Posts Tagged ‘Will Laws’

Analytics Art: Cavaliers sizzle from 3-point range in 2016 playoffs

By Will Laws, Special to

One could say the Cleveland Cavaliers made 3-pointers looks like lay-ups during their conference semifinal series against the Atlanta Hawks. That wouldn’t be entirely accurate, though, because the Cavaliers cashed a higher percentage of their shots from beyond the arc than they did on attempts within five feet of the hoop.

That’s just one of the inexplicable factoids to emerge from Cleveland’s impressive march to the Eastern Conference finals, which has left a pair of shell-shocked teams in its wake. PointAfter‘s visualizations help illustrate just how deadly the Cavs’ offense has been.

Previously, only one team in NBA history had made at least 43 percent of its 3-pointers while attempting at least 31 of them in back-to-back playoff games (Dallas Mavericks, Games 2-3 of Western Conference semifinals). The Cavaliers have now done so for four games running following their sweep of the Hawks — something no other team has accomplished during the regular season or playoffs.

In fact, no playoff team had shot 43 percent on 3-pointers (on a minimum of 18 attempts) in four straight games.

Overall, the Cavs have improved their 3-point accuracy by 10 percent after a regular-season mark of 36.2 percent. They’ve accordingly emphasized 3-pointers by attempting 22.2 percent more of those shots in the playoffs than in the regular season.

Put another way, Cleveland has launched 6.7 more 3-point attempts per game while making 6.1 more per game. Those extra trifectas have certainly paid dividends.

The 77 triples Cleveland sank against Atlanta were easily the most in a four-game series in NBA history. The previous record was 57, set by … the Cavaliers, in their first-round triumph over Detroit.

Their dismantling of the Hawks was demoralizing for Atlanta after it thought it could compete with Cleveland thanks to a league-best defensive rating since the All-Star break. But Cleveland unlocked Atlanta’s seemingly cohesive unit in the series, shooting 50.7 percent on 3-pointers (and 46.1 percent overall) en route to a 123.0 offensive rating.

Dating back to last year, Cleveland hasn’t lost a playoff game with Kevin Love available. That’s no coincidence. Love has been the X-factor for coach Tyronn Lue’s crew, executing his role as a stretch-four to perfection. He outplayed Al Horford and Paul Millsap on the boards while also providing ample spacing on offense. The Hawks dared him to shoot, and he responded by taking nearly eight 3-pointers a game at a 44 percent clip.

Though Love has struggled to find his low-post offense, making 28.6 percent of his shots in the restricted area, it’s scarcely mattered. He’s knocked down more than half his looks on corner 3-pointers, and is keeping opponents honest on long-range launches from above the break, too.

Love is far from the only Cavalier who has ramped up his splashy shooting. J.R. Smith cemented his legacy as a Hawks nemesis, following up on his remarkable sixth-man performance in the 2015 Eastern Conference finals (18.0 points per game on 47.1 percent 3-point shooting) to average 11.0 points on 50 percent 3-point shooting in the 2016 East semis. His 50.8 percent shooting on 3-pointers in the playoffs mirrors Cleveland’s double-digit improvement from the regular season.

At their current rate of 16.8 3-pointers made per game, Cleveland should be favored to shatter Golden State’s record of 240 made triples during the 2015 postseason. Golden State set that mark in 21 games … Cleveland is on pace to surpass it in 15.

At this point, the biggest obstacle to establishing a new record might be their own dominance.

If they breeze through either the Toronto Raptors or Miami Heat before taking part in The Finals, the Cavs might not accrue enough time to make another mark in the playoff record book.

Analytics Art: Stars who most improved their 3-point shot

VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard powers the Spurs to a record-setting win

By Will Laws, Special to

There’s no denying the robust correlation between a team’s efficiency from 3-point range and their overall success. If the Golden State Warriors’ meteoric rise over the past two seasons wasn’t enough to showcase the significance of that relationship to you, take a look at the PointAfter visualization below. The second tab, plotting every team’s 3-point percentage against their win total, is especially striking.

