Ian Levy of Hickory High has a fantastic follow to The Hook's recent forays into shot creation, looking at the quality of shots created. As Ian accurately points out, not all shots are created equally. Russell Westbrook is basically the poster child for this line of thinking, in addition to being the spark that got me thinking about this matter. Some of the shots Russ creates are alley-oops to Kevin Durant. Those are effective shots, and he deserves kudos for creating them. Some of the shots Russ creates are pull-up jumpers in traffic. He ain't no Beno Udrih. Those are not effective shots for him, and it'd probably be better if he didn't create them.
But I hold that there's real value in looking at shot creation in this fashion, in addition to the efficiency-focused angle Ian takes. The initial goal of my exploration was focused on Westbrook and Durant, and how their basketball relationship has developed when compared to other duos and teams. Part of that exploration did show that Westbrook was a much bigger creator than Durant (and almost all 20-ppg scorers), but was also among the least efficient. Here's that map again:
Westbrook is a huge creator, but is inefficient. Durant uses as many or more shots than he creates, but he's efficient doing it. That's important. Ian's further dive in looking at True Shooting percentage for self-created shots is also important -- it's a good next step in breaking down shot creation to its core elements, a major one of which is shot selection.
There's one major item holding us back here, though: the lack of information about potential assists in the NBA. Thanks to tracking efforts by Hoopdata.com and others, we know how many assisted makes and unassisted makes from each region of the floor players rack up. But we don't have a similar breakdown for misses. We can estimate those numbers based on assisted make percentage -- if 50 percent of a player's makes are assisted, 50 percent of their misses would be, too -- but that undersells the value of the assist. You'd expect that players will shoot better on all assisted shots than unassisted shots, so the assist percentage for misses should (in theory) be lower than it is for makes. An older study from 82games.com indicates that this is true: assisted two-pointers are much more likely to go in than unassisted two-point jumpers. (Consider this another plea for potential assist tracking in the NBA.)
Other than commit a turnover, the worst thing a player can do in the macro view in trying to create a shot is to take an unassisted two-point jumper. Unassisted "close" shots are bad, too -- Hoopdata shows that the conversion rate for shots from 5-10 feet are as low or lower than those from 10-15 and 16-23 feet. Unsurprisingly, the assist rates for those closer jumpers are lower than for long two-point jumpers.
So who takes the most unassisted jumpers in the NBA? If you assume a player's assist percentage for misses is similar to its assist percentage for makes, Kobe Bryant is your king: he takes in excess of an estimated 10 unassisted jumpers per 36 minutes. Westbrook would be No. 2, followed by Derrick Rose, LeBron James and St. Steve Nash. Four of those guys are high-scorers, the other is perhaps the most ball-dominant point guard in the league not named Derrick Rose.
That tells us something, but I'm also interested in who relies on the unassisted jumper for most of their created shots -- this was what Ian seemed to want to get at: whose created shots were largely not that valuable? Analysts talk about shots that you can get at any time, usually while deriding an early shot-clock jumper off the dribble. That type of shot fits this criteria.
Among players with 40 games with one team and who played 30 minutes per game, Nick Young led the league with a full 60 percent of his created shots coming on unassisted jumpers. The only other players who saw more than half of their estimated created shots come on unassisted jumpers were Michael Beasley (56 percent), Tayshaun Prince, Andrea Bargnani, Kobe Bryant, Anthony Morrow and Rudy Gay. Joe Johnson, LaMarcus Aldridge and Amar'e Stoudemire are among the big names near the top of the list.
Kobe's placement is telling; he takes a ton of shots compared to Young, Prince and the others. And more than half of all shots he creates are jumpers for himself. Half of his created shots are just unassisted jumpers; the other half is free throws ... and assists ... and shots at the rim. He is possibly the most dribble-dribble-shoot player of all-time.
Whither KD and Westbrook? Well, 44 percent of Durant's created shots are unassisted jumpers. Westbrook is all the way down at 35 percent, middle of the pack for this set of players. He creates a lot of shots for teammates, free throws and, as it turns out, shots at the rim. Russ was far and away the leader in unassisted shots created at the rim last season, with an estimated 437. Rose came in second with 391, and Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James followed.
We'll the organize the data for wider consumption in the coming days.
The Hook runs Monday through Friday. See the archives.