61%
.369
.403
69%
4%
36.7
DET
63%
.362
.402
62%
5%
39.1
DEN
63%
.360
.401
62%
4%
41.2
SAS
66%
.353
.399
66%
4%
41.1
LAC
62%
.345
.392
65%
4%
39.6
NJN
64%
.348
.392
76%
3%
39.0
CLE
66%
.348
.378
68%
4%
41.0
WAS
67%
.316
.360
61%
6%
38.7
The Kings do indeed take top billing if you go by effective field goal percentage, although the Timberwolves have the highest overall FG% and most points per game from jumpers.

The Mavs only make it to #8 on the eFG scale, and their team jump shooting has declined overall (hello Antoine Walker!) from a .453 eFG in 2002-03 which was far ahead of the Kings that year.

Minnesota takes the highest proportion of jump shots, while Utah takes the lowest. Mr. Kidd takes the Nets into the #1 spot for highest percentage of baskets that are assisted at 76%, while the "do it yourself" Wizards are lowest at 61%. The Lakers have the fewest shots blocked, while the Warriors and Wizards are battling for the indignity of having the highest percentage of their own jumpers cast aside.

The more important question is whether being an effective outside shooting team leads to wins, and there it gets murky: if the season ended today, only six of the top ten eFG teams would be in the playoffs, while six of the bottom ten would also make the post-season!

Having reliable jump shooting then doesn't appear at first glance to be a key criteria for good team performance.

3) Team Jump Shot Stats on Defense
Fans may love offense but coaches preach defense, and contesting shots, whether they be near or far from the hoop is a big factor in keeping the other team's scoring in check.
Team
Att.
FG
eFG
Ast
Blk
Pts
SAS
68%
.339
.376
59%
5%
40.1
IND
67%
.353
.391
65%
4%
39.5
HOU
73%
.345
.392
73%
4%
44.2
TOR
65%
.360
.392
62%
3%
39.5
MIN
70%
.348
.394
68%
5%
44.5
DET
65%
.355
.397
64%
4%
40.6
WAS
69%
.358
.403
71%
6%
45.2
PHI
69%
.352
.405
67%
3%
43.5
MEM
62%
.358
.407
67%
6%
40.3
LAL
69%
.366
.409
60%
4%
46.1
PHO
68%
.356
.411
66%
4%
45.1
ATL
67%
.367
.413
67%
3%
45.3
NJN
69%
.367
.415
64%
3%
43.6
MIA
69%
.366
.416
62%
3%
42.5
NYK
71%
.375
.418
66%
3%
47.1
CLE
67%
.370
.421
67%
5%
46.4
DEN
61%
.377
.421
69%
5%
42.1
SEA
67%
.368
.422
65%
5%
46.4
MIL
66%
.373
.422
66%
4%
45.7
SAC
69%
.381
.424
59%
3%
49.5
CHI
66%
.371
.424
71%
3%
44.8
DAL
67%
.368
.426
67%
3%
47.6
BOS
70%
.365
.426
70%
3%
47.8
LAC
64%
.378
.428
64%
3%
45.3
NOH
66%
.376
.428
67%
3%
44.2
ORL
66%
.378
.432
68%
4%
46.9
GSW
70%
.389
.438
67%
4%
50.5
UTA
67%
.388
.443
64%
5%
43.6
POR
66%
.397
.447
69%
3%
46.7
If championships are won on defense, then the Spurs are showing they can again be a factor in the NBA title outcome. There's daylight between what San Antonio gives up from outside and the rest of the league.

Also boasting of solid defensive efforts so far are Indiana and Houston, two teams with coaches who certainly believe in playing tight defense at all times.

Then of course at the bottom of the table we find those (what's the opposite of clean living?) Portland Trailblazers, who allow a .447 effective field goal percentage -- one sign perhaps of some less than stellar energy from a roster that with a few exceptions is ready to be traded at a moment's notice!

Also trawling along the bottom is Utah (despite Kirilenko's long arms he can't block everything!) and the Warriors.

With the defense there seems to be stronger influence on a team's won-lost record. Eight of the top ten are in the playoffs as of this moment, while only four of the bottom ten are currently post-season bound.

If you take a look at some of the net values for Offense minus Defense, you'll find that Minnesota has the better advantage in eFG with a +.054 number, ahead of Houston's +.051 and Sacramento's +.034 -- the Wizards meanwhile bring up the rear at -.042 on the eFG scale.

Another metric for looking at jumpers however is that the key is to take few of them yourself and make your opponents take plenty! As we saw in the first chart, jump shots are by far the worst payoff shots of the four categories. In this regard then, the top teams are Utah (6% fewer jump shots then their foes), New Jersey (-5%), Houston (-4%), and the Lakers (-3%).

4) Most efficient jump shot players
All right, let's get to the fan friendly material -- are there players who can still sink the J?
Player
Team
Att.
FG
eFG
Pts
 Barry
SEA
77%
.442
.607
8.0 
 Miller
IND
92%
.424
.552
9.7 
 Peterson
TOR
83%
.393
.535
9.3 
 Jackson
HOU
86%
.427
.532
9.6 
 Stojakovic
SAC
75%
.414
.522
12.7 
 Hoiberg
MIN
87%
.414
.513
7.2 
 Cassell
MIN
89%
.473
.512
15.1 
 Houston
NYK
96%
.449
.511
15.4 
 McKie
PHI
75%
.412
.510
7.4 
 McCarty
BOS
91%
.363
.510
9.8 
*Pts = Points per 36 minutes
We are only considering players with at least 200 jump shots attempted, and Brent Barry heads the list.

Of course, you could hardly have an outside shooting dream team without Reggie Miller who checks in at #2, and the likes of Stojakovic, Cassell, and Houston.

Mainly though this is the land of the three-point bomber who takes a large percentage of his shots from downtown.

5) Highest Field Goal Percentage Jump Shooters
If you're looking for a player who can get you a basket from outside, and not necessarily a three-pointer, then these are your guys:
Player
Team
Att.
FG
eFG
Pts
 Cassell
MIN
89%
.473
.512
15.1 
 Robinson
CHI
83%
.459
.459
8.7 
 Houston
NYK
96%
.449
.511
15.4 
 Garnett
MIN
76%
.448
.452
12.9 
 Barry
SEA
77%
.442
.607
8.0 
 McInnis
POR
82%
.441
.463
9.0 
 Ming
HOU
54%
.441
.441
5.9 
 Robinson
PHI
87%
.439
.474
13.5 
 Thomas
NYK
80%
.429
.429
8.3 
 Stevenson
UTA
73%
.429
.437
9.0 
Some of the same names from the eFG view show up here, with Cassell leading the way. However, we also add a few big guys with touch in Garnett, Ming and the much maligned Glenn Robinson.

What these two looks tell us though is that the efficient shooting action in an NBA game these days takes place from beyond the 3-pt line and from in close. The mid-range jumper is indeed an endangered species.


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