Premier marksmanship can make up for weakness in other areas. When a star player significantly improves his shooting touch, it adds an entirely new dimension to his team’s offense.

The following five players all increased their 3-point efficiency by at least five percent in 2015-16 while launching at least three 3-pointers each game. It’s no coincidence that four of these players are playoff-bound, too.

5. Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks

2014-15 3-point percentage: 34.3 percent

2015-16 3-point percentage: 40 percent

Percent Difference: 5.7 percent

The Hawks have a good problem in that they possess two starting-caliber point guards in Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder. The latter might hold more potential as an explosive force off the dribble, but Teague turned his once iffy jumper into a stark advantage over his promising backup this year.
The 27-year-old reached the 40-percent mark for the first time in his career, boosting his scoring rate to a personal-best 19.8 points per 36 minutes. Teague rarely escapes to the corner in Atlanta’s offense, so his improvement on 3-pointers above the break (39 percent) was essential to reaching those landmarks.

Note: You can see Teague’s shooting percentage in PointAfter’s seven zones by hovering over the above shot chart.

4. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

2014-15 3-point percentage: 30.4 percent

2015-16 3-point percentage: 37.1 percent

Percent Difference: 6.7 percent

For a large portion of Kemba Walker’s tenure in Charlotte, a lack of spacing limited the progression of the team’s offense. The Hornets rarely boasted several above-average shooters who could usher their scheme into the modern style of the NBA.

Thanks to the rapid improvement of Walker’s jump shot (and some savvy acquisitions by GM Rich Cho), Charlotte is home to one of the league’s top-ten offenses by offensive rating. After ranking last in 3-point percentage last season, the Hornets jumped all the way to eighth behind 3-point percentage champ Troy Daniels (48.4 percent), veteran Marvin Williams (40.2 percent) and their star guard Walker.

Walker more than doubled his raw 3-point total from a season ago while exceeding the league average for efficiency for the first time.

3. Will Barton, Denver Nuggets

2014-15 3-point percentage: 27.1 percent

2015-16 3-point percentage: 34.5 percent

Percent Difference: 7.4 percent

Will Barton’s first full season in Denver following a midseason move from Portland in 2014-15 signaled his first with an established role, and he seized the opportunity.

A contender for Kia Sixth Man of the Year and Kia Most Improved Player, Barton took his game to another level in 2015-16 by becoming a bona fide 3-point threat.

The 6-foot-6, 175-pound wing has always been regarded as a good ball-handler for his size. His maturation as a shooter signaled that he can be a weapon without the ball in his hands, too. In today’s NBA, that’s a major plus.

2. Al-Farouq Aminu, Portland Trail Blazers

2014-15 3-point percentage: 27.4 percent

2015-16 3-point percentage: 36.1 percent

Percent Difference: 8.7 percent

Okay, maybe Aminu isn’t a “star.” But the versatile defender played like one at times for the Trail Blazers, starting all 82 games and enjoying the best offensive season of his career.

His first double-digit scoring season (10.2 points per game) can be tied directly to his marked uptick in 3-point percentage.

With his newfound stroke in his arsenal, Aminu was granted the green light far more often than during his previous three stints with the Clippers, Pelicans and Mavericks. A whopping 49 percent of Aminu’s shots were 3-pointers, up 10 percent from 2013-14 and 35 percent from last season.

As a result, Aminu now has the ability to carry Portland’s offense once in a while. In Portland’s March 31 game against Boston, with both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum enduring off nights, Aminu poured in a career-high 28 points on 6-of-11 3-point shooting to guide the Blazers to a 116-109 victory.
If Aminu plays like that during the playoffs, his national profile will surely rise anew.

1. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

2014-15 3-point percentage: 34.9 percent

2015-16 3-point percentage: 44.3 percent

Percent Difference: 9.4 percent

It is true Kawhi Leonard‘s shooting cooled off a bit as the season went on. But there was really nowhere for Leonard to go but down after bursting out of the gates on a stunning four-month hot streak.

