free NBA basketball picks
Home | NBA PLAYOFFS | Regular Season | Commentary | Contact Us

NBA Shooting by Distance statistics

Back in February we pondered Is Outside Shooting a Lost Art? in the NBA, and looked at shooting performance by shot type (jump shots vs layups vs dunks vs tips). This time round we thought it best to tackle the issue head on: shooting performance by shot distance and shot clock timing!

Many NBA pundits are commenting on what they perceive to be a dwindling number of players with good mid-range games (eg not the close shots where "finishing" ability is the key, nor the three-point bombs which have also become prominent shot choices for most teams and many players), so first let's begin with a review of NBA shooting by distance on a league wide basis:

NBA League Averages
All stats reflect regular season games of the 2003-2004 season
Clock Usage
0 to 5 ft
6 to 11 ft
12 to 17 ft
18 to line
3-Pt Shots*
0-10 Secs
61%
37%
40%
38%
35% ~ 52%
11-15 Secs
55%
38%
39%
40%
35% ~ 53%
16-20 Secs
52%
38%
38%
39%
36% ~ 54%
21+ Secs
47%
34%
34%
33%
31% ~ 46%
Totals
57%
37%
38%
39%
35% ~ 52%
* For three point shots, we show both the FG% and the eFG% (adjusting for three point shots made)

Are the numbers above what you would have guessed? Probably not, unless you are indeed an astute NBA follower.

We should issue some quick disclaimers -- we are only looking at shot attempts, and not considering the foul drawing frequencies (which is clearly higher in say the 6 to 11 foot range than behind the three point line), and turnover rates (which may also be higher the closer in you get), which means the Field Goal %'s may not resemble the more significant "Points Per 100 Possessions" numbers. Nor are we evaluating at this point the passing potential from a location or indeed the value of a shot following a "passed up shot" from a certain spot. There are also a number of shots which are hard to classify.

Also worth noting is that the shot distance category most susceptible to changing by the shot clock status is what we term the "close range" shot of 0 to 5 feet. It makes sense that the 0-10 seconds elapsed zone would be a high percentage, given you have the putbacks and all those fast break dunks, but beyond that we wouldn't have foreseen much difference between say the 11-15 secs and the 16-20 secs.

All right, enough of the league detail, let's get to some individual players!

1) Close Range Shots (0 to 5 feet)
What happens at this range varies tremendously -- you'll get an assortment of dunks and layups off sweet passes, power post moves, putbacks off an offensive board, slashing drives leading to floaters through the "tall trees", and other such delights. Now it's probably unwise to lump all of these types of shots together, since dunks for example are converted at a 91% FG rate for the league as a whole, but we've got lots of ground to cover as it is...
Best Shooters
Player
Team
FGM
FGA
Close FG%
 Ratliff
POR
80  108  74% 
 O'Neal
LAL
425  608  70% 
 Davis
BOS
136  195  70% 
 Ming
HOU
272  395  69% 
 Jamison
DAL
303  442  69% 
 Cheaney
GSW
108  159  68% 
 Malone
LAL
91  135  67% 
 Daniels
SEA
78  116  67% 
 Duncan
SAS
333  503  66% 
 Nene
DEN
269  407  66% 
Worst Shooters
Player
Team
FGM
FGA
Close FG%
 Wagner
CLE
36  101  36% 
 Jackson
HOU
46  114  40% 
 Hinrich
CHI
82  196  42% 
 Palacio
TOR
63  138  46% 
 Ford
MIL
76  166  46% 
 Pachulia
ORL
59  127  47% 
 Campbell
DET
53  114  47% 
 Billups
DET
116  248  47% 
 Davis
CHI
92  196  47% 
 Sura
ATL
84  177  48% 

With players who appear on more than one team in a season we keep the stats separate, but if you add in Ratliff's Atlanta numbers he drops to 67% on the close shots, which would mean the proverbial 'king of the NBA paint' Shaquille O'Neal had the best close range performance...and a lot of shots from that range!

Danny Ainge obviously likes Ricky Davis' game, and here's perhaps one reason why -- Davis comes in as the #2 best "finisher" if you will from close quarters...now if only he could hit the outside shot at a better rate!

As for the low percentage shooters from short distance, it's predominantly point guards who may be able to drive inside, but clearly face some obstacles in getting the ball into the basket when they do.

