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Scorers versus Shooters

You'll often find that in the NBA world, high 'points per game' players are divided into two groups:

Shooters
The players with sweet shots from outside, envisioned as being lethal if given an open look, or even a half step, ala a Reggie Miller or Ray Allen


Scorers
Sometimes used in a critical way to describe players who pile up the points inefficiently by chucking up endless shots (say Antonie Walker pre-Miami), but also including players who rely on getting the dynamite feed, or those with powerful inside games (say Shaq) but no outside shot to speak of.

The further distinction is made by adding in the "elite" qualifier -- as in an 'elite scorer' as opposed to a regular 'scorer' who is probably primarily a heavy possession user.

While many people have opinions as to what class a guy falls into (Shaq = elite scorer, Baron Davis = scorer; Dirk Nowitzki = 'elite shooter', Kyle Korver = shooter) there's very little data been presented to support these arguments. By breaking down where a guy's points are coming from though and his shooting percentages from different ranges, we can better assess where the real shooter/scorer dividing lines are.

Leading NBA Scorers -- detailed statistics
We'll grab all the regular who have averaged 17.0 or more points per game (44 players at this stage of the season) and break out a player's Field Goal attempts into three categories:

  • 3-pt Jump Shots

  • 2-pt Jump Shots

  • Close shots
  • Field Goal %
    Points per game
    Player
    Tm
    Pts
    All
    FGA
    2pt
    Jump
    3pt
    Jump
    Close
    2pt
    Jump
    3pt
    Jump
    Close
    FT's
     Bryant LAL 35.5  .446  .439  .343  .577  13.7  6.1  6.3  9.4 
     Iverson PHI 33.6  .450  .410  .341  .565  12.2  3.2  9.1  9.1 
     James CLE 30.9  .490  .388  .348  .691  7.2  5.1  11.2  7.3 
     Arenas WAS 27.9  .434  .388  .354  .637  7.0  7.3  6.1  7.5 
     Wade MIA 27.0  .487  .411  .120  .649  8.7  0.4  9.5  8.4 
     McGrady HOU 26.5  .414  .404  .305  .567  10.6  4.6  5.1  6.2 
     Pierce BOS 25.7  .473  .405  .364  .611  6.1  4.1  8.1  7.4 
     Anthony DEN 25.7  .462  .351  .233  .610  5.8  1.3  11.0  7.6 
     Nowitzki DAL 25.4  .469  .457  .426  .561  11.3  4.3  3.6  6.3 
     Redd MIL 25.1  .444  .392  .407  .561  6.8  6.0  6.1  6.2 
     Brand LAC 25.1  .528  .470  .000  .663  11.8  0.0  7.2  6.1 
     Allen SEA 24.9  .444  .444  .383  .611  6.9  10.1  3.9  4.0 
     Carter NJN 24.1  .442  .416  .343  .537  7.1  4.0  6.9  6.2 
     Richardson GSW 22.9  .457  .351  .385  .651  5.0  6.6  7.8  3.5 
     Bosh TOR 22.9  .503  .438  .000  .610  8.2  0.0  7.8  6.9 
     Hamilton DET 21.8  .501  .438  .465  .661  9.8  2.1  6.2  3.7 
     Garnett MIN 21.8  .541  .488  .368  .679  10.3  0.4  6.2  4.9 
     Lewis SEA 21.7  .471  .432  .387  .654  6.0  5.8  5.0  5.0 
     Maggette LAC 21.7  .459  .419  .382  .614  6.8  3.0  4.2  7.8 
     Marion PHO 21.3  .510  .363  .303  .778  4.9  3.4  10.3  2.8 
     Bibby SAC 20.9  .431  .425  .377  .589  7.8  6.3  2.6  4.1 
     O'Neal IND 20.9  .469  .395  .333  .644  8.9  0.3  6.4  5.3 
     Johnson ATL 20.0  .463  .436  .363  .645  8.3  4.1  4.6  3.0 
     Ming HOU 20.0  .495  .393  .000  .599  5.9  0.0  9.0  5.2 
     Duncan SAS 19.9  .492  .362  .250  .687  6.7  0.1  8.6  4.6 
     Webber PHI 19.6  .424  .335  .250  .549  6.7  0.5  8.8  3.5 
     Gasol MEM 19.6  .478  .343  .222  .618  5.0  0.1  9.0  5.5 
     Nash PHO 19.4  .485  .438  .416  .703  6.0  5.6  4.0  3.8 
     Parker SAS 19.4  .548  .399  .261  .707  5.4  0.4  10.3  3.4 
     Szczerbiak ** 19.3  .485  .416  .389  .744  6.3  4.1  4.9  3.9 
     Jamison WAS 19.3  .433  .347  .403  .645  6.7  4.2  5.7  2.8 
     Davis ** 19.3  .461  .431  .312  .616  7.9  2.7  5.6  3.1 
     Jefferson NJN 19.3  .495  .387  .310  .636  3.3  1.9  7.6  6.4 
     O'Neal MIA 19.2  .561  .302  .000  .648  2.1  0.0  13.3  3.8 
     Davis GSW 18.9  .393  .313  .317  .585  3.5  6.0  5.6  3.8 
     Artest ** 18.9  .436  .344  .321  .610  4.0  3.7  6.8  4.4 
     Billups DET 18.8  .421  .416  .428  .417  3.9  6.6  2.3  6.0 
     Harrington ATL 18.6  .452  .362  .351  .610  5.7  2.2  7.2  3.5 
     Randolph POR 18.4  .442  .409  .158  .514  8.5  0.2  6.6  3.0 
     Marbury NYK 18.1  .448  .452  .260  .496  5.5  1.4  6.3  5.0 
     Cassell LAC 18.0  .451  .435  .442  .640  10.0  2.5  1.4  4.2 
     Okur UTA 17.9  .458  .434  .376  .551  6.0  3.1  4.7  4.1 
     James TOR 17.2  .466  .426  .448  .556  5.4  5.0  3.9  2.9 
     Francis ORL 17.0  .446  .401  .281  .568  5.3  1.4  5.2  5.2 

