Rockets Shooting/Assisting by Distance
HoopData.com provides an assortment of terrific and convenient stats, including shooting and assist data based on distance. In this post, I want to graphically present this data for the Rockets, and compare it to players across the league. HoopData distinguishes shots/assists at the rim, not at the rim but inside of 10 feet, between 10 and 15 feet, between 16 and 23 feet (long twos), and three-pointers. Because what I am interested in here is depicting both shot distribution and efficiency, I have accounted for the extra point awarded on a made three-pointer by multiplying the “made”, “assisted”, and “assists” rates for threes by 1.5. Thus, a player who attempts 6 threes a game and makes 33% of them will be shown in these graphs to have “made” 3 of them (because, effectively, the efficiency is equivalent to having made half of 6 two-point attempts). I hope this adjustment does not cause any confusion. One other note: in the charts below the blue color corresponds to misses, the red color corresponds to unassisted makes, the green color corresponds to assisted makes, and the yellow line corresponds to assists to teammates.
Below, I plot a summary of this data for the average NBA player and the average Rocket player.
From this, we see that the Rockets get more shots at the rim than the average NBA player, though they do not make proportionately more of them. The Rockets are only 27th in the league in FG% at the rim (56.7% versus 60.6% for league average). Another feature that can be observed from these curves is the Rockets, as a team, like shooting threes, and they dislike shooting long twos. From an efficiency stand point, this looks to be a smart strategy as the Rocket effectively shoot 51% on their 3-point attempts but only 38% on long twos. The league as a whole shoots better on 3s (eFG% is 53%) and only 39% on long twos, but they attempt more long twos.
Now, I’ll break it down by position, starting with point guards:
We see here that the scoring-oriented Brooks excels as a 3-point shooter, making effectively 59% of them. No other player on the Rockets is as adept at getting his own shot from the perimeter, which is reflected by the red color showing up more prominently in his chart. Brooks gets a lot of shots at the rim, which in itself is impressive for a player of his small stature and slight build, but his conversion rate of 50% is below average at his position (the average NBA PG hits 56% of his attempts at the rim). His assist rate is less than the average PG for all ranges shows here. The midrange game is where I see Brooks improving over the next few years. His size will always limit him at the basket, but as he improves his sense of pace with the dribble and gets more comfortable taking the pull-up jump shot, we should expect see more shots coming in the 10-23 feet range. Even though there’s no chance he would be able to match his 3-point efficiency with these midrange jumpers overall, the ability to generate such a shot on a consistent basis will make it more difficult for opposing teams to defend the Rockets.
We can see that Lowry shoots less than the average PG at all ranges except at the rim. I expected Lowry to be a better midrange shooter for the Rockets, but he’s actually taken more 3s and shot them more effectively (eFG% of 44%) than he has midrage shots. He is by no means a good 3-point shooter, but he’s hit enough of them to be a threat. Lowry’s assist-rate on 3-pointers leads the team by far, and is well ahead of the league average for PGs. In fact, Lowry is 5th in the league in assists for 3-pointers per minute among players who’ve gotten significant minutes, trailing only Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Jameer Nelson, and Jason Williams. Not shown here is rate of drawing fouls and getting to the line, something Lowry is particularly good at for his position.
Next, we take a look at swing men (SG/SF):
The much maligned Trevor Ariza beats out the average NBA swing man in scoring at the rim, though the conversion rate is only 56% versus 60%. Ariza attempts a lot of threes, and shoots 45% on them (effectively) compared to 53% for the average swing man. Ariza will attempt long-twos, but he shoots only 31% on them compared to average 39% for his position. The Rockets rarely run plays for him shooting off of screens which means that a vast majority of the shots he gets from the long-two range are unassisted, so the results should not surprise. One positive I’ll make note of is Ariza’s assist-rate on shots inside of 10 feet eclipses the other two Rockets swing men and is above average for his position.