Leonard converted at least 47 percent of his 3-pointers from November to February. No other player recorded more than two full months with a 3-point percentage over 47 percent (minimum 20 attempts).

Even with the dip in efficiency as the season turned to spring, Leonard’s overall improvement from 3-point range was staggering. After never eclipsing 38 percent in his previous four seasons, Leonard sustained a truly remarkable long-range run and finished fourth in the NBA with a 44.3 percent clip on treys.
That’s one spot below Curry, whose exploits largely overshadowed Leonard and the Spurs during the regular season. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see those two face off when the stakes are raised in the playoffs.

This story was published by PointAfter, a partner of

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.

Analytics Art: The three hottest shooters in the NBA this week

VIDEO: Utah’s Rodney Hood scores 30 points in first half vs. Lakers

By Will Laws, Special to

Teams are fighting for their playoff lives as the calendar turns to April. This week, two Western Conference sharpshooters helped their clubs keep pace in the frantic race happening on the postseason bubble. Meanwhile, a veteran experiencing a bit of a down season up north showed he could still make a difference with his shooting stroke.

PointAfter breaks down the three hottest shooters of the week with interactive visualizations.

Note: All weekly statistics cover games between March 25-31.  

Guard: J.J. Barea, Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks were briefly out of the Western Conference playoff picture after losing 10 of their first 13 March contests. Their smallest player propped them back up into a tie for seventh place this week by helping them claim two victories to end the month.

J.J. Barea logged a double-double (18 points, 11 assists) in a nine-point road win over Denver on Monday, then poured in 26 points off the bench in a 91-89 triumph over the Knicks, the most scored by a Dallas reserve this season.

The 31 year old has made at least half his shots in Dallas’ last four games, and he finished March shooting 49 percent from downtown. Barea rediscovering his shooting touch after three mediocre seasons from beyond the arc has helped him post a career-best 15.1 PER this year. He could be an unlikely hero for the Mavericks in their quest for the postseason.


Wing: Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz

For this generation of NBA players, the ultimate compliment when you’re playing the Lakers is having Kobe Bryant ask to guard you. Rodney Hood experienced that on Monday night after he dropped 30 points in the first half of Utah’s clash against Los Angeles. Bryant hardly let Hood touch the ball in the second half, and the second-year wing didn’t score a point in the second half.

No matter — the damage was already done. The game ended up as Bryant’s worst loss of his career, a 48-point shellacking that Hood sparked by making 8-of-9 3-pointers in the first half. He was easily the most dangerous scorer on the court, whether you measure by efficiency or raw point total. No other player scored more than 17 points or came close to matching Hood’s astronomical 115.4 true shooting percentage.

Hood also acquitted himself well in Utah’s overtime loss to Golden State, notching 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting. But it was his utter domination of the Lakers that he’ll remember when he looks back on his “sophomore” season in the league.


Forward/Center: Patrick Patterson, Toronto Raptors

Patrick Patterson has taken a back seat in Toronto’s offense this year, and for good reason. He’s posted career lows in usage rate (12.3 percent), field goal percentage (42 percent) and scoring rate (11 points per 40 minutes). However, he can still provide the occasional boost off the bench for the Raptors.

The stretch-four was 7-of-13 from deep this week, including a 16-point outburst in 20 minutes against New Orleans on Saturday that saw him sink all three of his treys.

Patterson impacts Toronto on offense more than most realize. He shoots 39 percent from deep in the Raptors’ franchise-record 50 victories compared to 33 percent in their losses, and the team’s offensive rating increases by 7.5 points when he’s on the court.

With the six-year veteran launching more 3s than ever before this year (3.8 per game) and providing savvy defensive play, he’s still positively affecting the Raptors despite his reduced role.

This story was published by PointAfter, a partner of

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.

