In a league in which success is significantly determined by 3-point shooting, a very positive development for the Spurs early in the season is that Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell are apparently very good at shooting from distance. Currently, Johnson (42%, 8.7 attempts per game) and Vassell (48%, 7.3 attempts per game) are comfortably above the league averages in volume (~2.9 attempts per game) and accuracy (35%). The purpose of this Professor’s Corner is to examine the outside shooting landscape within the NBA.
This first figure displays 3-point attempts per game and accuracy (%) for the 110 players in the NBA that have played at least 100 offensive possessions and averaged at least two 3-point attempts per game. This is one of my favorite plots since it visually illustrates two innate rules in professional basketball.
- Shots become more difficult (mo’ shots, mo’ problems): There are a limited number of open shots in a basketball game, and the remaining shots are more contested. Thus, there’s a downward slope to the ceiling of attempts per game and the percent accuracy. The more outside shots an athlete takes the higher the difficulty of the additional shots. For example, Kelly Olynyk of the Utah Jazz is shooting nearly 60% from beyond the arc in 3.2 attempts per game. If Mr. Olynyk would increase to 6.0 attempts per game, he would be forced to take harder shots and his accuracy would decrease.
- Lower percent accuracy means less shots. Excluding Luka doncic, via his nearly impossible panorama of shots, and the currently slumping LeBron James, shooting well below league average is an excellent pathway to taking less shots. In a talent-saturated league teams will navigate to find other players to take the open shots.
The High-Volume Shooters of the League
This figure focuses on the High Volume 3-point shooters in the NBA. There are 49 players in the league averaging at least 5.5 outside shots per game, and Johnson and Vassell are two players who are thriving within this cohort. Keldon, never shy, is launching 8.7 attempts per game and hitting 7% above league average. Devin, slightly less thespian, is taking an impressive 7.3 per game and hitting a radioactive 13 percent above league average, making him the 4th most accurate shooter on this chart. Vassell is also 5th in this cohort by scoring 1.16 point per possession. (FYI: Steph Curry is 3rd and Jayson Tatum is 4th — slick company to say the least.) Finally, Keldon, showing his expanding game, is in the top quarter of this group in free throw rate. (Both Devin Booker and LeBron James are BEHIND him in this statistic!) Conclusively, both Johnson and Vassell have had a wonderful start to the season.
It’s going to be a tough season, as evidenced by the fact that the Spurs are down to 27th in point differential. But the point of this campaign is to develop the young players. And, in this aspect, the volume and accuracy of Johnson’s and Vassell’s outside shooting point exactly to what the Spurs need for future success.
A Couple closing points regarding the charts.
- Enjoy every shot: Stephen Curry is still the most amazing shooter in the NBA. His incredible volume while still above league average in accuracy is something for the ages.
- Former Spurs: Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker are also on this chart. With Trae Young as a teammate, Dejounte has altered his ratio of corner to above-the break 3-pointers and has shown a subsequent increase in his accuracy to roughly league average. Lonnie, after nightmare start, has pulled himself back near 30%.