They say defense wins championships, but you can't win a single game if you don't make shots. Scoring buckets is the key to every victory, and it is the coach's job to implement an offense that can generate quality looks.
But where the best shots come from can depend on the personnel, as we can see from the rankings below of the best shooters this season from every location on the floor.
Ray Allen and Steve Novak are regularly regarded as the best long-range shooters in the NBA, while guys like David West and Dirk Nowitzki are considered the kings of the mid-range shot. But do these guys actually deserve these reputations?
They did last season.
The long-distance shooters both earned their keep in 2011-12, as Novak (47.2 percent) led the league in three-point shooting percentage while Allen (45.3 percent) finished fifth among qualified leaders. Meanwhile, West (46.7 percent) and Nowitzki (46.4 percent) finished fifth and seventh in mid-range shooting, respectively, among those with at least 100 makes (Steve Nash led the league by hitting a silly 51.8 percent).
Has that carried over to 2012-13?
The Restricted Area (minimum 30 makes)
1. Serge Ibaka, 51-for-67 (76.1 percent)
2. Nick Collison, 35-for-46 (76.1)
3. Al Horford, 63-for-84 (75.0)
4. Josh Smith, 50-for-67 (74.6)
5. Matt Barnes, 32-for-43 (74.4)
6. Tyson Chandler, 70-for-95 (74.0)
7. Tim Duncan, 70-for-95 (73.7)
8. LeBron James, 75-for-102 (73.5)
9. Brook Lopez, 67-for-93 (72.0)
10. Andre Iguodala, 40-for-56 (71.4)
Just because a layup is the easiest shot to make doesn't mean everybody can make it. It's no surprise that those with the highest success rates tend to be those who are the tallest. But the list above can also help us uncover some other factors that help players score at a high rate down low.
You may notice that the first and second names on this list both play for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Add in the success of Thabo Sefolosha, who has gone 21-of-28 (75.0) in the restricted area, and it probably isn't a coincidence. My theory: The great perimeter play of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook opens up the interior, which helps create a lot of easy layups for everyone else.
This video is Exhibit A.
In the Paint (non-Restricted Area, minimum 15 makes)
1. George Hill, 16-for-26 (61.5 percent)
2. Kenneth Faried, 16-for-29 (55.2)
3. Chris Paul, 17-for-31 (54.8)
4. Jarrett Jack, 20-for-38 (52.6)
4. Joe Johnson, 20-for-38 (52.6)
6. Jermaine O'Neal, 11-for-21 (52.4)
7. David West, 35-for-70 (50.0)
7. David Lee, 20-for-40 (50.0)
7. Chris Kaman, 18-for-36 (50.0)
7. LeBron James, 17-for-34 (50.0)
7. Shawn Marion, 15-for-30 (50.0)
7. Patrick Patterson, 15-for-30 (50.0)
Shots inside the paint (but not in the restricted area) tend to produce the most random results. Attempts from there tend to be contested and taken off-balance. They seem to come by happenstance after a half-court set breaks down as often as they do by offensive design.
As a result, the names atop this list have a lot more year-to-year variation than they generally do for other locations. For example, none of the three guys who led the league last year (Emeka Okafor, LaMarcus Aldridge and Roy Hibbert topped the list of those who made at least 50 from the paint) even show up in this year's Top 12, and the current leader, George Hill, has finished the past three seasons with rates of 42.5, 51.8 and 34.3 percent from this spot.
There can be some consistency, however. Jarrett Jack also finished fourth last season, and Chris Paul and Joe Johnson have been successful from here throughout their careers.