Analytics Art: The three hottest shooters in the NBA this week

VIDEO: Jeremy Lin dominates against Spurs

By Will Laws, Special to

For the fans who have tuned into the NCAA Tournament more than the NBA of late, they are missing out on some stellar shooting performances from players determined to improve their team’s playoff positioning.

As the regular season winds down, each of those efforts seems to matter more than the last.

PointAfter breaks down the three hottest shooters of the week with interactive visualizations.

Note: All weekly statistics cover games between March 18-24.

Guard: Jeremy Lin, Charlotte Hornets

Jeremy Lin has had a pretty poor shooting season, posting field goal percentages below league-average in six of PointAfter’s seven shooting zones (the right corner being the lone exception). But he improved this week, even if his seven-day shot chart shows he still can’t drive effectively to his left very well.

Note: You can hover over each shooting zone to see Lin’s stats compared to the league average.

The clear standout performance from Lin came in Charlotte’s stunning win against the Spurs, which saw the Hornets rebound from a pitiful seven-point first quarter to win 91-88. Lin sparked that remarkable comeback, converting 11-of-18 shots (4-of-4 from beyond the arc) for 29 points, including 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the fourth quarter.

Lin averaged 22.3 points in three games this week as Charlotte has won 17 of its last 21 games to solidify its standing in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Wing: Tim Hardaway Jr., Atlanta Hawks

Like the Hornets, the Atlanta Hawks have also gotten hot down the stretch to climb up the Eastern Conference standings. And they’re getting major contributions someone who played in just four of the team’s first 35 games.

Tim Hardaway Jr. has shown why the Hawks traded their first-round pick in the 2015 Draft to acquire him. After showing development on the defense since a month-long NBA D-League stint, Hardaway has evidently been granted the green light from downtown.

And why not? He’s sunk 49 percent of his 3-pointers in March, and canned 11-of-20 treys in Atlanta’s three games this week to average 16.7 points on 60 percent shooting overall. His seven-day shot chart epitomizes the club’s preference for shots at the rim and from beyond the arc.

Hardaway’s recent hot streak has kept the Hawks rolling even though a bruised knee has limited Kent Bazemore lately. His emergence will let coach Mike Budenholzer mix and match more aggressively down the stretch to give Bazemore and others some late-season rest.

Forward/Center: Marcus Morris, Detroit Pistons

Detroit’s trade for Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock and the since-released Danny Granger with Phoenix (that only cost the Pistons a 2020 second-round pick) was one of the offseason’s best under-the-radar moves. The Suns dumped this trio in an ill-fated quest to sign LaMarcus Aldridge, and gifted the Pistons a starting stretch-four in the process.

Morris has responded well to the increased usage in Detroit this season, providing it with spacing that long eluded during the Josh SmithGreg Monroe days. In fact, the Pistons’ offensive rating has been nearly five points better with Morris on the floor.

The streaky Morris has sizzled of late, shooting 63.4 percent overall, 76.5 percent on 3-pointers and 66.7 percent on free throws in Detroit’s four games this week. The Pistons were undefeated in those games, putting more space between themselves and the No. 9-seeded (and swooning) Chicago Bulls.

This story was published by PointAfter (, a partner of

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.

Analytics Art: The three hottest shooters in the NBA this week

VIDEO: Andrew Wiggins runs wild in a win over Brooklyn

By Will Laws, Special to

The dog days of the NBA season are upon us. With just over a month remaining in the regular season, the mileage on players’ legs is piling up, and coaches are trying to give their starters a bit more rest as the playoffs near.

Of PointAfter’s three hottest shooters of the week, the two who suit up for teams currently in postseason position come off the bench. Those guys will become more important as the season winds down and playoff rotations tighten up, leaving little time for the indispensable starters to catch their breath.

Note: All weekly statistics cover games between March 4-10.

Guard: Evan Turner, Boston Celtics

Evan Turner is slogging through his worst shooting season from 3-point range in 2015-16, which has caused him to rely more heavily on the mid-range game. In fact, Turner has taken more shots from within four feet than he has from beyond the arc, an incredibly rare happening for a guard.