    So with this chart, you can see just where a player's points are coming from, and how effective they are at making shots from certain ranges. There are only three players who score six points per game in each category (2-pt jumpers, 3-pt jumpers, close shots, free throws) -- Bryant, Arenas, and Redd, while there are just two more players who qualify if we lower the threshold to "five points per game" via each means -- LeBron and Rashard Lewis.

    These guys are truly your "multi-dimensional scoring threats". Let's do some sorts on specific columns though to highlight the leaders/trailers in different areas.

    Leading NBA Scorers -- detailed statistics
    Three point shooting percentages are fairly visible, and given the wide range in attempts per game for three's a raw percentage look isn't all that great anyway. On the other hand, checking out which players shoot the 2-pt jumpers well and which can finish inside is revealing...
    Highest FG% on 2-Point Jump Shots
    Team
    Player
    FG%
    Pts/g
    MIN  Garnett .488  10.3 
    LAC  Brand .470  11.8 
    DAL  Nowitzki .457  11.3 
    NYK  Marbury .452  5.5 
    SEA  Allen .444  6.9 
    LAL  Bryant .439  13.7 
    TOR  Bosh .438  8.2 
    DET  Hamilton .438  9.8 
    PHO  Nash .438  6.0 
    ATL  Johnson .436  8.3 
    Lowest FG% on 2-Pt Jump Shots
    Team
    Player
    FG%
    Pts/g
    SAS  Duncan .362  6.7 
    ATL  Harrington .362  5.7 
    DEN  Anthony .351  5.8 
    GSW  Richardson .351  5.0 
    WAS  Jamison .347  6.7 
    Ind/Sac  Artest .344  4.0 
    MEM  Gasol .343  5.0 
    PHI  Webber .335  6.7 
    GSW  Davis .313  3.5 
    MIA  O'Neal .302  2.1 
    Kevin Garnett doesn't take a lot of long range 2-pointers, but he is the leader among the leading scorers in what is to some extent "NBA no man's land" -- three pointers and close shots are where the efficiency typically lies. All of the players in our 'highest' list have nice shooting touch though and this means the defense has to respect them from the 2-pt range, thereby freeing up other options.

