Shot Charts for 10 NBA Superstars
For years, everyone has yelled at LeBron James to post up more. Players that possess his size have no business standing out on the perimeter, jacking up jump shots.
He has finally changed his game and is shooting from the paint much more often. The result has been LeBron playing some of the greatest basketball that the league has ever seen.
This goes to show that where a player shoots from can often be almost as important as how well they actually shoot. So to advance that conversation and illustrate where some of the league's biggest stars have been attempting their shots from, here is an array of shot-location charts from 10 of the NBA's biggest names.
(All shot-location data and shot charts courtesy of NBA.com/Stats. Green denotes that a player has shot above the league average in a location whereas red denotes below-average numbers and yellow represents average.)
LeBron James is shooting better than he ever has. When you keep in mind that he is a career 48.5 percent shooter, that is downright scary.
His increasing efficiency in recent years—not to mention his 54.1 percent from the floor this season—is due, in large part, to shot selection. He rarely mails in possessions by settling for contested three-pointers. Now, he focuses his attack towards the paint, and when he does shoot from behind the arc, he generally takes good looks.
This can best be illustrated simply by watching him operate with the ball in his hands, but the 42.4 percent he is shooting from three-point range on a mere 3.0 attempts per 36 minutes tells a lot. The volume is a slight increase from last season (when he shot a career-low 2.3 three-pointers per 36 minutes), but it is a long way from the career-high 4.7 attempts he put up per 36 minutes during his last season playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
His woeful free-throw shooting—at a career-low 67.5 percent—is the lone flaw in what has otherwise been arguably the greatest season in the career of the game's best player.
Quite frankly, Kevin Durant is the best-shooting superstar in the NBA. He is dangerous from every spot on the floor.
If you look at his shot chart, you will see that he almost never shoots from the corners and that there are a few regions in the mid-range area where he hasn't been accurate so far this year—specifically, the two red 2-for-9 spots.
I doubt those blemishes will remain by the end of the season, though.
The red that currently exists is likely a temporary byproduct of happenstance. Durant is probably getting the ball more often in other areas, by design, and is having to force some contested looks in the trouble spots.
Basically, I don't believe that he will continue to miss from these areas ranging from 15 to 23 feet.
That, combined with that fact that KD is shooting better overall than he ever has, means that you can expect the red to become yellower—or even greener—as his attempts increase.
Kobe Bryant currently leads the league in field-goal attempts. That is nothing new. He has been the league leader in field-goal attempts during the past two seasons, and he has done so for a total of five times during his career. He has not led the league in field goals made, however, since 2006-07.
But so far this season, he does.
He is playing his best offense in years. It oddly hasn't led to wins, but it's foolish to think that 2012 Kobe scoring like younger Kobe is what is holding back the Los Angeles Lakers. Look to the defense, to the injuries and to the bench if you want to find a good person to blame.
But if you want to see how the Black Mamba is doing, just look to this chart. His shot volume and shot selection is clearly not the problem in L.A.
Russell Westbrook wouldn't be Russell Westbrook if he only took good shots.
But, man, has he missed a ton this year.
Westbrook is not shooting well from any area of the floor so far this season. His 36.5 percent from three-point range is the best of his career, but it isn't exactly superb for a guy shooting 4.2 triples per night.
That's not the real issue though.
The problem is everywhere else: the mid-range shooting (35.0 percent), the shooting in the paint (32.6 percent, not including the restricted area) and at the rim (52.7 percent). These numbers all represent a precipitous drop-off from his production last season.
This has been the year that Carmelo Anthony has finally figured out how to blend his uncanny scoring abilities into a total team-oriented attack.
It is somewhat ironic, then, that his only struggles have come while trying to do something that he has always excelled at: scoring at the bucket.
After flirting with 60 percent from the restricted area in the past three seasons, he has shot just 49.6 percent from that area this season—a number more befitting of a diminutive point guard who slices the lane and throws layups high off the glass rather than the NBA's bully-ball master.
Still, missing layups is one of the more forgivable sins a scorer can commit, because simply getting to the rim has a value in and of itself.
First, you can draw fouls. And second, you force the defense to rotate. This opens up the perimeter for shots, which the Knicks have been drilling all season.
Lastly, even if you do take a shot and miss, the defense's focus on the player with the ball opens up the lane for guys like Tyson Chandler to tip in any errant attempts.
This may be a factor in Chandler's career-high offensive rebounding rate this season.
Looking at Dwight Howard's shot chart doesn't tell you much. This is mostly because he has attempted 252 of his 280 shots from within eight feet of the hoop. Of those shots, 203 have come within the restricted area.
So the only real question we can ask here is simple: Has Howard been making his shots close to the basket?
And the simple answer is yes.
The more nuanced perspective, however, recognizes that he still should be shooting better.
Sixty-six percent is fine for a mere mortal—and it is an improvement over the disappointing 64.2 percent of shots that he made in the restricted area last season. But for Dwight, who has previously had seasons above 70 percent, he still has a lot of room to improve.
Like his running mate in Miami, Dwyane Wade has spent the past few seasons cutting bad three-point attempts out of his game. Wade, however, has taken it to a whole other level, shooting just 31 percent from three-point land so far this season.
The result has been a surprisingly efficient year from a player who has looked sluggish at times.
A lot of this can be attributed to his ability to get in the lane. He has so far scored 53.1 percent of his points in the paint.
Unfortunately, however, he has been at his worst when superstars are supposed to be the ones lifting their teammates: He is shooting just 42.1 percent in the fourth quarter this year and 40.3 percent on the road.
Chris Paul is known more for his otherworldly ability to run an offense than for his shot-making ability, but he has always been a capable scorer who can put points on the board from any area of the court.
This season, however, he is shooting his worst from three-point range since his rookie season.
It is hard to explain why with much certainty.
The Los Angeles Clippers have the league's fourth-best offense this year, and the team as a whole shoots three-pointers at a league-average rate. Caron Butler, Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe are all even shooting well above their career averages.
Such evidence makes it seem like we're probably watching an early-season slump. Paul plays in a good offense that is creating good enough looks from behind the arc to allow others to thrive.
It is probably just a matter of time until he starts making his shots, per usual.
Many thought that better teammates were all that Deron Williams needed to revert back to his old self. So far, that hasn't entirely been the case.
He is running an excellent offense, and the Brooklyn Nets were—until lately—winning more games than some had expected. But D-Will's ability make shots has not returned to the level that we came to know during his Utah Jazz days.
Fortunately, for Brooklyn, the problem looks to be somewhat correctable. Williams needs to stop shooting so many three-pointers, because he has been atrocious from deep.
There are 32 NBA players who take five or more three-point attempts per game, and only three are shooting below 30 percent.
Of those who do, Williams shoots the most at 5.8 threes per game.
There aren't many players in the league who make as high of a rate from the mid-range area than Kevin Garnett.
KG is a glaring example of why it can still be such a great location from which to shoot—for the right players.
Among superstars, he is arguably the "King of the Long Two."
This season, Garnett has hit 51.8 percent (87-for-168) of his shots from between 10 and 24 feet. That has been good enough to put him as the fifth-most accurate shooter from mid-range among NBA players who have attempted at least 50 shots from the region.
He has missed a few big shots in clutch situations, however. Overall, in fourth-quarter and overtime situations this season, he is just 23-for-54 (42.6 percent).
So, as Boston Celtics fans have seen this year, you live by the long two, you die by the long two.