That uncommon strategy means Turner is bound to streaks of sweet shooting and equally poor slumps. This week marked one of the good runs for Boston’s bench guard.

He sank at least half his attempts in all three of the Celtics’ contests, including a 21-point outburst on 10-of-19 shooting in a 105-104 nailbiter over the Knicks. Overall, he was 21-of-38 (55.3 percent) from the floor on the week.

Note: You can hover over each shooting zone to see Turner’s stats compared to the league average.

Turner might not adhere to the preferred style of contemporary NBA offenses that favor long-distance shots, but he’s mostly making it work for the Celtics.

Wing: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves

Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell criticized his starters after Friday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, with one statement that seemed pointed in Andrew Wiggins‘ direction: “Every single night you’ve got to earn it, you don’t get to sleepwalk your way through 20, 25 minutes of the game and then decide you’ve got to play.”

(Wiggins was held to 21 minutes that night, a season low.)

The former No. 1 overall pick showed his mettle the next night against Brooklyn by logging his most efficient shooting performance of the season. Wiggins canned 10-of-14 shots, including both of his 3-point attempts, to total 26 points and six assists, which tied a season high and helped Minnesota score a season-best 132 points in the reassuring triumph.

The Wolves couldn’t nab victories in the team’s other two contests against Charlotte and San Antonio this week, but Wiggins was 20-for-38 overall to complete an encouraging seven-day stretch that didn’t start off that way.

Forward/Center: Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder

Enes Kanter did his part on offense this week, acting as a center who can spread the floor and open up the lane for Oklahoma City’s stars. He knocked down the shots that needed to be made in wins over the Bucks and Clippers, posting a hyper-efficient conversion rate of 70.8 percent on 14-of-19 shooting.

This is his role, and everyone knows it — he just fulfilled it better this week.

Problem is, his infamous defensive shortcomings negate whatever spacing he provides Oklahoma City on offense. The Thunder’s defensive rating worsens by more than six points per 100 possessions with Kanter on the floor, which explains why Steven Adams has taken over the lion’s share of court time in their center platoon. Kanter played just 37 minutes in OKC’s two games this week, and has averaged 16.3 minutes in four March matchups.

The Thunder have uncharacteristically struggled in the fourth quarter this season, often blowing leads when Kanter’s out there ole’ing big men like a matador. He’ll have to keep shooting the lights out to justify more minutes in crunch time.

This story was published by PointAfter, a partner of

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.


Analytics Art: Lowry, Leonard, Faried among week’s best shooters

VIDEO: Kyle Lowry runs wild vs. Cavaliers

By Will Laws, Special to

It’s officially March, which means it’s almost crunch time for teams hanging on in the postseason race or simply hoping to improve their playoff seeding.

Two of this week’s three hottest shooters play for teams trying to beat the odds and overtake the overwhelming favorites for home-court advantage in their respective conferences. Though both the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs will likely both wind up with No. 2 seeds, their stars showed this week that they likely won’t ever concede a defeat.

PointAfter guides you through the most noteworthy shooting performances of the week with interactive visualizations.

Note: All weekly statistics cover games between Feb. 26-March 3.

Guard: Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

Kyle Lowry only played in two of Toronto’s three games this week, but he certainly earned his day of rest during a road trip against Detroit. Sandwiched around that night off were two of Lowry’s three best scoring totals this season.

The bulldog point guard notched a season-high 43 points on 15-of-20 shooting in a two-point statement win over the Cavaliers at home last Friday. The performance was magnified by the floundering of teammate DeMar DeRozan, who went 1-of-11 from the floor.

Then, Lowry nailed 13-of-20 attempts against Utah in a 104-94 victory that kept the Raptors within two games of Cleveland in the suddenly competitive race for the top seed in the East.

If Toronto is going to clinch the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage for the first time in franchise history, Lowry will have to continue to lead the charge.

