Statophile Volume 16 – Thou Shall Not Shoot Long 2s (Often) Edition

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Thou Shall Not Shoot Long 2s Edition

In an interview, with the media yesterday, Coach Jay Triano said

We’re the seventh or eighth best shooting team in the NBA without being able to make a 3-point shot.

It is true they are tied for 8th in FG% (at 46.6%)

However, the Raptors are 19th for effective FG% (at 49.14%). Overall, FG% means very little. If you’re team cannot shoot the 3 ball, you’re likely in trouble.

Primarily, you want your players to:

  • get to the line (76.4% FT% league wide);
  • to the rim (64% FG%) – and perhaps an “and 1”; and
  • shoot beyond the arc (57.4% effective FG%).

Unfortunately, the Raptors are dead last in 3pt FG% (at 31.2% which translates to 46.8% eFG%) and 25th for Free Throw Rate (FTA/FGA).

This all translates to a 19th ranking in true shooting percentage – not horrible, but not great given the high percentages the Raptors allow their opponents to shoot.

This gets us to another quote (hat tip: Holly MacKenzie from RaptorBlog) from Mr. Triano yesterday when asked about Barbosa’s shot selection (vs CHA):

They were the same shots that he took when we won against Indiana … He is a shooter. He’s got to shoot the basketball.

The challenge is Leandro Barbosa is not a good shooter this season. He’s an excellent break-’em-down-and-get-to-the-hoop player, but not a good shooter.

Barbosa has the sixth worst “long 2” (16-23 ft) field goal percentage for all shooting guards in the league at 30.0% (sample: 20+ GP, 15+ MPG). He is second worst for those shooting >1 attempt per game. While he doesn’t take many mid-range 2s (10-15 ft), he’s shooting only 33.3%. Short 2s (3-9 ft)? Worse: 32.4%. So from 3 feet all the way to 23 feet, he’s making less than one-third of his shots. Barbosa has shot a bit better in the past, so his poor shooting performance may be do to injuries this year. Regardless, he needs to alter his shot selection (or improve his efficiency) if this team wants to win more games.

As well, Barbosa is 45th in the league for shooting guards (on pace to play >500 min) in assist ratio [(Assists x 100) divided by [(FGA + (FTA x 0.44) + Assists + Turnovers]. It tells us there is room for improved ball distribution when he is tightly defended.

However, all is not lost – not even close. Barbosa can be (and often is) a quite effective player. His on/off court offensive rating is +4.7. And he appears to have a slight positive impact on defense. He is gets to the rim the sixth most for shooting guards in the league overall and third per 40 minutes (just a bit behind some guy named Dwyane Wade).

The good news is he doesn’t take too many of his shots where he’s weak. But, he’ll need to improve these areas as it remains a significant drag on his overall shooting effectiveness.
While his 3pt percentage is reasonable, its certainly below the league average eFG% of 54.8% for shooting guards in my sample. Not a huge difference, but he needs to get towards (or better than) that average. A few better decisions on passing versus forcing the 3 should do it. He takes 43% of his shots within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock (and yes, a number of those will be fast breaks). Pair this with his assist rate and it suggests further ball movement would benefit the team.

DeMar DeRozan has the long two down, now needs master the 3 ball.

This analysis brings up an important connection to DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan has significantly improved his mid and long 2 efficiency – he’s now nicely above the league averages for shooting guards in both ranges. Despite this, his overall effective FG% is actually ever so slightly below Barbosa’s.


He’s done a terrific job at getting to the rim this year – he is 8th in the league for shooting guards for attempts per 40 minutes. Another bonus? DeRozan is 4th best among shooting guards for “And1%”. He’s also taking a lot more short jumpers (while still being effective).
The challenge? While his “blended” 43%-ish mid and long 2 FG% is quite good, its only as effective as a 28.7% 3 point shooter. That is, if DeRozan would move back a average of four-ish feet and replace some of his long 2s with 3s, he could hit 14 less threes out of every 100 and be as effective. (Note: probably for another day, but we would want to see a little higher eFG% for 3 than FG% for long 2 as increased 3 point shots add significantly to volatility – which can be good and bad). Given DeRozan’s strong work ethic and the marked improvement in his mid and long jumpers, I foresee him improving his 3 point range significantly this off-season.

