Why Kawhi Leonard's shot chart is so encouraging

Kawhi Leonard is a great finisher but that's not all he can do - Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Many things make players different on offense, and shot charts are often revealing in terms of those differences. J. Gomez takes a look at the charts of different Spurs player and loves what he sees, especially from Kawhi Leonard.

One of my favorite parts of the NBA's stats page is shot charts. They can tell you a lot about a player and what it is that makes him successful. With that in mind, I decided to look at the Spurs perimeter player's shot charts and see what they revealed about each of them.

The blue charts represent shot distribution, which is the percentage of total shots the player takes from that area. The yellow, red and green shot chart represent shot performance or what percentage of shots from each area the player is hitting. Red means more than 5% below league average, yellow means less than 5% above or below league average and green represents above league average by more than 5%. Click on the images to enlarge.

Tony Parker

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Parker takes most of his shots inside the arc with almost 40% of his attempts coming inside the restricted area. His mid-range jumper is deadly (7.7% above league average) and if he gets into the lane, he usually finishes well. The coolest part about Tony's shot charge for me is that he's actually really good from the corners in limited attempts. Since he's usually playing lead guard, those open corner shots are not as available for him as they are for others but Tony has become a better corner shooter and he's taking a few more shots from there this season. It might allow the Spurs to play him off the ball for stints, which only contributes to make the offense more versatile.

Gary Neal

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Neal is almost exclusively a perimeter shooter. He doesn't get into the paint a lot, mostly because he can't finish there against help defense. What Neal does very well is maintain his efficiency from mid-range and on above the break three pointers even though he takes both shots at a very high clip. Now Gary won't suddenly become better at driving to the basket, but playing him more off the ball, as many have argued for, could probably get him more chances from the corner, where he shoots very well but not as often.

Danny Green

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Danny is the model of efficiency on his shot selection: a lot of threes, including a healthy amount from the corner, and shots at the rim. The mid-range is not his game and he knows it, even though he can hit that shot if it's available. What hurts Danny is that he is not a good finisher around the rim, even if he is vastly improved over last season, when he shot 52.3%. He still shoots 3.6% worse than the league average on shots inside the restricted area and his floater is probably responsible for that terrible percentage from inside the paint, which is not surprising.

What is great to see is how well he is hitting above the break three pointers, where he scores at 10.7% above league average. He is actually shooting better from the there than from the corner and that's very rare. Green may be prone to inconsistency but he's still one heck of a shooter.

Manu Ginobili

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Contrary to popular belief, Ginobili is actually getting to the rim consistently and finishing at 4.1% above league average inside the restricted area. He's also hitting the corner three at a very high rate and is only shooting 3.1% below league average from above the break, which is better than I would have imagined.

What is absolutely killing Manu is his inefficient mid-range shooting. Ginobili has never been a great mid-range shooter but his career average of 37.3% justified his somewhat numerous attempts from there. Needless to say, this season that hasn't been the case. The good news is, Manu is under performing his career averages so we can expect an uptick as he gets healthier.

Stephen Jackson

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Jackson, much like Richard Jefferson, had to undergo a transformation when he joined the Spurs. He used to be a heavy usage player that took a lot of mid-range jumpers and for a good reason: his career numbers show him to be a below-average shooter from all over the floor, but where he was closest to average was in his mid-range game.

With the Spurs he is not taking that shot any more, choosing instead to take the theoretically efficient three point shot. The amount of corner threes he takes doubled from his career numbers and the percentage of three pointers (including corner and above the break threes) is nearly half of his total attempts this season (49.2%) whereas three pointers only account for 32.8% of his total career attempts. Those extra three point attempts come directly from his taking fewer mid-range jumpers.

Unfortunately, Jackson has been nothing short of atrocious from three point land this season. That, combined with his below average conversion rate at the rim, make him a disaster as an offensive player so far. There are two silver linings here. The first is Jackson is shooting so far below his career averages that at least some regression to the mean is to be expected, especially when he gets over his injured finger. The second is that he is still doing a solid job from mid-range. If he's chased off the three point line, he at least can hit a jumper. And of course, we've seen Jack go absolutely crazy from three in the last playoffs, so there's that.

Kawhi Leonard

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Which brings us to Leonard, who takes a similar amount of shots from his three preferred spots. 27.4% of his attempts come from the corners, 29.5% from inside the restricted area and 20.8% from mid-range. The crazy part is that he's well above average from those three spots and well below average from the other two (the paint outside of the restricted area and above the break three). While the fact that he struggles to make non-corner threes might be a cause for concern, it's amazing to see how efficient Leonard is in his shot selection, which skews heavily to spots from where he thrives.

After a rookie season in which he took too many above the break threes, Leonard understood his limitations and has more than doubled his percentage of attempts from the corner, from 12.1% to 27.4% of his total attempts. He also started taking more mid-range jumpers (from 18.1% of his attempts to 20.8%) and the results so far have been fantastic. After shooting a decent but below average 37% of his mid-range attempts his rookie year, Leonard is now hitting a ridiculous 52.9% (12.8% above league average) and is only three shots away from matching his total attempts from last season.

Pop has noticed his ability and is now calling some plays for Leonard to shoot off hand-offs from a big. Since opponents are noticing too, Leonard now has the threat of his mid-range J to make up for his sometimes shaky handle, which is allowing him to get to the rim off the dribble (only 50% of his makes at the rim come from assists, down from 56.6% from last season). An improved mid-range game to go with his great corner shooting and efficient finishing ability have Leonard ahead of schedule in his quest to become a featured offensive player.

Stats via NBA.com/stats and Hoopdata

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