Off The Charts
The 2016-17 season has been filled with performances that make you do a double-take at your television or computer screen.
Wait, did James Harden just have put up 53 points, 16 rebounds and 17 assists in a single game?
Does Russell Westbrook already have a triple-double in the second quarter?
How many points did the Warriors score against the Lakers … in regulation?
How many points could Klay Thompson have scored if Steve Kerr played him in the fourth quarter against Indiana?
While “off the charts” is one way to describe the offensive explosion by players and teams this season, we do in fact have charts to appreciate and memorialize these historic performances.
Player Shot Charts - Single Game
Let’s get started by taking a closer look Klay Thompson’s 60-point game. We can find it in a number of ways. If you remember the date (Dec. 5, 2016), you can go back to Scores page for that date to pull up the Box Score. If you didn’t remember the date, you can also go to Thompson’s player profile page, click on Profile and select Game Logs.
By default Thompson's game logs will load with the most recent game played at the top of the list. Simply click on the points (PTS) column in the header of the table to sort by his top scoring performances of the season.
Keep in mind that Klay’s masterpiece wasn’t only his top scoring performance of the season, but also that of the entire league. You can find those by going to the Player Game Logs page via the main stats menu (see below) and again clicking the points column to pull up the top scoring games by all players from the entire season.
You can also filter this down to reduce the results. For example, by adding a 50 points or greater filter, we now see the eight games in which a player has scored at least 50 points this season. The fact that those eight games were compiled by eight different players equalled an NBA record for the most players to score 50 points in a season - and we’re not even at the All-Star break yet.
No matter which way you find the game, once you’re there then you can pull up the shot chart for a complete breakdown of Klay’s career night. Just click the number of field goal attempts (33 under the FGA column) from the Game Logs page or the Box Score page and a new tab will launch with the shot charts, a video playlist of every Thompson attempt, and a shot log that captures the shot type, distance, time remaining and result of every shot he put up that night. Spoiler alert … he made a lot of them (63.6% to be exact).
In addition to the video and shot log, there are three different types of shot charts that can be used to examine Klay’s performance.
Shot Plot: A simple display of every shot Thompson attempted, including the location on the court for each shot and a make or miss indicator - green circle for made shots or red x for missed shots. These charts are ideal for examining individual games such as this one by Thompson.
Hex Map: A display showing the frequency of shots attempted from each area of the court - see larger hexagons under the basket where more shots were taken compared to smaller hexagons on the perimeter where shots are rarely taken in the exact same spot in a single game. This type of shot chart best suited for a larger sample size as opposed to an individual game.
Shot Zones: A display cutting the half court into shooting zones and showing the number of makes and attempts in each individual zone. The zones are colored either green (above), yellow (similar) or red (below) to show the shooter’s performance compared to the league average for each individual shooting zone.
Game Shot Charts - Single Game
If we return the Box Score for this game, there is another way to examine the shot chart not just for Thompson but for the entire game. Once inside the box score page, click on the words Box Score just below the line score at the top of the page. In the drop down menu that appears, select Shotcharts, this will bring up the shot chart options for both teams from this game.
From here, you can select combinations of players to see how they shot during the game. For example, with Thompson on fire, what did the rest of the Warriors’ starters do against the Pacers in this game? By clicking the check box next to the names of Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Stephen Curry, we get their combined shot chart and stats that show they shot 15-of-33 (45.5%) from the field and 2-of-10 (20%) from beyond the arc.
By doing that we can see that Thompson put up as many shots (33) as the rest of the starting lineup combined, but made 21 of his shots compared to just 15 from the other four players. And when it comes to 3-point shooting, Thompson shot at a higher volume (14) and accuracy (57.1%) compared to his fellow starters.
Game Shot Charts - Live During Game
Thus far our discussion of shot charts have centered around games that have been completed, but the game shot charts are available throughout the game as well, updating with every shot taken.
So if you want to see Kevin Love's shot chart from his record-breaking first quarter earlier this season, you didn't have to wait until the game was over. That pristine shot chart, covered in green circles for 11 made baskets against only three misses, was ready to be saved and shared as soon as history was made.
Just as we did above when looking for the shot chart for Warriors' starters during Thompson's career-night, we start by going to the box score page, clicking on the words Box Score to open the drop down menu and select Shotcharts. Once the shot chart page is loaded, we can change the By Period filter to show only the first quarter (side note, you can also use the time bar to select any span of the game if you're ever looking at a specific run).
After selecting the first quarter, simply click the checkbox next to Kevin Love's name to show only his shots from the quarter and you're ready to save.
Player Shot Charts - Full Season and Splits
In addition to looking at shot charts for players and teams from individual games, we can also look at them for longer stretches of the season. Whether you want to look at the full season, the last 10 games, home games only, against a specific team or only in clutch situations, there are shot charts available for countless numbers of statistical splits on both the player or team level.
Let’s stick with Klay Thompson and rather than just looking at the best game of his life, let’s look at his entire season. First, pull up Thompson’s profile page then either click on the word Profile to launch the drop down menu and select Splits, or just click the arrow next to the Traditional Splits title of the first table. The next page that comes up will have clickable links for Thompson’s field goals and 3-pointers this season. Click on the attempts (17.3 FGA) to open the shot chart in a new tab.
This time the shot chart will default to the Hex Plot display, which is much more useful for a season-long snapshot of a player’s shooting compared to a single game as the hexagons vary in size and color to show the frequency and accuracy of Thompson’s shooting from all around the court.
A few items of note here: Thompson is shooting greater than league average both at the basket and all 3-point areas above the break as indicated by the orange hexagons. However, he has been just an average shooter from the left corner (yellow) and below average (blue) from the right corner this season, which is surprising considering those are the shortest 3-point shots and one of the most efficient shots in the game today. Thompson is also an above-average shooter from most mid-range areas of the court with the exception of the top of the key.
Going back to Thompson’s Traditional Splits page, you will find shot charts available for a variety of splits automatically - by location, outcome, month, starting position and days rest. To get even more in depth, you can change the Split option at the top of the page from General to Opponent, Last N Games, In Game, Clutch, Team Performance and Year Over Year.
You can also click on the word Traditional to change the split type from Traditional to Shooting, which splits Thompson’s shooting data up by shot distance, shot area and shot type (see below for Jump Shots only). And if somehow that is not enough, you can use the Advanced Filters to drill down further to find the specific data that you’re looking for.
Team Shot Charts - Full Season and Splits
The same shot charts and myriad of splits that we discussed for individual players are also available for teams. Once again, the Hex Map shot chart is great to use here as it takes a great amount of data and quickly displays where a team shoots most often and where they shoot best.
The Houston Rockets are perhaps the best example to use here as you can see nearly all of their shots come either at the rim or from beyond the arc, with the straight on three and right corner three being their deadliest weapons.
These are just a few of the ways that shot charts are used to analyze today’s game and provide additional context to a discussion about some of the incredible play we are seeing on a nightly basis.