And it would be a very good thing.

Questions? Email me: [email protected] or find me on Twitter.

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  1. On paper, 50% FG is the same as 33%3pt… but they are only equal when playing a game of 21, not basketball. There are 2 HUGE things this ignores.

    We are about half as likely to rebound a 3pt shot compared to a 2pt FG unless we have a numbers advantage on the fast break. A missed 3pter will never lead to a tip in dunk, and usually sails somewhere between our board crashers and the rest of our guy’s running back on defense.

    Also, FT’s. Taking nothing but 2 point shots, you can attempt as many free throws in a single game as the most prolific 3pt threat will accumulate in an entire season if he just hung around out there. Derozan is capable of getting 5 ‘and-1’s’ in a single game…has Bargnani even had one 4 point play this entire year, or gone to the line more then once for 3 FTS in one go?

    • I would also add to that….

      If a shot at the rim has an average make of 64%(?)

      and a shot from the 3 pt line has an average make of 35%(?)

      (please correct me if I am wrong on those %s… Liston I imagine you have those memorized)

      so if player X takes 10 shots from each spot they are likely to get approx:

      10 x 64% = 6.4 shots made
      6.4 x 2 pts each = 12.8 pts

      10 x 35% = 3.5 shots made
      3.5 x 3 pts each = 10.5 pts

      While I understand that we want players to take more efficient shots, and a 3pter is more efficient than a long two. It is not more efficent than playing at the rim. We should be wanting players to go to the rim more often rather than shoot 3s.

      Most of the truelly great players/scorers in the league never had amazing 3pt %. Some bad, some good, but few great. But they were efficient. They scored by going to the rim (the most efficient shot), getting to and hitting from the line (increases efficiency through ‘free’ shots), and then supplimenting that with occasional 3pt shooting.

      I want to see Demar keep trying to get to the rim… and if he can hit the occasional 3 (say 1 every 2 games or so on an average %) then thats excellent. Bargnani needs to start doing this as he settle much to often and thereby kills his efficiency.

      That said, I’m not down playing the three. There are some other intrinsict values to it (keeping the D ‘honest’, stretching the floor, momentum building etc.). I’d much rather have a guy take a 3 than a long two (as long as he has that range ofcourse), but I’d still much rather see us talk about wanting our players to get to the rim first…. and then worry about 3 pt shooting after that.

      The one thing I disagree with is rebounding with a three. I may be wrong here, but doesn’t the offense’s chances of rebounding the ball increase with 3 pters as the rebounds tend to be longer? Maybe its just more likely to miss so more rebounds are available? (hope I’m not creating work for you Tom)

      • i don’t think tom was suggesting taking more 3’s than shots at the rim, but rather, more 3’s than long 2’s.

        • oh this wasn’t specifically directed at Tom per se (although there is discussions in his post about improving 3pt shooting… but I do see that as in relation to the long 2), but rather a prevelant philosophy around 3pt shooting, and more specifically a philosophy around here (ie. ‘we need more 3pt shooting’).

          and also to go along with what Chris said:

          during a game, the reality is shooting a fg > three point shooting (with diminishing returns as you move away from the net). eFG% has really mixed up what the reality of efficienct shooting really is (as it groups all 2 pt fgs together).

          ie. a shot within approx 10 ft (give or take) > 3pt shooting > 10 -23ft (again give or take)

          (maybe the best way to put it is eFG%, while situationally useful, isn’t that great of a stat when looking at efficiency)

          • personally, i think what’s important is the THREAT of 3-pt shooting. on a team in which there are legit 3-pt shooters, it becomes a gamble for the opposing D as to which area of the floor to focus on. take orlando as one of the more obvious examples – unless a team has a stud low-post defender who can handle DH one-on-one, they need to decide whether to either let dwight get his by playing him straight up & trying to limit their effectiveness from the perimeter, or double him & risk giving up open 3’s. when a team doesn’t have a low-post scoring option that will draw attention, it makes it difficult to create open looks…and conversely, when a team isn’t a threat to score from outside, it makes creating advantageous looks down low all the harder.

