Who is the best (and the worst) shooter in the NBA?
Over the last twenty years or so, the NBA has come a long way in recording and developing statistics. There seems to be a stat for just about everything these days, and with a little manipulation, we can answer those questions that previously went unanswered. Ever sit around with your buddies and debate about who’s the best shooter in the NBA? Well, now you have numbers to back up your argument.
Who is the best shooter in the NBA?
Truth be told, this is a loaded question. If you’re asking me who I’d want with the ball to take a last second shot, I’d probably pick Kobe, D-Wade or LeBron, because they have the athletic ability and the confidence to get off a decent shot (or get to the line) even under the worst of circumstances. Unfortunately, this is a difficult ability to measure and those choices are mostly subjective.
But if you’re talking about efficiency, I can give you an answer. I like to use Points Per Shot (PPS), which simply divides the player’s total points scored by his total number of shot attempts, including two- and three-pointers, as well as free throw attempts. This statistic takes into account good shooting in all areas, and players who shoot a large proportion of three-pointers aren’t docked for taking largely low-percentage shots, since a made bucket counts 1.5 times a regular field goal.
So here are your top 10 shooters in PPS, with a minimum of six total shots per game. (I want to be sure that we’re only including players who are at least moderately involved in their team’s offensive game plan.)
The list includes a few usual suspects: Brent Barry, Steve Nash, Mike Miller and Jason Kapono. Andrew Bynum and Andris Biedrins get most of their shot attempts close to the rim and on dunks, so I don’t know that I would include them in a list of the best shooters in the league. They’re both very efficient big men, but I wouldn’t describe either of them as a “shooter.”
I don’t think it’s quite fair to compare three-point specialists like Barry, Jones and Kapono with do-it-all players like Nash and Miller. Specialists are able to come into the game and pick their spots, while guys like Nash and Miller are counted on to score most every night. If we were to increase the minimum total shots per game to 10, Jose Calderon, Peja Stojakovic, Jason Terry, Josh Childress and Juan Carlos Navarro would have made the list.
So back to the question – who is the best shooter in the NBA? I would answer emphatically that it’s Steve Nash, with Mike Miller coming in second. Given how much attention Nash draws during a game, and taking into account his other responsibilities, it’s absolutely amazing that he is shooting almost 52% from the field and better than 48% from long range. Moreover, the guy simply doesn’t take a bad shot unless he’s up against the shot clock.
Who is the worst shooter in the NBA?
Conversely, the same stat can give us a pretty good idea of who’s the biggest bricklayer in the league. Again, I included only those players who attempted at least six total shots per game. I also required a minimum of 25 games played to eliminate the injured and the riffraff.
There are a couple of very interesting names on this list. Specifically, Ben Wallace and Larry Hughes jump out as players who were major signings for their current teams a few years back, but neither guy has panned out. In fact, I’d argue that the young Bulls jumped the shark when they signed Wallace. They could have just kept Tyson Chandler (who is now twice the player for two-thirds the money) and would have been much better off. Of course, Chandler has said that he needed a change of scenery to improve as he has, but I fault the coaching staff and front office for not helping Chandler reach his potential while in Chicago.
Fans of the Timberwolves have to be worried about Corey Brewer’s lack of production. His shot has been absolutely brutal across the board. The same goes for Sasha Pavlovic – the Cavs signed him to a three-year deal after he posted a lackluster 0.789 PPS last season. Now it looks like he may miss six to eight weeks with a foot injury, which might actually be a good thing for the Cavs.
If we raised the minimum total shots per game to 10, Kyle Lowry, Jeff Green, Jamaal Tinsley, Sebastian Telfair, Al Thornton, Josh Smith, Marcus Camby and Drew Gooden would have made the bottom 10. Seeing Smith’s name there is a little surprising, but he is shooting just 43% from the field and 23% from long range, so it makes sense.
But back to Wallace – he’s probably the worst shooter in the purest sense of the word. He’s terrible from the field and the charity stripe, but he knows not to shoot the ball too often. Since Hughes takes 12.4 total shots per game, he probably hurts his team’s offense more than any other player on the list, though he did come up big in the fourth quarter against the Lakers on Sunday.
Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.