Re-Ranking the NBA's Top 20 Scorers During the 2012-13 Season

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Re-Ranking the NBA's Top 20 Scorers During the 2012-13 Season
USA TODAY Sports

Scoring is more glamorous than anything else that happens on a basketball court, which is why the top point-producers in the NBA tend to receive an inordinate amount of attention. 

However, that attention is often focused incorrectly. 

It's not enough to say that someone is great at scoring because they record a ridiculous number of points per game. The same is true if an efficiency stat like field-goal percentage is the sole basis of your analysis. 

There's often a trade-off between volume and efficiency, which makes it all the more impressive when a player couples a high number of shots with an impressive ability to hit shots at a high clip. The type of shots matter as well. 

As a result, this article focuses on re-ranking the top 20 scorers in the NBA—in terms of points per game—by looking at their shooting from the field. That last phrase is important, as free-throw shooting does not factor into the equation here. 

To do this, I'm going to be using a new metric called "Shooting Above Average," or SAA. 

The metric is similar to replacement-level statistics like baseball's WAR in that it compares a player to a replacement. In this case, we'll be looking at how shooter's perform from various spots on the court compared to the league average. 

It can be calculated by summing the results from each of the 14 zones on the court. Those results are determined by subtracting the league average field-goal percentage from the player's field-goal percentage from that zone, then multiplying the difference by the number of attempts a player takes from that area. 

For example, let's say a hypothetical player makes 10 of his 20 attempts from the top of the key. The league average from that zone is 34.2 percent, so the hypothetical player would receive the following calculation for the zone: (50.0-34.2)*20. 

Once that was done for each of the 14 zones and the results were summed, you'd have his SAA. 

The overarching concept is that you're comparing a player to a perfectly average shooter. This average player would shoot the league average from each of the 14 zones, thus earning an SAA of zero. Accordingly, a positive SAA is better than a negative one. 

So, let's see how our top 20 scorers stack up in terms of shooting ability and performance. 

Note: All stats are current through Jan. 31, and both shooting statistics and shot charts come from NBA.com

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