Wing: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

The remarkable emergence of Kawhi Leonard’s 3-point range has easily been the most distinguishable improvement in his game since last season.

After never eclipsing the 38 percent mark in his first four seasons, Leonard is suddenly converting 48 percent of his 3-pointers in 2015-16. That’s good for second place in the NBA among qualified shooters, behind only J.J. Redick.

Leonard bested himself this week by making 10-of-20 shots from downtown in San Antonio’s three wins this week. That includes a dagger against the Pelicans in the final minute that completed the Spurs’ all-too-predictable fourth-quarter comeback over New Orleans on Thursday.

Overall, he sank 57.9 percent of his attempts while averaging 28 points against the Rockets, Pistons and Pelicans. Just another ho-hum week for the league’s most anonymous star, who’s shooting above league-average in all seven of PointAfter’s designated court zones.

Note: You can hover over each shooting zone to see Leonard’s stats compared to the league average.

Forward/Center: Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets

Kenneth Faried isn’t exactly known for his offensive potential outside of the post, but he flashed a decent mid-range game this week while cashing 69 percent (20-of-29) of his looks from the floor.

Faried, a notoriously bad free-throw shooter (58.7 percent this season), also managed to connect on 75 percent of those attempts this week. Let’s call this relatively lights-out shooting rate a tiny bright spot in a mostly lost season for Denver.

This story was published by PointAfter, a partner of

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.


Analytics Art: Schroder, McDermott, Lopez among week’s best shooters

VIDEO: Doug McDermott talks after his big game against Washington

By Will Laws, Special to

For many NBA players, All-Star Weekend represents an opportunity to rest up before the home stretch of the regular season. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that all three of this week’s hottest shooters stayed home during All-Star festivities.

Fresh legs certainly seemed to play a part in kick-starting these players’ second halves. Two guys highlighted this week were well-rested and prepared for an uptick in minutes when All-Stars in front of them on the depth chart were sidelined with minor injuries.

PointAfter guides you through the most noteworthy shooting performances of the week with interactive visualizations.

Note: All weekly statistics cover games between Feb. 19-Feb. 25.

Best Guard: Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks have a good problem, in that they possess two point guards fully capable of starting – and excelling – in the NBA. When regular starter Jeff Teague (wrist) left a game against Milwaukee on Saturday, Schroder took over and became the first player this season to record 25 points and 10 assists off the bench. He nearly notched a triple-double, too, collecting eight rebounds.

Schroder followed that up with an electrifying showing against Golden State, tallying 18 points and six assists in just 18 minutes to help the Hawks briefly recover from a daunting halftime deficit.

One of the game’s best creators off the dribble — Schroder led all players in last year’s playoffs with 52.9 percent shooting on drives – the 22-year-old showed off his shooting stroke this week, going 24-of-41 (58.5 percent) from the floor overall and 7-of-16 (43.8 percent) from long range.

It’s no wonder Atlanta’s offense has been markedly better with Schroder on the floor this year, posting an offensive rating of 108.2 points per 100 possessions compared to 103.1 with him on the bench.

Best Wing: Doug McDermott, Chicago Bulls

With Jimmy Butler sidelined recently due to a knee injury, McDermott has flashed the potential that made him a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft after leading the nation in scoring at Creighton. He poured in a career-high 30 points in a massive 116-106 home win over Toronto last Friday, sinking 13-of-17 shots (4-of-5 from downtown). The 24-year-old then shot 60 percent (12-of-20) in two more victories at the United Center against the Lakers and Wizards.

McDermott made at least half his shots from all seven of PointAfter’s designated zones this week. That includes a 73.3 percent mark inside the restricted zone, where he’s been below league average at 49.3 percent for the whole season.

Note: You can hover over each shooting zone to see McDermott’s stats compared to the league average.

McDermott largely failed to make an impact as a rookie in 2014-15, but he’s resembled an entirely different player under coach Fred Hoiberg. After making 31.7 percent of his 3-pointers last season, he’s earned back that “McBuckets” nickname thanks to a 43.1 shooting percentage on 3-pointers in 2015-16. He’ll be an important sparkplug off the bench as Chicago attempts to claw back into the upper echelon of Eastern Conference contenders.

