VIDEO: Parker delivers against the Cavaliers
By Will Laws, Special to NBA.com
Want to know whose shooting touch has been especially hot lately? Interactive data visualization site PointAfter has got you covered, whether you’re seeking out the hot hand for fantasy basketball knowledge or to simply satisfy your hunger for timely NBA content.
NBA.com’s newest editorial partner produces shot charts on a weekly and seasonal basis, among other visualizations. We’ll be bringing you weekly updates on the best and worst shooters of the week at guard, wing and forward/center for the rest of the season.
This week, we start with one of the many ageless wonders currently populating the impenetrable fortress known as the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
Note: All weekly statistics cover games between Jan. 8-14.
Best Guard: Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
In a possible NBA Finals preview Thursday night, the Spurs topped LeBron James and the Cavaliers 99-95 to extend their incredible home winning streak to 32 games.
Things didn’t always look so rosy for San Antonio, though — the Spurs trailed 50-38 with 1:08 left in the second quarter before Tony Parker scored the final six points of the half, as well as San Antonio’s first bucket of the third quarter, to keep them within striking distance. He ended up pouring in 24 points on 11-of-18 shooting.
That followed a season-high 31 points on Wednesday against Detroit, when Parker showcased his touch in the restricted zone and worked the mid-range game to convert 13-of-19 attempts on the night.
Note: You can hover over a shooting zone to see Parker’s percentages compared to the league average. Shot charts update every five minutes.
Parker has taken 31 percent of his shots from between 16-23 feet this season, which doesn’t exactly jive with coach Gregg Popovich’s preferred system of uncontested lay-ups and three-pointers. However, even though Parker has logged the worst scoring average (12.8 points per game) since his rookie campaign — which can partially be attributed to a career-low 27.1 minutes per game — the wily veteran is still more efficient than ever.
His three-point percentage has risen for a fourth consecutive season, all the way up to 45.2 percent. And his overall field goal percentage (53.0) is his best mark in a full decade, since the 2005-06 season.
It seems unlikely Parker will make his seventh All-Star Game this year, but the Frenchman can still take over a game when he’s at his best.
Best Wing: Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets
Make no bones about it — Joe Johnson and the Nets are having a nightmarish season. Brooklyn is feeling the fallout of its failed attempt to quick-fix its roster by trading draft picks for pricy veterans, as a clearly declining Johnson has posted the worst field goal percentage (38.1) and PER (9.4) of his career in 2015-16.
But for one week, the 34-year-old gave us a glimpse of his former greatness. In four games, he made 23-of-41 shots for a sparkling 56.1 percent conversion rate, including 60 percent of his 15 attempts from beyond the arc.
The Nets even claimed a 110-104 win over their biggest rivals on Wednesday night when they lucked into facing a Knicks team missing Carmelo Anthony (ankle). Johnson turned back the clock, keeping New York at arm’s length with a pair of midrange jumpers in the game’s final two minutes.
For Johnson and the Nets alike, it was a rare bright spot in a season that’s already long lost.
Best Forward/Center: Amir Johnson, Boston Celtics
The Celtics’ frontcourt is a crowded affair, but Amir Johnson has deservedly held onto his starting spot into the new year. Even though his scoring average (8.4 points per game) is the lowest it’s been since 2011-12, he’s come on as of late, reaching double-digits in each of the last six games.
And he’s been getting those buckets with efficiency that surely makes coach Brad Stevens proud. Johnson totaled 39 points in Boston’s three games this week by knocking down 69.6 percent of his 23 shots. And that mark increases to an astronomical 71 percent if you include his 6-of-8 showing against Chicago last Thursday.
Johnson has been remarkably productive in the paint all year long, cashing 66.9 percent of his attempts in the restricted zone (league average is 55.6 percent).
Johnson’s shooting stroke might not be the best part of his game right now, either. He grabbed 18 boards in Wednesday’s win over Indiana, and is averaging 10 rebounds per contest to go along with 13.4 points and 2.8 assists over his last five games.
That two-year, $24 million deal Johnson signed with Boston over the summer is looking like more of a bargain with each passing day.
Will Laws 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.