2) Short Two's (6 to 11 feet)
At this range you are looking at shots that may come in a great deal of traffic for players rising up off the dribble, or who adopt less than optimal post position, as well as some transition plays and offensive rebounds that bounce out a little further. Turnarounds, fadeaways...they probably come here for the most part as well.
Best Shooters
Player
Team
FGM
FGA
Short FG%
 Cassell
MIN
67  115  58% 
 McInnis
POR
28  55  51% 
 Potapenko
SEA
40  79  51% 
 Robinson
PHI
45  90  50% 
 Murray
SEA
30  61  49% 
 Mason
MIL
47  96  49% 
 Mohammed
ATL
25  51  49% 
 Wade
MIA
47  97  49% 
 Cheaney
GSW
33  68  49% 
 Blount
BOS
28  59  48% 
Worst Shooters
Player
Team
FGM
FGA
Short FG%
 B.Wallace
DET
15  83  18% 
 Miller
SAC
14  73  19% 
 Divac
SAC
15  76  20% 
 Hayes
WAS
13  64  20% 
 Anthony
DEN
13  62  21% 
 Nene
DEN
14  63  22% 
 Butler
MIA
12  50  24% 
 Jeffries
WAS
18  70  26% 
 Williams
NJN
14  54  26% 
 Thomas
PHI
27  103  26% 

Several of the leaders in this category are players who perhaps don't draw a ton of defensive attention, but Sam Cassell is simply an outstanding shooter in the mid-range in general and makes the other team pay when he can get a little space at short distance.

On the other hand, as much as we love Ben Wallace, his shooting touch is flat out lousy once he leaves the immediate vicinity of the basket. The fact that we have two Sacramento big men, as well as two Nuggets suggests that part of the problem for some players may be in the flow of the team offense. Brad Miller is a very capable shooter from 12+ feet, but struggles apparently when taking a shot in congestion.

3) Mid Range (12 to 17 feet)
At this distance a player has worked for the shot to some degree, whether coming off a screen or pick and roll, or making some space off the dribble. Sometimes of course a shot at this distant would represent a penetration attempt that was stopped and resulted instead in a jumper from further than was intended!
Best Shooters
Player
Team
FGM
FGA
Mid FG%
 J.Jackson
HOU
60  112  54% 
 Cardinal
GSW
35  67  52% 
 Robinson
CHI
53  102  52% 
 Doleac
NYK
33  64  52% 
 Claxton
GSW
42  83  51% 
 Abdur-Rahim
ATL
55  110  50% 
 Johnson
IND
33  66  50% 
 Blount
BOS
50  101  50% 
 Nash
DAL
59  120  49% 
 Hardaway
PHO
26  53  49% 
Worst Shooters
Player
Team
FGM
FGA
Mid FG%
 Jeffries
WAS
10  51  20% 
 Glover
ATL
21  88  24% 
 Walker
DAL
12  50  24% 
 Brown
WAS
12  50  24% 
 Wallace
DET
24  96  25% 
 Cato
HOU
13  51  26% 
 Richardson
LAC
23  90  26% 
 Kirilenko
UTA
14  54  26% 
 Trent
MIN
16  61  26% 
 Fizer
CHI
18  68  27% 

Ah, the domain of the mid-rangers. Jim Jackson may not be able to finish strong these days, but he can still hit the mid-distance jumper, especially with Yao, Francis and Mobley pulling defenders away from him. The Warriors had two guys with excellent touch (and when Claxton and Cardinal were on the floor at the same time, the Warriors had a +121 plus/minus in 752 minutes...hmmm), and we wonder a little about Abdur-Rahim's emphatic "no" to Portland asking him to start at small forward, given he does have a very viable mid-range game.

Meanwhile with the poor shooters, a couple of names raise eyebrows, particularly Kirilenko, but its partly a small sample issue, and partly perhaps a "bail-out the team with the shot clock running down" manifestation!

