Introducing Season Shotmap

Deciphering NBA players’ shots

We're breaking down top NBA players' shooting styles with our new basketball feature, Season Shotmap.

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It’s that time of the season again; the regular part is done, and everyone is reminiscing on the brilliant performances over the past seven months. We at SofaScore have been doing the same, and found a new way to analyze the greatness of the best players out there. As you might know, our app has had the Match Shotmap since the season 2016/17, showing you the shooting performance of players on a game basis.

Example of a Match Shotmap

This week we launched the Season Shotmap, a feature that shows you the shooting performance of the player during the course of the whole season. It’s broken down into two graphs:

The first graph shows the distribution of all the shots in a season, which can be filtered to show the made, total or missed shots.

Shots made, total shots and missed shots for Kevin Durant

The second graph shows how the players performance compares to the league average. The distribution is shown in 6 different colors which are determined based on the players rank in the league. The rank is calculated independently for each of the areas, and only the players with the minimum number of shots (20 during the course of the season) are taken into account. The colors are distributed like this:

Percentage graph for Luka Doncic

By clicking on the graph you can change between the players percentage, and the difference between his performance and the league average for that area.

As the regular season ended, we can announce the best players in the league for each area. The threshold we used to decide on the winners was at least 50 shots taken for the three-point areas, at least 100 shots for the two-point shots outside the paint, and at least 300 shots taken from the paint. Here are the most efficient players for the 2018/19 regular season:

Best players in the league by areas

MVP

Now that you are familiar with the look and content of the graphs, we can dive into the hottest topic of every season. It is of course the Most Valuable Player title of the regular season. This year the picks are very obvious and universally recognized. The three contenders we choose for the prestigious title are James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Stephen Curry.

James Harden

The most feared Beard of the league and the current holder of the title is once again amongst the top contenders. Whether it’s the incredible 36.1 PPG (2nd highest since the three-pointers were implemented, 7th highest in history*), the 4.8 3-pointers taken with a 37% accuracy or the total 10.8 FG per game with a 44% accuracy, Harden tops all the charts. Another thing that caught our eye, is how he managed to take more shots and retain the same percentage, even slightly raising it. This is even more impressive when we remember his streak of 263 consecutive points without an assist which spanned in December and January. That just shows that he often takes difficult shots and has the ability to get the W even without the full support of his teammates. In this season he even improved on his defense and leadership skills which could prove to be vital for a successful postseason.

*Only Micheal Jordan had a better average in the season 1986/87 with 37.1 in the three-point era, and Wilt Chamberlain had a higher average 5 consecutive seasons spanning from 1959/60 to 1963/64.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Greek Freak has definitely lived up to the expectations, and blew all of them away this season. The sheer dominance he displays in every single match and how he secured the top spot in the East for the Bucks are just incredible. Not only that, but he led them to the best season record (60–22) in the history of the franchise. With 27.7 PPG, a FG percentage of 58% and 10.3 field goals taken per game, he is the only player that can truly be compared with Harden this season. The most impressive thing about his season is how he managed to finally take the whole team to a new level. Their improvement has been gradual throughout the seasons, and it is incredible how they’ve managed to grow into the team with the best record in the league just a season after they underperformed with only 44 wins. Giannis has managed to fill his teammates with confidence, and they will certainly be the team to watch in the playoffs.

Stephen Curry

The baby-faced Assassin might not be your top choice, or he maybe even isn’t on your map for the MVP award, however, he should not be taken out of this conversation. Even though the Warriors were far from the historic record (73–9) of the 2015/16 season, their roster is arguably better than ever. And even with Kevin Durant dominating from all the areas of the field, another strong season from Klay Thompson and the rest of their strong roster, Curry has managed to put in another incredible season. His 27.6 points per game and a 44% three-point average are second only to the 2015/16 season (30.1, 45%), while posting a career high 5.2 three-point shots. He is the only player in the league that managed to beat Harden in that category (4.8). It is easy to say that it wasn’t the best season of his career just because of the standards that the 2-time MVP has set during his magnificent career. But with his stats again on the rise, and all of his teammates healthy and ready for the postseason, be sure to tune in for every one of their games.

MVP candidates for 2018/19

All three candidates have their case for this year’s title. Whether it’s Curry’s ability to shine even with all the incredible players surrounding him, Harden’s historical season and how he manages to pull his team in every match or how Antetokounmpo managed to incredibly improve the whole team in a sole season, you can’t go wrong with any one of them.

Rookie of the year

Luka Doncic

What more can be said about the brilliant rookie season that Doncic has had? He became the first teenager to record a 30-point triple-double, breaking LBJ’s record. He also ranks first with 21.2 points per game, and has 7.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game, making numerous clutch shots. Even after showing his brilliance in Real Madrid and for the Slovenian national team which he led to their first historical title in 2017, he still had a lot of doubters. However, in his first season he showed that the hype surrounding him was real, and that he can indeed show his full talent in the NBA. All eyes will be on him in the coming seasons, as he will be expected to take his team to the playoffs.