    The struggling shooter list (heck, let's call them "scorers" then) is not entirely surprising, with a number of big men whose action comes primarily close to the hoop. On the other hand if Carmelo and J-Rich want to take that next step forward to being bona fide NBA stars, they need to improve their outside shooting. As for Baron Davis, we like him very much as a player and team difference maker, but he does need to seriously reign in his poor shot selection. Chris Webber also takes too many low percentage shots per game.

    Highest FG% on Close Shots
    Team
    Player
    FG%
    Pts/g
    PHO  Marion .778  10.3 
    Bos/Min  Szczerbiak .744  4.9 
    SAS  Parker .707  10.3 
    PHO  Nash .703  4.0 
    CLE  James .691  11.2 
    SAS  Duncan .687  8.6 
    MIN  Garnett .679  6.2 
    LAC  Brand .663  7.2 
    DET  Hamilton .661  6.2 
    SEA  Lewis .654  5.0 
    Lowest FG% on Close Shots
    Team
    Player
    FG%
    Pts/g
    PHI  Iverson .565  9.1 
    DAL  Nowitzki .561  3.6 
    MIL  Redd .561  6.1 
    TOR  James .556  3.9 
    UTA  Okur .551  4.7 
    PHI  Webber .549  8.8 
    NJN  Carter .537  6.9 
    POR  Randolph .514  6.6 
    NYK  Marbury .496  6.3 
    DET  Billups .417  2.3 

    Shawn Marion's inside game is outstanding, although you wonder to what extent it depends on Steve Nash passes. Meanwhile Tony Parker has had an incredible season of slicing through defenses, and his finish rate inside, along with the pure number of points per game he brings in this area, makes him a definite All-Star from the 82games.com perspective (more on our picks later). At the same time, what makes LeBron so spectacular is his ability to finish at the rim, combined with his skills in all other facets of the offensive game -- passing, outside shooting, foul drawing.

    On the "poor finisher" side it's worth noting that a less than average finisher at close range is still going to be far more efficient than an above average outside shooter who settles for a two-pointer. So while Iverson doesn't make the bucket at a high rate by NBA standards on the "in tight" shots, he still demolishes defenses at a nice .565 clip (plus the numerous fouls drawn inside). Perhaps more surprising is that high flying Vince Carter is actually fourth from the bottom in our select list of 44 players in close shot finishing. Chauncey Billups on the other hand seldom ventures into the real thick of the paint action, and probably for good reason -- this is one area where his MVP candidacy takes a hit however.

    Highest Foul Drawing%
    Team
    Player
    Foul%
    FTM/g
    NJN  Jefferson 23.8%  6.4 
    TOR  Bosh 20.3%  6.9 
    MIA  O'Neal 20.0%  3.8 
    LAC  Maggette 19.7%  7.8 
    MIA  Wade 18.4%  8.4 
    MEM  Gasol 18.3%  5.5 
    BOS  Pierce 17.5%  7.4 
    ORL  Francis 17.2%  5.2 
    SAS  Duncan 16.8%  4.6 
    IND  O'Neal 16.8%  5.3 
    Lowest Foul Drawing%
    Team
    Player
    Foul%
    FTM/g
    POR  Randolph 8.5%  3.0 
    DET  Hamilton 8.4%  3.7 
    TOR  James 8.0%  2.9 
    PHI  Webber 8.0%  3.5 
    ATL  Johnson 7.9%  3.0 
    Bos/Min  Davis 7.7%  3.1 
    SAC  Bibby 7.6%  4.1 
    WAS  Jamison 7.4%  2.8 
    SEA  Allen 7.2%  4.0 
    PHO  Nash 6.5%  3.8 
    Let's face it, officiating matters in the NBA. And yes, let's be honest, star scorers do probably get more than their fair share of calls. Still, like it or not, foul drawing is a big part of the game, and the sort on which of our leading scorers is tops at getting a whistle is something of a surprise: Richard Jefferson. He's the leader by quite a margin as well, improving considerably from his 14.9% foul drawing during the 2004-05 season. This is an area where Miami shines of course with the double whammy foul drawing power of Wade and Shaq.

