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Contested shots and the Houston Rockets

Over the past two seasons, 62% of all shots were contested. Of these shots, 37% go in. Seventy-seven percent of Kobe Bryant’s shots were contested, highest in the league. I’m going to visualize Kobe’s “madness” by plotting how many contested shots he takes (hint, a lot) against how many contested shots he makes. I’m also going to compare his performance in these respective categories to other players’ in order to identify who else takes a lot of contested shots and who makes more of them.

Please visit Vantage Sports to see the full analysis.

How do the Houston Rockets stack up with respect to contested shots?

Immediately apparent is that the Rockets were less efficient at making contested shots than the rest of the NBA, with no player being above average. Some of this certainly is related to the Rockets’ high-volume three-point shooting. After all, 3PFG% is inherently lower than overall FG%, so it follows contested 3PFG% would be even lower. Nevertheless, while this might explain some of the lackluster contested shooting from the perimeter players, it does not explain Dwight Howard’s.

Several big men were to the right of the Contested+ FG% line, but Howard is not one of them even though he is more skilled. This suggests that Howard’s contested shots might be more difficult than other big men’s. Two weeks ago, I wrote about how Howard’s insistence on posting up might be detrimental to the team’s offense. The contested shots data supports the notion that, whatever Howard is doing, it’s not very efficient compared to what many other big men are doing. Basically, a defended hook shot is less likely to go in than a defended dunk.

The good news is that the Rockets did not take very many contested shots. Only James Harden was above average in Contested Frequency%, and his efficiency is close to average. If you’re not going to be good at making contested shots, then it makes sense that you try not to take very many. Compared to a team like Brooklyn, the Rockets are miles ahead in terms of exercising shot discretion.

Since this data is from previous years, not much can be said about this year’s Houston Rockets, especially since half the players who appear on the graph are no longer on the team. Once more games have been played, I’ll revisit this topic with more current data.

View this discussion from the forum.

About the author: Richard Li is an independent researcher and consultant. He likes numbers and pictures.

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