Trae Young

If you missed the second part of the season, you might be very confused with the selection of Young. However, that is the part in which he blew us away. His 49-point and 16-assist outing against the Bulls made him only the third rookie with a 40–10 game in history, joining him with LeBron James and Micheal Jordan, not a bad company to be in. He ended the season with 19.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game. Had he played like that the whole season, he would have beaten Doncic in most of the categories. It will be interesting to see whether Atlanta will be able to improve in the coming seasons with such raw talent on their roster.

Deandre Ayton

You might not have noticed him during the whole seasons, given he had a couple of dry spells, his rookie season was very promising. He posted 16.3 points (fourth amongst rookies) and 10.3 rebounds (first amongst rookies) per game while shooting 59% from the field. He has shown us that his offense is incredible and that he can post a double-double on a game basis. However, being on the second-worst defensive team of the league, his own defense showed that there is a lot of work to be done.

A couple of months ago, we would have said that this award is a no brainer, and that Doncic is the only candidate. As the season came to a close, he slowed up a bit, and Young showed his brilliance on numerous occasions and closed the gap massively. Ayton has had one of the strongest rookie center seasons in a very long while, however it doesn’t seem like it will be enough to take the award from the hands of the aforementioned duo.

Players career shifts

Another thing we have been looking into are the effects of career shifts on the players characteristics. We all know that a change of environment can have very different impacts on players statistics. The two players we’ll be talking about in this chapter are the most dominant player of his generation, King James, and the brilliant Blake Griffin. Both players changed teams in the past two seasons, and that has had a visible effect on their shot distribution and personal stats all round.

LeBron James

Last summer we witnessed LeBron going from Cleveland after the loss to the Warriors in the finals, to the Lakers who finished 11th in the West. It was certain that such a transition would make an impact on his performance, and it sure did. Looking at the bare stats, we can see that not much has changed. In his last season in Cleveland he posted 27.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game, while in this season he had 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists. While the impact is not seen in the numbers, it is visible on his Season Shotmap, with a lot less shots from the mid-range, and his shots distributed more evenly between both sides of the field in this season, compared to the predominantly left side in the last two seasons.

Blake Griffin

Being one of the physically most dominant players of the game, he has earned himself the nickname Force of Nature. He used that to absolutely dominate the mid-range area and break into the paint from all positions. However, a player shows his true class with adapting to different roles and through personal growth. The shift that we’ve seen in him, from being a predominantly mid-range shooter, to a player that opens up space for his teammates, and improves drastically on his three-point shooting is truly impressive. As shown in the graphs, we can see how he turned his game around since coming to Detroit, relying less on his physicality, and more on his shooting.

Comparison of the last three seasons by Blake Griffin

Different shooting styles

What we’ve also noticed in our graphs is that they can identify different types of players. For some positions such as centers, we didn’t expect to see much of a difference. However, when it comes to the natural shooters, we have noticed a couple of big ones. A very interesting comparison is that between the best players by three-point field goal percentage. We chose Joe Harris, JJ Reddick and Bojan Bogdanovic.

Joe Harris

Harris is the player with the highest three-point field goal percentage this season. It is very interesting to see just how much he improved in this category. His role in the Nets has drastically risen during the 3 seasons spent there. He is now a regular starter with over 30 minutes per game, and he posted elite numbers in all the shooting categories. His season highlight was definitely winning the All-Star 3-Point Contest.

JJ Redick

Redick is an example of an old-school shooter that likes to take all of the teams’ hard shots. He is one of the most reliable crunch-time shooters in the league, not only from the three-point range, but also from traffic in the mid-range. His Season Shotmap is unlike any we have found, with a significant number of shots coming from the top of the key.

Bojan Bogdanovic

Bogdanovic is an example of a player that is getting better each year, and it is very clear over the past three seasons. In 16/17 he posted 4.6 FG per game with a 44%, had a tree-point accuracy of 37% and averaged 13.7 points per game. He improved those numbers to 5.1 FGs with a 47% accuracy, 40% from the three-point area and 14.3 points per game. This season he showed us that he can be a true leader with 6.4 FGs with a 50% accuracy, a 42% 3-point accuracy and 18.0 points per game. His Season Shotmap shows us that his shots are distributed from all the areas outside the 3-point line, and he is extremely comfortable with the corner shots.

Different shooting styles can be spotted in Season Shotmaps

Each player has excelled from different positions this season. Harris has shown that he is a true point guard, without a lot of shots coming from the wing positions or the corner. Redicks’ shots are more distributed alongside the whole 3-point line, and he also shoots from mid-range. Bogdanovics’ Season Shotmap shows a lot of shots coming from the corners and the wing positions, and his shots from the point are very scattered.

To conclude…

There has never been more data to analyze, and that data can be handled and processed in different ways to explain the tactics and behavior in sports. With the Season Shotmap we want to show a realistic representation of the players efficiency and his role in the team.