4) Long Two's (18 feet to the three point line)
Some people pine for the days when NBA stars were prolific scorers from this range, and indeed before the advent of the three-point shot we have to imagine there were a larger number of long two's being taken. Nowadays, the thinking goes that if you are going to shoot from 18 feet, you might as well step back behind the line and increase your payoff if you sink the shot (and indeed the effective field goal percentage of three point shots is second only to the very close range ones). Since this is arguably the most revealing zone, we'll show the top twenty players.
Best Shooters
Player
Team
FGM
FGA
Long FG%
 PJ.Brown
NOH
47  85  55% 
 R.Butler
MIA
26  52  50% 
 Vaughn
ATL
47  97  49% 
 Blount
CHI
28  58  48% 
 Miller
SAC
70  146  48% 
 Overton
LAC
50  105  48% 
 Swift
MEM
29  61  48% 
 Garnett
MIN
166  354  47% 
 Laettner
WAS
36  77  47% 
 Nash
DAL
61  131  47% 
 Nowitzki
DAL
138  299  46% 
 Grant
MIA
78  170  46% 
 Lopez
UTA
68  148  46% 
 Boozer
CLE
28  61  46% 
 Cassell
MIN
141  309  46% 
 Hassell
MIN
65  144  45% 
 Thomas
PHI
44  98  45% 
 Giricek
UTA
39  87  45% 
 Lue
ORL
80  180  44% 
 Thomas
NYK
63  142  44% 
Worst Shooters
Player
Team
FGM
FGA
Close FG%
 Bowen
SAS
15  88  17% 
 McCarty
BOS
52  17% 
 Anderson
NYK
12  66  18% 
 Kirilenko
UTA
20  103  19% 
 Posey
MEM
16  82  20% 
 Ginobili
SAS
16  80  20% 
 Hinrich
CHI
26  120  22% 
 Peterson
TOR
25  115  22% 
 Miller
DEN
14  63  22% 
 Korver
PHI
12  54  22% 
 Howard
DAL
17  75  23% 
 Marshall
TOR
31  133  23% 
 Alston
MIA
19  81  24% 
 Barry
DEN
17  71  24% 
 Wright
MEM
12  50  24% 
 Jacobsen
PHO
13  53  25% 
 Van Horn
NYK
17  69  25% 
 Bogans
ORL
23  93  25% 
 Lynch
NOH
17  68  25% 
 Ford
MIL
15  59  25% 

Gee, Minnesota's got some shooters, right? With Garnett, Cassell and Hassell they've taken what is the worst shooting option on a league wide basis and made it a solid par of their offensive core. Brad Miller couldn't hit the 6 to 11 foot shot, but is highly effective when left alone for a long two. Stromile Swift -- a player earning kudos from a number of basketball stat-heads -- also displayed a deft touch from outside...a nice skill to have for a big man.

Turning to the demerit side of the equation, Bruce Bowen has put up very respectable three point shooting numbers, but is awful from in front of the line -- a closer look at possession type (see New NBA Statistics) may be in order, as perhaps he is solid when his feet are set and all he has to do is catch and shoot, but if called to come round a screen or god forbid take a shot off a dribble, maybe that's when the bricks descend from the sky.

There's no doubt a number of the players listed on the right side can shoot, so maybe it is a case that the long two is often for these guys a forced shot, a shot from a 'dead spot' on the floor for them, or even one where the play didn't unfold the way it should.

Final Words

You might think that looking at shooting by distance would be the final say on the matter, but with a significant number of 'surprises' popping up in the list, we can't help but think that context still is crucial, and missing in many cases from the raw data we've presented here.

What would represent the ultimate data set to get the most accurate read on all of this, factors that can only be retrieved through meticulous charting?

  • Contested level of the shot (wide open, open, guarded, double-teamed)
  • Location on the floor
  • Play type (Catch + Shoot, off the dribble, off screen, etc)
  • Defended by which player
  • Team defensive set -- particularly zone versus man
  • Dribble detail (0 dribbles, 1, 2+) and direction (left, right, which hand)
  • Sequence of passes leading to the shot
  • Fouls Drawn and Turnovers Committed by distance from hoop
...give us a minute and we could probably come up with five more "nice things to have" in the database, but fundamentally any of these extra pieces goes some way towards furthering our understanding of the game.

As it stands right now, yes mid range shots are low yielding in contrast to close range and three-pointers, but they may serve to keep the field goal % of other shot distance zones up by imparting a level of unpredictability to the offense as a whole. At the same time, those folks lamenting that the NBA is becoming a show of dunks and three's are not fully clued in -- that's where the money is!


Rate this Feature
Poor   Fair   Good   Excellent

Enter your comments in the box

Email (optional)

We want your feedback! Tell us your thoughts

Copyright 2003 by 82games.com, All Rights Reserved