    The poor foul drawing guys tend to be your smaller, lighter players who in contrast to a super tough Iverson, may shy away some from the contact. It's not a good sign that a huge guy like Zach Randolph doesn't draw many trips to the charity stripe though, and his numbers are down from a more respectable but still not great for a PF 11.8% in '04-05.

    Highest Free Throw Points per game
    Team
    Player
    FTM/g
    FT%
    LAL  Bryant 9.4  .845 
    PHI  Iverson 9.1  .796 
    MIA  Wade 8.4  .785 
    LAC  Maggette 7.8  .871 
    DEN  Anthony 7.6  .791 
    WAS  Arenas 7.5  .811 
    BOS  Pierce 7.4  .776 
    CLE  James 7.3  .737 
    TOR  Bosh 6.9  .816 
    NJN  Jefferson 6.4  .779 
    Lowest Free Throw Points per game
    Team
    Player
    FTM/g
    FT%
    ATL  Harrington 3.5  .726 
    GSW  Richardson 3.5  .671 
    PHI  Webber 3.5  .778 
    SAS  Parker 3.4  .669 
    Bos/Min  Davis 3.1  .792 
    POR  Randolph 3.0  .723 
    ATL  Johnson 3.0  .785 
    TOR  James 2.9  .821 
    PHO  Marion 2.8  .773 
    WAS  Jamison 2.8  .715 
    We haven't done the study on it yet, but it seems pretty likely that players who are good at drawing fouls will have more consistency on a game to game basis, and all of the leaders in this category do a good job of milking the "free points" from the free throws.

    Kevin Pelton recently wrote an article for SI.com detailing the increase in free throw attempts for perimeter players and that is certainly evident in the free throw numbers here where we have to go down to #9 Chris Bosh to find a true "big man". Wondering about the scoring spike? There's your story...

    Lowest assisted % on made field goals
    Team
    Player
    Ast'd
    PassRtg
    NYK  Marbury 12%  10.3 
    PHI  Iverson 18%  11.2 
    GSW  Davis 18%  16.7 
    ORL  Francis 20%  11.3 
    PHO  Nash 20%  16.3 
    SAS  Parker 23%  8.4 
    MIA  Wade 28%  11.2 
    CLE  James 28%  9.5 
    DET  Billups 28%  13.4 
    HOU  McGrady 29%  5.6 
    Highest assisted % on made field goals
    Team
    Player
    Ast'd
    PassRtg
    MIN  Garnett 51%  7.4 
    GSW  Richardson 51%  3.5 
    UTA  Okur 53%  3.1 
    IND  O'Neal 56%  2.9 
    WAS  Jamison 56%  2.2 
    NJN  Jefferson 58%  4.2 
    LAC  Maggette 59%  2.5 
    Min/Bos  Szczerbiak 60%  3.6 
    DET  Hamilton 65%  6.0 
    PHO  Marion 69%  1.1 
    We'll wrap this up with the "shot creation" view -- the guys with low assisted percentages are able to create their own shot. Beating people off the dribble with ease also is a trait you'll find with many good passers, hence the 82games "Passer Rating" we've posted alongside. Marbury has had to endure a rough season to this point with Larry Brown's constant juggling of player rotations, starting lineups, and basic roles, and you have to imagine he's thinking it would be nice if his teammates could set him up once in a while...especially since he's been playing the SG spot ostensibly for a fair amount of minutes!

    On the other side of course you get the players who rely on the feed, with none other than Nash's leading receiver at the moment, Shawn Marion being the scorer with the highest assisted percentage. To keep things in perspective though, it's good to realize that none of these scorers are approaching the "must be assisted" levels in the 80 to 90% range. They've all got some moves!

    There are clearly some other areas of interest to address -- how players get their points in the course of the shot clock: in transition/fast breaks, in the mid part of the shot clock, etc. Also some of you "wise to our ways" people are wondering when we'll get to the team level issues: what correlates best with team success? What are the key ways to manufacture points if you want to win? How important is it to have a go-to scorer or two as opposed to five guys who can all contribute? Those are heavyweight topics though, and will have to wait for a follow-up piece.


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