Battier’s chart is interesting to look at. He takes almost no long twos in the Rockets offense, acutely aware I’m sure that these are typically low efficiency shots. The majority of the points he generates from the field come on assisted 3-pointers. He shoots the three at a slightly-above average clip for his position, though considering virtually every one of his attempts is assisted I expect him to shoot it better than he has. The Rockets will occasionally run a post up play for him when he’s being defended by a smaller guard, and at times he takes it upon himself to drive to the basket and get a shot up. He’s not especially effective at either, but it does help for him to be a more active participant on offense.
Chase Budinger is a gun-slinger who is 13th in the league in 3-point shots attempted per minute, though his conversion rate is just average for his position. Unlike Ariza or Battier, Budinger will frequently use screens to free himself for long twos, and he hits a very healthy 50% of his shots from that range. At the rim, we know that Budinger has the size and athleticism to finish well in traffic, but he’s only converted on 51% of them compared to 60% for players at his position. Budinger seems to have a good feel for the offense and handles the ball fairly well, but he has not distinguished himself as a passer. Part of that might be due to his quick release. If he gets the ball and he has any daylight he’s shooting it, which limits the number of “system assists” he may otherwise get.
Finally, charts for the “bigs” (PFs and Cs):
What distinguishes Scola is he takes almost twice as many shots (per minute) from the 16-23 foot range than any other Rocket, with almost all of them being assisted. Scola hits 41% from this range, which is actually not much better than what the league average PF/C will shoot (40%). Scola has a relatively show release, and consequentially when defenders rotate to him he’ll try to pump fake them and then either draw the foul, go around them, or pass back out to a 3-point shooter. Scola lacks the ability to put the ball on the floor and then pull up from midrange. Within 10 feet, Scola has an effective post game with his primary weapon being a right-handed hook shot, and his secondary weapon being a right-handed scoop shot. He’ll turn left now and then, but will invariably turn back the other way to get a shot off with his right hand. He has no turnaround jumper in his repertoire, which may be for the best because he lacks the length and leaping ability to shoot that shot over an outstretched defender.
Chuck Hayes shoots almost exclusively around the basket, and I can only recall him attempting one jump shot in his entire NBA career (suffice it to say, it wasn’t pretty). I was actually surprised to see that Hayes shoots more often at the rim than Scola. Per-minute, his rate of shot attempts at the rim has actually gone up over twice as much since last year. Chuck hits on only 48% of these shots, however, well below the 63% that the average PF/C will convert. Hayes does have a higher assist rate for shots at the rim than any other Rocket big and is fairly above average amongst NBA bigs (which isn’t bad, considering none of the players he typically plays with are great finishers). He slips bounce passes to cutters out of the high post better than any other player on the team. Hayes also has an above-average assist rate for 3-pointers. He’s especially good at tracking down offensive rebounds and quickly passing out to an open 3-point shooter before the defense recovers.
This season, Carl Landry has emerged as not only the Rockets best inside scorer, but one of the best interior scorers in the league. Per-minute, Landry is third in the league in field goals made inside of 10 feet. He is the only player on the team whose FG% at the rim significantly surpasses the average at his position (69% for Landry, 63% for the league average big). Landry’s assist-rate is easily the lowest on the team and is bottom 20 league wide, but that has as much to do with his potency as a scorer as it does with any lacking court sense on his part. One area where Landry has actually regressed compared to his first few seasons is shooting from the 16-23 feet range. He’s shot only 30% on them this year (average for bigs, again, is 40%), compared to previous years where he was close to 50%.
David Andersen was brought in to be a floor-spacing big, and he appears to have satisfied that role well enough. Rick Adelman likes to pair him with Carl Landry, which probably contributes to his lack of scoring at the basket (and, likewise, contributes in part to Landry’s inside scoring). Andersen shoots a good percentage (over 45%) from 10-15 feet and 16-23 feet, but he has struggled on his 3-point shot (he shoots them for an effective 41% conversion rate, which is very poor). I expected Andersen to be used more in the high post, in the role Chuck Hayes often finds himself in, but the Rockets don’t seem to run that set with him very often. This is strange to me, because he seems to have a versatile offensive game from midrange compared to our other bigs. I’m hoping that in time he becomes a more potent shooter/passer from this position.