The Mid-Range (minimum 20 makes)
1. Chris Bosh, 48-for-85 (56.5 percent)
2. Beno Udrih, 28-for-51 (54.9)
3. Jason Terry, 29-for-53 (54.7)
4. Serge Ibaka, 48-for-90 (53.3)
5. Luke Ridnour, 37-for-70 (52.9)
6. Anderson Varejao, 29-for-55 (52.7)
7. Courtney Lee, 17-for-33 (51.5)
8. Marc Gasol, 23-for-45 (51.1)
9. Damian Lillard, 30-for-60 (50.0)
10. Rajon Rondo, 26-for-53 (49.1)
Chris Bosh has taken a lot of flak in recent years, both for an unfair perception that he is "soft" and for riding the coattails of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. None of this has prevented him from being among the league's best mid-range shooters, however. He consistently shoots well above league average from between 10 feet and the three-point line.
It is no surprise to see him atop this list, but he has been especially adept in 2012-13. His catch-and-shoot game couldn't be better, as 74.5 percent of his made baskets have been assisted compared to a league average of 59.3 percent.
Nobody expects Bosh to continue to stick mid-range jumpers at this pace. But as long as he can continue to be one of the best floor spacers in the game and keep drawing big men away from the rim, it will only make it easier for James and Wade to attack the paint.
Above-the-Break Three (minimum 15 makes)
1. O.J. Mayo, 41-for-75 (54.7 percent)
2. Jose Calderon, 29-for-56 (51.8)
3. Jason Kidd, 15-for-30 (50.0)
4. Andre Iguodala, 19-for-40 (47.5)
5. J.R. Smith, 17-for-36 (47.2)
6. Vince Carter, 36-for-77 (46.8)
7. Ray Allen, 15-for-33 (45.5)
8. Kevin Martin, 29-for-64 (45.3)
9. Aaron Brooks, 19-for-42 (45.2)
10. Carmelo Anthony, 33-for-73 (45.2)
In descending order, the most efficient shots in the modern NBA come from (1) the restricted area, (2) the free-throw line and (3) behind the arc. The three-point shot's days as a gimmick are long gone. Today, to win a title, you have to be able to knock down the triple.
None have shot it as well as O.J. Mayo, who is scorching nets at a torrid pace. The Knicks, too, seemingly can't miss. Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony all appear in the Top 10 list above.
It's ironic: New York had to part ways with coach Mike D'Antoni in order to start making their threes. Last year, the team hit just 33.6 percent of its treys (21st in the NBA). Now, with Mike Woodson at the helm full-time, the team is hitting 41.6 percent, making the Knicks one of just three teams north of 40 percent.
Corner Three (minimum 10 makes)
1. Ben Gordon, 11-for-15 (73.3)
2. Ray Allen, 15-for-24 (62.5)
3. Jerry Stackhouse, 14-for-23 (60.9)
4. Steve Novak, 22-for-39 (56.4)
5. Kevin Martin, 12-for-22 (54.5)
5. Thabo Sefolosha, 12-for-22 (54.5)
7. Shane Battier, 19-for-36 (52.8)
8. Chandler Parsons, 11-for-21 (52.4)
9. Rashard Lewis, 10-for-20 (50.0)
10. Ryan Anderson, 10-for-21 (47.6)
The corner three has become a staple of nearly every NBA offense. With the length of today's players, there simply isn't much room to operate, which can make it critical to stash a capable shooter in the corner as a safety valve to pass to when the defense cheats into the middle. It keeps the opponent honest.
What makes Ben Gordon's accuracy from the corner so impressive is that his team, the Charlotte Bobcats, is one of the few that rarely shoots from this area. Last season, for example, the team only attempted 145, good for last in the NBA and making them only one of two squads to shoot fewer than 200 (the Utah Jazz being the other).
This season, there are six teams that have taken fewer than the Bobcats' 66 tries, but Gordon alone has made more than one-third of Charlotte's successful corner threes. Given this, it seems that both Gordon (who's shooting 73.3 percent from there) and the whole team (which has hit 45.5 percent, good for No. 3 in the league) should consider ramping up the number they attempt.
(Shooting charts courtesy of NBA.com. All shot location data via NBA.com and HoopData.com)
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