            • oh and i don’t necessarily disagree. Like I said earlier there is intrinsic value to the 3pt shooting (and you described a great example of it…. stetching the floor).

              But from a purely individual efficiency perspective (ie. for an individual to get the most use out of each possession, in regards to scoring), playing at the rim offers less risk with a smaller reward (less direct points anyways) but in the end more value.

              Its not a matter of having no 3pt shooters on a team, but rather having your ‘scorers’ being players who play at the rim first, and behind the line 2nd. Guys who tend to shoot more 3s will be, more or less, situational guys.

    • Wrong. 3 point shots are actually significantly MORE likely to rebounded by the offense. Meanwhile, fouls on long 2’s are so marginally more frequent than fouls on 3’s as to be statistically insignificant.

    • “We are about half as likely to rebound a 3pt shot compared to a 2pt FG unless we have a numbers advantage on the fast break. A missed 3pter will never lead to a tip in dunk, and usually sails somewhere between our board crashers and the rest of our guy’s running back on defense.”

      This statement does not appear to be observed in the NBA.
      “In the paint” rebounds and “3 point rebounds” have similar numbers for offensive rebounds.

        • It doesn’t appear so,

          If you go to basketball reference and sort total rebounding percentage by guards in their second year from 2004-2005 who played at least 20 minutes and in 50 games, you’ll see that Demar Ranked 56th, behind point guards such as Chris Paul, Mo Williams, Goran Dragic and shooting guards like Delonte West and even Leandro Barbosa.

          Looking this up, I feel even stronger than Derozan needs to improve his rebounding, lest he turn into another Bargs.

        • Question,

          Can rebounding be improved, or is it just something that somebody either does well, average, or poorly?

          • There is a natural ability good rebounders like Reggie Evans have but anyone can improve their technique. Rebounding is essentially a combination of hustle and positioning and anyone, no matter how nonathletic or undersized can learn to hustle better an practice getting good positioning. That’s why rebounding is such a good measure of how hard someone plays, if they are getting rebounds (especially offensive) it means they are out hustling their opponent and getting position. Guards can do it too, Jason Kidd for example has made his career by constantly getting on the glass despite being only 6’4″ (he actually has a significaty higher career rebounding rate then Bargs.)

    • Top 5 might be a stretch…ruling out Wade, Kobe, Joe Johnson, Ray Allen and Brandon Roy, as part of the possible current top 5, you’d be ruling out guys like Monta Ellis, Kevin Martin, Eric Gordon…Not sure if a 3 point shot added to what he’s done so far THIS season would put him in the same league. The kid shows promise though, so I think he can reach close to top 5 over the course of his career.

      • Well I was saying “will be” a top 5 SG if he gets a 3 pt shot (and of course keeps his current progress of improving everything else). But the 3pt shot is the barrier, meaning right now its not known whether he can make that leap.

        By the time kobe and ray allen are off the list (B-roy is already finnished), DD could be in the mix with those guys

        • It sounded like you meant adding just a 3 point shot would do bad for jumping to conclusions….I had just finished lunch and was feeling a bit feisty.

      • of the 5 you’ve indicated, only ray-ray is a top-flight 3pt shooter (best % among SGs), and – as blasphemous as it is to say – the others are either average (roy – he doesn’t have enough attempts this year, but he’s a career 36% shooter from 3, and is only slightly above that this year) or below-average (and that’s being extremely generous – kobe, wade & JJ are the 3rd worst, 2nd worst, and worst 3-pt shooters, respectively – in terms of % – among all SGs (with the requisite # of attempts) this year). gordon is 28th & ellis is 31st (both are around the league average in terms of %). martin is an excellent 3-pt shooter, and that helps him be one of the more efficient overall scorers in the league.

        so, it’s not as though being an excellent distance shooter is the be-all/end-all of being a top-tier SG, but it obviously would help DD, since it would make up for areas he’s weak in. what likely matters more is the threat of being able to hit from deep…even though wade, JJ & kobe are not good deep shooters, and defenses should be geared to letting them take as many 3’s as they want, teams still respect their ability to shoot & so play them as if they were better shooters than they really are, and this opens up driving opportunities, which leads to breakdowns, etc.