Best Forward/Center: Robin Lopez, New York Knicks

Lopez is a noted mascot bully, but has been roughing up opponents in the post this week. He tied season highs with 26 points and 16 rebounds on 11-of-14 shooting in a much-needed win over the Timberwolves. He shot 28-of-40 (70.0 percent) overall on the week, though New York lost its other three games out of the All-Star break.

That continued a miserable 2-13 stretch that’s effectively pushed the Knicks of the playoff race, but don’t blame Lopez for his team’s poor form. He’s upped his efficiency and raw scoring numbers lately, and is averaging a double-double in February (14.7 points, 10.6 rebounds) despite putting up just 9.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game this season.

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.

Analytics Art: Collison, Bogdanovic, Williams among best shooters of week

VIDEO: Marvin Williams puts up a monster game against the Heat

By Will Laws, Special to

Although NBA All-Star 2016 has come and gone, there are no All-Stars in this week’s PointAfter recap of the hottest shooters at each position (guard, wing, forward/center). In fact, there’s only one player who currently starts for his own team.

You’d be remiss to underestimate these guys, however. All have been quietly valuable for their squads during the first half of the season, and one showcased his talent in an undercard event on Friday night at All-Star weekend.

Note: All weekly statistics cover games between Feb. 5-Feb. 11.

Best Guard: Darren Collison, Sacramento Kings

Darren Collison is nothing if not efficient. The diminutive UCLA product has ranked in the top five in field goal percentage among point guards in every season dating back to 2012-13, even while playing for three different teams over that span. Collison currently sits third on the field goal percentage leaderboard among qualified point guards, behind only Stephen Curry and Tony Parker.

Collison’s raw output has always lagged a bit behind, however, with a career scoring average of 12.5 points per game. That’s nothing to turn your nose up at if you’re an opposing coach, but Collison hasn’t exactly merited extra attention from defenses over his career.

That changed this week, as Collison notched a pair of 25-point games off the bench to average 19.3 points in four contests, going 25-for-39 (64.1 percent) from the field and 7-of-11 from downtown. He saved the Kings from suffering an embarrassing loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday, logging 13 fourth-quarter points in a four-point victory that halted Sacramento’s latest losing streak at four.

Best Wing: Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets

Bojan Bogdanovic is largely mentioned here because of one game over the past seven days. But oh, what a game it was.

The Croatian terrorized Sacramento’s notoriously weak perimeter defense, converting 7-of-9 three-pointers en route to a season-high 23 points in the Nets’ 128-119 victory.

His secret to getting in the zone? Star Trek, apparently.

Bogdanovic, a 26-year-old second-year player, hasn’t been subjected to the most ideal environment to get one’s feet wet in the NBA. Former Nets coach Lionel Hollins and interim coach Tony Brown have shifted him in and out of the starting lineup while presiding over some of the ugliest, iso-heavy offensive schemes in the league.

Nevertheless, Bogdanovic has occasionally flashed the sharpshooting touch that earned him a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team last season.

Best Forward/Center: Marvin Williams, Charlotte Hornets

Willie Cauley-Stein technically had the highest field goal percentage among forwards/centers last week, but it’s hard to endorse a guy as the best shooter at his position when he only made two shots outside of the restricted zone.

Marvin Williams, meanwhile, was an offensive force from all over the floor.

Note: You can hover over each shooting zone to see Williams’ stats compared to the league average.

The former No. 2 overall pick, who was named the captain of writer Zach Lowe’s “Luke Walton All-Stars” squad this week, has recently looked like the star he was once projected to be. The 29-year-old has averaged 15.8 points in nine games since Jan. 25 with Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum intermittently missing time.

As Lowe details in the piece linked above, Williams has been reborn as a stretch four with the Hornets. He’s showcased a remarkably consistent touch from beyond the arc, shooting above 40 percent from deep in January before canning 12-of-22 treys (54.5 percent) in five February contests.

