Ed’s Note: This article is written by Greg Mason, who is a regular guest on The Doctor Is In podcast, and while the pod is on hiatus till the new season, Greg takes a look at how the Raptors fare in the brand new Nylon Calculus shot charts.  Follow Greg on Twitter at @VotaryOfHoops.

Thanks in large part to the analytics movement, shooting is at a premium in the league now more than ever. Look no further than the Channing Frye signing for evidence as to how much teams value guys who can space the floor and create lanes to the rim. Successful teams make a lot of shots at the basket and they make a lot of threes. San Antonio and Miami led the league in shots made within 5 feet, 382 and 311, respectively (the Raptors made 109 shots, good for 12th), and both teams finished in the top 5 in 3 point field goals made. Teams who couldn’t space the floor, see Detroit and Utah, were a train wreck. The Raptors were slightly better than middle of the pack as shooters last season. They finished 13th in the league in 3FGM and 15th in 3FG%.

This week Austin Clemens (@AustinClemens2) of Nylon Calculus (part of the Hardwood Paroxysm network) compiled VERY cool and HIGHLY addictive shot charts of every player from the 1996-1997 season forward.

Kyle Lowry:

  • Good shooter despite impediment of carrying around onions larger than Oliver Miller’s plate at the country buffet, (46 % of FGA were 3s)
  • Career highs last season in 3P% (38), FGA, FGM and PER (20.1)
  • Excels from the deep wings, loves that fake drive, step back three
  • Poor from mid-range and right corner, almost never shoots from mid-range on right side
  • Finishes well in the paint, struggles a bit right at the rim
Kyle Lowry Nylon Calculus Shot Chart

DeMar DeRozan:

  • The narrative about DeRozan’s game is generally confirmed by the shot chart
  • Very good in the paint, good from right corner (small sample size)
  • Shoots A LOT of long mid-range jumpers, 36.2 % of FGA were between 16 feet and 3 point arc
  • Career best 30.5 3P% , still well below league average
  • Favors left side of the floor
DeMar DeRozan

Terrence Ross:

  • Likes the 3 ball: 39.5 3P%, 54.3 % of his FGA last season from beyond the arc
  • Really likes the left corner and deep right wing
  • Not nearly as effective from deep left wing and right corner
  • Explosive athlete but lanky and doesn’t love contact. Better finisher in the paint than expected
Terrence Ross

Amir Johnson:

  • Mr. Efficiency
  • Very good in the paint, 73 % of his shots within 10 feet or less
  • Impressive mid-range shooter, 58.6 % from 10-16 feet
  • Worked the 3 ball into his game this season. Though he was above league average in certain spots shot only 30.3 3P% for the season
Amir Johnson

Jonas Valanciunas:

  • Big J, that left side baseline jumper isn’t working out so hot for you, brother! 37 % shooter from 10-16 feet.
  • Generally pretty good in the paint. The little running hook in front of the basketball was the one major trick in his arsenal and the shot chart shows that it was pretty darn effective.
  • Jonas is working with Hakeem the Dream this summer and I, for one, am freaking excited. (Man crush alert)
Jonas Valanciunas

Greivis Vasquez:

  • His shot chart is EXACTLY what you would expect.
  • Gravy V is money when he shoots those runners in front of the rim and somewhat of a disaster on his wild drives to the right side of the basket
  • I expect his percentages to improve this season with some additional scorers on the second unit. Won’t be forced to carry such a heavy offensive burden.
  • He’s a good 3 point shooter (38%) but surprisingly weak from the corners
Greivis Vasquez

Patrick Patterson:

  • Patterson has found a home. Fills much needed role of ‘stretch-4’ on the team. 31% of FGA were from beyond the arc.
  • 41 3P% as a Raptor, excels from left corner and deep right wing
  • Mixed bag from mid-range. Much better from left baseline. 46% from 10-16 feet
Patrick Patterson

Lou Williams:

