By Ben Leibowitz, Special to NBA.com
As analytics nerds have continued to multiply and even permeate NBA front offices, emphasis on scoring efficiency has never been more robust — as evidenced by the introduction of stats like effective field goal percentage (eFG%) and true shooting percentage (TS%).
It’s fair to assume even future Hall of Famer Allen Iverson would be ridiculed in today’s landscape. Though he was a relentless scorer, The Answer notched career marks of 42.5 percent shooting from the field and 31.3 percent from beyond the arc — not exactly the model of scoring efficiency. That’s certainly not to discount any of A.I.’s accomplishments, it’s simply a different era in the world of basketball.
So to embrace the emphasis put on scorers who rarely miss, the team at PointAfter will break down the least efficient (and most efficient) shooters of the week each Friday. We’ve got a lot of problems with these shot charts, and now, you’re going to hear about it.
Note: All weekly statistics cover games between Jan. 8-14. Shot charts will update automatically to reflect the trailing seven days’ games.
Guard: Marcus Smart, Celtics
There’s simply no denying Smart’s chops as a bulldog on the defensive end. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens even had enough faith in the 6-foot-4 point guard to have him defend 7-foot-3 New York Knicks’ rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis on Tuesday in hopes of slowing the Latvian phenom down. The tactic worked, but Boston still suffered a 120-114 loss. In some respects, Smart’s shortcomings on the offensive end were to blame.
Dating back to Jan. 8, Smart is shooting a dreadful 24 percent from the field and has converted just one of his eight three-point attempts. In the month of January overall (seven games) the 21-year-old is shooting 26.7 percent from the floor and 13.6 percent from long distance.
Those ghastly figures are a microcosm of a sophomore slump for the Oklahoma State product, as his shooting percentages (save for free throw shooting) have all declined drastically compared to his rookie year.
His field goal percentage has dropped nearly six points, and he’s converting a lowly 20.6 percent of his triples (compared to 33.5 percent as a rookie). Smart still plays sound defense, but his per-game averages in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals have all remained completely stagnant in his second year as a pro.
Trailing seven days, Smart has nearly twice as many personal fouls (11) as made field goals (six).
Wing(s): P.J. Tucker and T.J. Warren, Suns
The Phoenix Suns only played two games over the past seven days and last played on Tuesday, Jan. 12. That has given Jeff Hornacek’s crew ample time to rest and reflect. They need all the help they can get, because the performances of late have not been pretty. In particular, the ugly shooting of small forwards P.J. Tucker and T.J. Warren stands out.
The pair combined to shoot 22.9 percent (8-of-35) over the course of those two games — both losses.
Warren has usually been a reliable scoring option for Phoenix, so this cold spell should be a bit worrisome. As for Tucker, well, he’s shooting a career-low 41.9 percent this season — hinting that the younger Warren deserves more play time in his stead.
But now that both guys are struggling to make shots, dark times are getting even darker in the Valley of the Sun.
Forward/Center: Marc Gasol, Grizzlies
The younger Gasol brother is in the midst of the worst shooting season of his career (44.7 percent). And while he’s rarely played up to his usual high standards throughout the latest campaign, the new year has been particularly unkind to the 7-foot-1 center.
On Jan. 8 and Jan. 10, Gasol doubled up on 5-of-17 shooting performances. He bounced back in a loss to the Houston Rockets on Jan. 12, converting eight of his 15 attempts, but he went 8-of-20 against Detroit Thursday night. All told, the big man is shooting 23.2 percent over his last seven days and 33.7 percent in 2016.
Those marks would be a totally unacceptable for an undersized guard. For a guy with the physical frame and skillset Gasol possesses? We’re forced to wonder if the 30-year-old is playing hurt.
Provided the veteran was awarded a five-year, $113 million contract last offseason, this continued cold shooting is a foreboding reality for the Grizzlies organization.
Ben Leibowitz is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that’s part of the Graphiq network. Visit PointAfter to get all the information about NBA Players, NBA Historical Teams and dozens of other topics.