In a recent post I started to look at the 16-23 ft jump shot — aka the worst shot in basketball. The average FG% at that range is about 39%, but that includes shots that are assisted and unassisted. If we correct for that (by assuming that assisted shots have a +9.5% better chance of scoring), the average "unassisted FG%" is about 34%. That means that the average "assisted FG%" is 43.5%. It should be obvious that any player who can create his own shot at that distance and hit above that 43.5% rate is going to be very valuable, especially against tough defensive teams. There are currently (well, as of a week ago) 5 players in the entire NBA that meet this special criterion:
Three of these players are PG, so they are generally running the offense. That means that even though they are great shooters, it is often going to be more efficient for them to pass the ball to a worse shooter (according to UFG%), who will be (apparently) more efficient on the receiving end of an assist. Let's take a look at non-PG who shoot at an assisted rate above 46%, which is the efficiency of the best shooting PG in the league when taking an unassisted FG:
There are a lot of interesting things to point out here. First, I am surprised by how many PF/C are on the list. Both Gasol brothers, Horford, Dirk, Brand, Scola, Stoudemire, West, Bargnani (this has to be his best skill, right?), Nene, Garnett, and Bosh. As an aside, that injury to West is really going to hurt NOH. Someone is going to have to step up big time and take those 5 or so shots per game. Paul will have to take 1-2 more, but remember he is shooting those unassisted, so the efficiency won't be as high as West. The next best shooter at this range on the team is Ariza, but his AFG% is a lowly 35%. In fact, Ariza only attempts 1.5 shots at this range. NOH is the fourth best shooting team from 16-23 ft, so that was a real strength. West's injury is really a major (and possibly devastating) double hit — affecting both NOH post game and long jumpers.
Looking at the list, I see the presence of Jason Terry and Jamal Crawford, two guys who are known for bringing offense off the bench. To me, the "offense" that they bring is the long jumper. Atlanta and Dallas are 1-2 in the league in FG% from 16-23 ft. It's not just Horford and Dirk. Who might be the Terry and Crawford of the future? Well, judging by this list, my guess is guys like Redick, Young, and Morrow.
In fact, let's look a bit more closely at Nick Young. This is a young guy, great athlete, not so great defensively, who is often criticized for lack of efficiency. His TS% this season is 54.1%, which is actually a career high. In a vacuum, you might say he's taking too many bad shots (~6 per 40 minutes), but I would argue that his shot selection is actually where it should be. In fact, he could even be taking more. Here's what the Wizards put on the floor:
Of course, Hinrich is no longer there, but even when he was, Young was by far the best option. Do you really want John Wall or Andray Blatche taking those shots? On a better team, Young might not take so many of those shots, and his TS% might be higher, but the fact of the matter is, that the guy who can shoot from that range is always going to be the best option. That guy, whether it is Dirk or Curry or Young or LeBron, is the guy that has to sacrifice his TS% for the sake of the team. Because somebody does really have to take those shots. When Dirk goes down, look who's left:
When Dirk is not on the floor, and Terry is on the bench, Dallas is screwed! Oh, one last thing. Let's take a look at Melo, the team he used to play for, and the team he plays for now:
Melo was the best 16-23ft shooter on Denver. Now that he's on the Knicks, he's actually about the same as Amare. And none of the guys NYK sent over to Denver are better than Melo at that range (at least, this season). It's surprising to me that Denver is playing so well right now, but I have a feeling that in the long run, when teams scout them better, and in the playoffs, when defense is tighter, that long jumper is going to become more of an issue. I also think that Amare and Melo, both being efficient 16-23 ft jump shooters, can only help the team in the long run. They clearly haven't figured it out, as evidence by their current losing streak, but to me, the answer there is to get Amare back down in the post, and leave that long jumper to Melo. His TS% will never be stellar, because he takes so many of those shots, but he's almost aways going to be the best option the team has at that range.
One more thing...I left PG off the list above. Here are PG sorted by number of attempts, with the first column reflecting their UFG% rank (among fellow PG):
Rose takes the most shots from 16-23 ft, but is only middle of the pack, in terms of efficiency. This means two things: 1) He probably takes too many shots (Deng and Boozer are actually better options on that team) and 2) His overall shooting efficiency (TS%) is lower than what it could be (or should be), if he didn't take all those shots. Does that make him more valuable or less valuable? Tricky question. Look at the other end of the list. Jason Kidd clearly knows his role. He's a bad shooter, and knows that he has better options (Dirk and Terry), and gets them the ball. Does that make him more or less valuable than another PG who shoots more? These are tough questions. And I don't have any great insights to offer, but I do think that these are exactly the kinds of questions that need to be asked by GM's, coaches, and media folks (and heck, us fans). I'll leave it at that, I guess.