  • Not exactly a model of efficiency, but will provide a much needed scoring option off the bench
  • Not a terrible 3-point shooter (34% career) but he should probably stop shooting from the left side of the court altogether
  • Can drill the right corner 3, most of team prefers left corner
  • Good shooter from straight on. Likes the runner.
Lou Williams

James Johnson:

  • Thank God he can play defense
  • Sweet neck tattoos, skilled martial artist, big wing defender, terrible 3-point shooter
  • 26.6 % career shooter from beyond the arc
  • Shot scorching 78 % (3% of total FGA) from 10-16 feet, but most of his mid-range game consisted of long 2s (7.5% of FGA), where he shot a meager 26%
James Johnson

Tyler Hansbrough:

  • Great job, Tyler.
Tyler Hansbrough

Landry Fields:

  • Injuries have derailed Fields’ shot and his confidence, perhaps irrevocably
  • Just look at the drop off in his shooting from his rookie to sophomore years. He was a guy who shot 39% from beyond the arc his rookie season (2.7 attempts per game) to 26 % his second year.
  • The Raptors then decided to give him $20 million dollars. He’s shot 19 threes in his two seasons in Toronto; down slightly from the 340 that he shot his first two seasons in New York.
Landry Fields
Landry Fields

Chuck Hayes:

  • 6’5 center who can’t jump is predictably horrid in the paint
  • We’ll always have that gorgeous 22-foot runner though
Chuck Hayes

Final thoughts:

I’m skeptical that DeRozan will ever become a league average 3-point shooter, but he’s proved me wrong before. One thing that he can certainly work on this season is cutting down on mid-range jumpers. The Raptors are essentially a slightly above average shooting team in the league. There are several guys on the team who can stroke the three at a respectable clip (Lowry, Vasquez, Ross, Patterson) but they lost their one elite shooter when they sent Novak to Utah for salary relief purposes. They’ve added two below average shooters in Williams and Johnson and lost Salmons who was wretched inside the arc but among the best three point shooters on the team. Bruno has a nice shot and his go-to move so far in summer league has been the step back three (lessons from Lowry already?) but I don’t expect him to be a rotation guy at this juncture in his career. Simply put, on paper the Raps are a worse shooting team than they were last season but probably not in a particularly meaningful way. If they shoot well and create the requisite space for driving lanes to the basket, the personnel by-and-large does a good job of finishing in the paint.

Data for this article was provided by basketball-reference.com.

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27 Responses to “The Raptors and the NBA’s Shooting Revolution – the Nylon Calculus Shot Charts”

  1. jclaw

    Thanks for the post. Interesting patters. It looks like having Lou and PPat as part of the second unit will help them cover for eachothers’ weak areas around the arc

    • puffer

      Only if they pass to each other. Passing on the Raptors started out great after the Gay trade and deteriorated as the season progressed. Hopefully the coaches and players have noted that.

  2. jjdynomite

    Doesn’t time on the court have to be slightly higher than 10 MPG before declaring Novak an “elite shooter”?

    Facts from basketball-reference:
    2013-14 – In his age 30 season, Novak made 1 of 2.3 3s last year, a .426 clip, which is great for what it’s worth, but a steep decline from….
    2012-13 – In his age 29 season, when still on the Knicks, Novak made 1.8 of 4.3 3s, a .425 clip, and yet another steep decline from…
    2011-12 – In his age 28 season on the Knicks, Novak made 2.5 of 5.2 3s, a .472 clip… and that was in his age-28 season, the age at which an athlete is at his peak performance.

    *At no time else* in his 8-season career did Novak exceed 1.8 3PTM (2012-13), let alone 2.5 (2011-12). That includes all the seasons before that. Maybe that 2011-2012 Knicks season was an extreme outlier since everyone else on that team seemed to go nuts with the 3s. The system may have carried him and hid his weaknesses, as opposed to any particular coaching success. Remember, no better talent evaluators that the San Antonio Spurs had Novak on their team on 2010-11 and they still dumped him.