        • Yes, I agree that having 3 point distance does not a top 5 shooting guard make….as was what my reply to Ruu’s remark indicated.

        • Kobe is a great shooter from range but he doesn’t get open looks. EVER. Wade is not a great shooter from range and teams give him space because they fear him attacking off the bounce. The stats you’ve cited don’t paint an accurate picture.

  2. OK, let me play this game too. DeRozan is less efficient at the rim and completely inefficient at the 3 point line, the 2 areas most efficient in NBA. He’s getting more efficient in the areas that are the most inefficient in scoring points in NBA. Overall he’s a marginally less efficient shooter than his last year, after a supposedly one summer of hard work.
    Let’s continue: his PER last year was 12.5 compared with 13.7 this year. His +/- per minute last year was -0.138 compared with -0.155 this season. His ORtg was last year 110 compared with 105 this season, his DRtg was 115 compared to 114 this season. His WS48 was 0.066 compared to 0.052 this season. For all intents and purposes we have a player who’s the same or worse than last year. The naked eye test tells me the same thing: there is no overall significant improvement in DeRozan’s game from last season to this one. He knows it as well: that’s why he shows so much frustration. He understands the gap between expectations and his actual accomplishments (or lack thereof). He’s the face of the franchise in all the TV spots and the season tickets renewal drive.
    Why do people put so much expectations on him? I have no idea. He will have already played in 2 seasons more minutes than Bargnani in 3. I know hope is eternal however there has to be some basis for that hope. I’m not even comparing him with other SG’s in NBA, I’m comparing his numbers from last season to this. I had enough about potential and development: the proof is in the pudding. It’s not buyer’s remorse: after I saw him the first half-season I said he has no chance succeeding in NBA. Players with no shooting, dribbling or passing at SG position have historically not succeeded in NBA. At 21 yrs old he’s learning skills he should have mastered at 14 in order to play SG. Thats’ really sad.

    • I Agree and disagree.

      I agree that a SG should have basic dribbling, passing, and shooting skills down pat much earlier in his career. It makes you wonder what basis DeRozan was drafted on (other than “athleticism”).

      I disagree on the eye test showing no improvement. His mid range jump shot has improved dramatically compared to last year, or even earlier this year. His willingness to attack the rim has improved as well. Last year, he would stick to baseline jumpers and nothing more.

      Having said all that, I think the biggest improvement in DeMar’s game MUST come from the defensive end. He needs to work on fighting through screens, anticipating passing lanes, avoiding backdoor burns, etc. If not, we’ll be harping on his god-awful defense in 2 years just as we do now with Bargnani and Calderon. But I don’t think Triano is the man to get it out of him.

      Nate McMillan anyone?

      • Agree with Nilanka, Derozan’s mid-range game is clearly better than last year. He also is far more assertive offensively in terms of FTs and getting to the rim. He’s also has a few games where he has been dominant offensively. That never happened last year. These are not immaterial improvements.

        The reason his advanced metrics are terrible is because he doesn’t do anything other than score. He isn’t a stat stuffer. His ORtg/DRtg numbers are likely attributable to the fact that the team last year won ~40 games and this team will win ~20. Same with +/-. His defense is still awful but, newsflash, no one on this team plays anything resembling good defense. That’s a coaching/organizational issue and not on Derozan.

        I don’t think he’s a #1 or #2 guy but he was a project coming out of college and it was always going to be a three or four year process with him. The Raps can be patient, they aren’t winning anything anyway.

    • “DeRozan is less efficient at the rim and completely inefficient at the 3 point line”

      I’d argue that he’s not inefficient at the 3 point line. I’d agree that he is ineffective, and because he knows that, he doesn’t attempt many 3s. To me, that actually makes him efficient. That is, he doesn’t jack up a three because he knows he’s unlikely to make it. Instead, he takes a few steps closer before shooting. A 3pt shot is only better than a long 2 if you can hit the 3 at a reasonable rate.

      Given that he can now hit the mid and long 2 at a reasonable rate (above average SG rate according to Tom) where he couldn’t last year, I fully expect him to start hitting the 3 at a reasonable rate next year.

