In the modern game, shot selection has become even more important. We now know that FG% is an imperfect way to measure efficiency, so new metrics such as EFG or Points Per Shot provide more illumination into the efficiency of a player or an offense or defense. A team's margin in EFG or Points Per Shot is the most factor in determining their net rating AKA winning games.
Using shot descriptions in play by play data, we are able to group shots based on 3 different locations on the court, at the rim, mid-range, and 3 pointers. Using this information we are able to get a better understanding of a team or player's tendencies and how efficient they are when it comes to their shots generated and allowed.
We can also see how a certain player affects what shots are being taken by his teammates when he’s on or off the court. Using this same data, we can analyze what kind of shots the team is forcing on defense with the player in the lineup. An example of this is when a player is on the court is the team taking more shots at the rim and converting at a higher percentage than when he is on the bench? On defense, is a player’s presence on the court helping the team defense prevent more shots from 3 point? Using the shot profiles we can get insights like these.
Why is this important?
Looking at where players make and take their shots from can help teams better understand their shot distribution and where they can make improvements or prevent their opponents from taking shots from certain locations. For example if a player shoots a lower percentage from the mid-range and takes a high number of shots from there we want them to continue taking low percentage shots instead of their more efficient options. Why should we look at the assist percentage? This helps understand different roles of players in the offense. Are they spotting up and receiving passes from other players? Or are they creating shots off the dribble? This information helps better scout opponents and how they like to shoot.
What is the difference between shot charts?
Shot charts show every single shot taken and location on the court. Normally you can look at the shots taken by the team from every spot taken and see their efficiency, the same with the player throughout the game. However using our data we can see the shots taken when that player was in the lineup so we can see the effect he has on his teammates shots being taken and made compared to when he is off the court.
Let’s take an example of shot profiles of a player and see what insights we can get from them using LeBron James from the Los Angeles Lakers.
As one of the best players in the NBA, LeBron James is elite at getting shots at the rim and converting at around 70%. Looking at his shot distribution he takes most of his shots from there. Only 28.7% of his shots there were assisted which shows us that he is capable of creating scoring opportunities at the rim by himself.
Another impressive feat is his ability to create three point shots and mid-range shots for himself as his assisted rate on those types of shots are both low compared to spot up shooters that normally average 80-90% of their shots assisted in those locations.
Los Angeles Lakers shot profile when LeBron James is on the court
Now let's take a look at the types of shots generated by LeBron James for his teammates compared to when he sits.
Los Angeles Lakers shot profile when LeBron James is not on the court
There is a 4% drop in shots at the rim when LeBron is on the bench as well as a 4% drop in FG% at the rim. His ability to make shots and create shots for others at the rim is evident when he is in the game. His impact is also visible when it comes to 3 point shots, There is a 3% drop in FG% from 3 and the team also takes 2% less shots from that area.
Using the shot profile we can get a better understanding of the kinds of shots a player can generate for the team not only on an individual level but also for the team as a whole.