    To argue that Casey misused Novak is lame. Last season, when Lowry, T-Ross, PPatterson and Greivis all had above average or personal best long-distance shooting seasons. So Novak declined — and all those core players rose — yet it’s Casey’s fault? Conversely, who is to say Lou Williams can’t regain his touch being another season removed from serious injury?

    Maybe it’s the fact that Novak couldn’t do anything else besides hit up spot-up 3s (I repeat: age 30, declining athlete) likely resulted in Casey not playing him in favour of younger guys. I’m sure Hasheem Thabeet could block a lot of shots too if given a chance… except he sucks at everything else.

    P.S. Looking at Landry’s shot charts makes me sad for him that his career has fallen so far off the rails, and then angry that Colangelo obviously bought high based on past performance (along with the ludicrous desire for geriatric Steve Nash to come aboard what should have been a rebuilding team). What a mess all around, that thankfully will be resolved one way or another this coming (off)season. See ya, Lionel Ritchie.

    • rapierraptor

      Hey JJ, good points. Didn’t mean to come off as critical of Casey at all for not giving Novak minutes – was simply stating that in terms of 3-point shooting Novak was a notch above the rest, though perhaps “elite” is too strong. I totally agree about Landry.

      • jjdynomite

        Not at all rapier, I wasn’t pointing fingers at you in particular. The “Blame Casey for Novak” theme has come up in numerous other posts; just your term “elite” struck me as off. When I watched Novak last season I saw a dude who couldn’t get open very well — the anti-Ray Allen — and even when he did, was mediocre in the long bombs. I was actually surprised when I looked up the stats and saw he still hit .426 last season… perhaps garbage time when he wasn’t being covered all that seriously?

        This raises more the issue of usage rate; would Novak have been better with more than 10MPG like those 2 years he played on the Knicks, or would he have ruined the team’s defensive rotations due to his declining mobility? From what I recall, those Knicks teams weren’t the strongest defensively. Casey obviously thought the latter, which is why he got little floor time.

        Kind of like the Brendan Wright issue with Hollinger’s rankings; Wright’s ranked like the 13th best player in the game in 18.6 minutes with a PER of 23.6 (a bit worse that Dirk, a bit better than Harden(!)) but in terms of the eye test, when he played more than 20 MPG he was terrible (probably more than 15 MPG as I’m sure a lot of those 18.6 MPG was garbage time).

          • rapierraptor

            My wife thought the same thing when she first saw it. Needless to say, she was concerned.

  3. Vimsanity

    Great post, just one thing. At the beginning you noted that San Antonio and Miami led the league in makes within 5 feet: this was true only in the playoffs. Of course they had the most makes within 5 feet, simply because they played the most games! But your point stands that they were strong teams inside-and-out in the regular season – both were top 10 in makes within 5 feet and top 5 from 3-point land – just thought I should point out the error.

    • rapierraptor

      Opps, good spot. I could have sworn I was looking at the regular season data.

  4. c_bcm

    I agree with jjdynomite here. To say that we lost our only elite shooter is misleading since we never actually used Novak in any meaningful way. Aside from resigning all of our targeted free agents, I would argue that we haven’t really changed anything with regards to shooting this off season.

    • Ion66

      There weren’t too many games where he came off the bench and made a big impact to the outcome of the game. I remember him digging us out of one or two holes, but don’t remember if they were wins. I will give him credit though. You can look at his stats and judge is 3 point ability that way sure. What it doesn’t show (aside form no plays being run for him) is that those numbers are for a guy coming in cold as a fish, usually in a pressure situation. To me, that makes those numbers doubly impressive. Good guy, good player.

      • c_bcm

        Totally agree. The guy does what he does very well. He’s a specialist who wasn’t a good fit on this team because of the way Casey chooses to coach. I am totally fine with that. He seemed like a great team mate, and generally a good guy. I will miss having him on the bench. It was a nice insurance policy knowing that we could throw him in there and have at least some chance to get back into a game. Unfortunately its a waste of his time, our money, and a roster space, to limit him to that role.