      DD is an interesting player to watch develop. He’s atypical in that you don’t see a constant improvement that you see in many other players. Instead, with him its a sudden unveiling of an ability. It’s basically like he works on something in practice but never uses it in game until he’s reasonably sure it will work.

      • “I’d argue that he’s not inefficient at the 3 point line. I’d agree that he is ineffective, and because he knows that, he doesn’t attempt many 3s. To me, that actually makes him efficient”

        completely agree. Its one thing to not be able to do something (or to not be able to do something well), its another thing to not be able to do something (or not be able to do it well) and yet constantly try it anyways.

        I’d rather have a guy that shoots 3 for 35 from 3 than a guy that shoots 50 for 200 any day of the week. (thats a huge margin in wasted opportunities)

    • His shooting, dribbling and passing are all better than last year (much better I’d argue) but none of those skills are on the whole above average for an NBA starting SG. The #s show that he’s scoring almost as efficiently as last year despite more usage and despite creating his own shots.

      Given how efficiently he scores with his current skill set and how much he’s improved, I think he will be real threat next year if he can move his skill level well up the dial. I think that’s achievable.

    • Sadly,

      I’ve got to side with Daniel here.

      I didn’t like Derozan as a pick either and feel that his starting was a major reason why we didn’t make the playoffs last year.

      I certainly agree that his mid-range game has improved and that his is only 21, so there is room for improvement.

      You know who else is 21 in his second year – James Harden who is a far superios player to Derozan IMHO. Derozan appears to be too much of a projects, similar to Bargnani in that there is too much of his game that needs to improve (defence, rebounding) and I’m not sure if he can do it.

      I’m hope I’m wrong though.

      • Harden is physically smaller than Derozen and if both reach their potential, DD will be a much better player. Harden is also on a team where everyone is so busy trying to stop KD that he get’s open looks and always has a great passing option. DD is the second option on a shitty Raptors team. It’s also a good idea to keep in mind Harden was a much more complete player when he was drafted and went third over all in his class. To put that in perspective, if the 2009 draft happened again today, Harden would be chosen before our awful Raps made their selection. So he damn well better be developing faster.

        Derozen has added many things to his game this year. His handle is much better, he is an axe murderer in the midrange, he has added the floater and the bank shot, and he is looking more and more intense and aggressive on the court. If he adds the three, and when I say adds the three I mean shoots like 30% so that teams don’t play off him, his offense will take another step. The big concern now is to get him to start playing better D.

      • Also, Harden is scoring less (per36) and at a lower percentage than Derozen, so other than three pointers, I’d say DD is a much better offensive player.

      • To me, Harden is great evidence of why the raps made a good pick. They got DD six picks later (which is a HUGE difference in the draft going from 3 to 9 .. typically a 3rd pick would be WAY WAY better than a 9) hes a better and more efficient scorer (outside of 3 pt shooting) despite having way less offensive options on the raps vs OKC. When I look at the two players, I woudl take the Raps end of the deal all day everyday ..

  3. Tom,

    If you’re interested, I would also suggest that you take a close look at Barbosa’s individual numbers when afforded the opportunity to play the PG position, and the team’s numbers overall when he has been used in this way. Although I haven’t looked as these numbers yet, myself, when I recall how Barbosa has actually played best over the course of his career to-date, I recall him working as a top flight back-up PG … who has very little difficulty matching-up with either the starting or the back-up PG on the opposition … rather than as a mediocre back-up OG … who has considerable difficulty matching-up effectively size-wise with the best starting OGs in the league but is quite okay when working against the majority of the back-ups.

  4. Tom:

    Heads up: you’ve got your FGAs and FGMs mixed up in some of your images.

    I went and wrote a post about Jay’s comment as soon as I read it. Now I come here and see you beat me to it. What gives?

    My only other comment would be: DeRozan’s not a very good shooter. Yes, this seasons he has been hitting his mid-range shots and long twos more often, but at the cost of his shots closer to the basket (<9ft). Rather than have him focus on jumpers, I'd rather he shoot the more efficient shots closer to the rim (and, as you said, replace some of the longer twos with some threes – provided he can actually shoot a not absolutely terrible percentage on them).

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