Williams kept the Hornets close in what ended up as a three-point loss against Miami last Friday, pouring in a season-high 27 points on 12-of-17 shooting. The 10-year veteran then averaged 10 points on 55 percent shooting in three huge victories over Eastern Conference foes (Washington, Chicago, Indiana) to keep the Hornets hot heading into the All-Star break.

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.

Analytics Art: LaVine, Turner, Noel among best shooters of week

VIDEO: Zach LaVine finishes with authority vs. the Cavs

By Will Laws, Special to

The announcement of 2016 NBA All-Star reserves stole most headlines Thursday, but participants for this year’s BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge were named a day before that. Two players in particular showcased their offensive skill in the week leading up to the release of those rosters.

Interactive data visualization site PointAfter will help illustrate the most efficient shooting performances of the last seven days from each position group (guard, wing, forward/center), which have a youthful flavor to them this week.

Note: All weekly statistics cover games between Jan. 22-28.

Best Guard: Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves

LaVine’s shooting stroke was icier than Winter Storm Jonas for most of January, as he reached double-digit scoring in just three of his first 12 games. After setting a Timberwolves record with 35 bench points on 14-of-17 shooting against Oklahoma City on Wednesday, it’s fair to assume the cold spell is over.

LaVine made all nine two-point attempts against the Thunder and sunk 5-of-8 shots from 3-point range to keep Minnesota close in an eventual 126-123 defeat. LaVine’s 82 percent shooting that night was the best by a Timberwolf since Kevin Garnett in 2006.

That followed a solid showing against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, when LaVine scored 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting and had six assists.

Two impressive performances against top-tier teams, getting mentioned in the same breath as a franchise icon, and making the cut for Team USA in the Rising Stars Challenge? That’s a solid week for a 20-year-old backup guard.

Best Wing: Evan Turner, Boston Celtics

Miami Heat rookie Justise Winslow technically owns the second-best field goal percentage (63.2 percent) among wing players over the past seven days. But it would be a stretch to label Winslow the best shooter at his position with just one double-digit scoring performance to his name this month.

Instead, we’ll bestow that title upon Evan Turner, who isn’t exactly a slam-dunk choice himself. Even though he clanked his only two 3-point attempts of the week, Turner’s efficiency inside the arc was too much to ignore.

Note: You can hover over a shooting zone to see Turner’s percentages compared to the league average.

Turner averaged 13.3 points in Boston’s four games this week, all victories, and performed like a maestro from mid-range. The 27-year-old converted 22 of 38 shots overall (57.9 percent).
If you take issue with a guy who hasn’t even made 15 percent of his 3-pointers being classified as “shooter of the week,” realize Turner was agonizingly close to registering a ridiculous buzzer-beater as his first successful trey since Jan. 12.

If Turner had just moved that foot back a couple inches, the monkey would have been off his back. At least he’s a good sport about it.

Best Forward/Center: Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers have won three of their last six games and produced one of the league’s hottest shooters for the second straight week. After point guard Isaiah Canaan carried the torch for Philadelphia last week, this time it’s Noel, who has matured into an efficient scorer this season.

Noel ended November with a dreadful 40.8 percent shooting percentage. He’s now in the top 10 of the field goal percentage leaderboard (52.7 percent) and is shooting 62.6 percent in January. That’d be good for second in the NBA if he maintained throughout the season.


The 21-year-old had to leave Philly’s Jan. 20 clash against Orlando with migraine symptoms, but he recovered shoot 20-for-27 in three games this week. That includes one savage posterization of newly crowned All-Star Andre Drummond on Wednesday night.

The absence of rookie Jahlil Okafor, who sat out two games this week with the flu, probably contributed to Noel’s improved play this week since he had more room to operate in the post. But he’s proven over the last couple months that he can be a valuable piece for the 76ers with or without Okafor on the floor.

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.