        • 2damkule

          he may have done his one thing really well, but he does everything else on the floor so abysmally below average that he’s generally a liability when he’s on the floor…even more so if he isn’t getting the ball in his spot. the raps generally didn’t have other guys that d’s needed to key on/chase to the 3pt line, so he rarely got the open looks he’d get playing with, say, melo.

          • Ion66

            Again, off the bench rarely, and out of the rhythm of the game, all stats will be worse than he is capable of. The fact that he was never a quick guy physically, or a great defender doesn’t help of course.

  5. puffer

    The Raps are a “slightly above average” shooting team with several players shooting from locations they should never shoot from. Even a slight change in shooting patterns has a significant impact on the teams average. That extra pass, that San Antonio makes, moves the ball to players in their sweet spot as far as shooting goes. Players have to know where their team mates like to shoot from. More likely to happen when their is some continuity from year to year.

  6. Ion66

    Love this post. What’s great for me, is that the charts make sense. Not just that, but it triggers the memory, and I can picture the shots in question. Look at Amirs chart, and you can picture the made 3’s from that wing spot, and misses from pretty much every place else away from the rim. That one spot though, was his spot. I can still hear myself yelling “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!…oh. Right on. He made the last one too.”

    What I’m wondering is if the chart accounts for “shots that were made with no intention of making them”. Take Lowry for instance. Many of those blue dots at the rim are shots I remember him taking, not to make a basket, but to draw a foul. If memory serves, he mostly made token gestures to a shot, while selling getting hacked. This makes it look like a low % shot, but especially given his height relative to the defence, it was more of a trip to the line than a real shot. You almost need a way to quantify how many of those misses turned into foul shots to get a true sense of player efficiency.

    • 2damkule

      shot attempts that result in a foul don’t count as FGAs and thus wouldn’t show up as a shot attempt here.

      • Ion66

        Exactly. The thing is that several of our players look hopeless at certain shots, but it does not mean that they didn’t turn those misses into points. DeMar draws a number of fouls with missed mid-range shots, Kyle under the rim, etc.

  7. Garrett Hinchey

    I was really hoping there’d be a teeny little red dot on the right free throw line extended for Chuck Hayes. Alas.

    • rapierraptor

      I was hoping the same! That beauty needs to be noted in the records!

  8. webfeat

    1. Looks like TRoss and 2Pat should not be on the floor at the same time.
    2. James Johnson’s shot chart is ugly as heck. At least post-Landry’s chart has some consistency to it.
    3. Hayes and Tyler should not shoot unless they’re wide open.
    4. Lou compliments both TRoss and 2Pat. I think he will see a lot of PT.
    5. KLo and GV were both excellent signings by Masai. Their shot charts are exactly what you want to see for a point guard.

  9. Ian

    Ft% and FTA should find a way into this discussion. People always shit on Demar’s mid-range game, but he draws a large portion of his free throw attempts by using his killer pump fake within that range. He was one of the top 5 guys in the league a getting to the free throw line last season (I actually can’t remember if thats true, but after Durant, Dwight, Harden who is there?), which I think makes up for a lot of his inefficiencies.

    Novak never played. Salmons wasn’t good from 3, thats a damn lie. Lou Wil was coming back from injury, I think its safe to say that he won’t be the same player this year; he might not return to his pre-injury form, but I think he will have become stronger, more used to his post-injury body, and will have internalized ways to adapt. That or he’ll be his pre-injury self, aka one of the best 6th men in the league.

    Ugh, James Johnson. For a martial artist, his game lacks discipline.

    • Heyjoe

      Salmons buried 38% from beyond the line while playing for the Raptors which is a bit above league average. His % on 2’s was actually worse than his 3p%.

    • rapierraptor

      Good point about Demar. Should have been factored into the discussion. Check shot chart on Salmons. Actually pretty interesting how much of a contrast there was inside and outside of the arc.

  10. Truth Teller

    Jonas: 37 % shooter from 10-16 feet….

    If theres one thing negative I remember, its that he missed many open shots from that range.

    Cool that hes working with The Dream though.


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