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Projecting Shooting & NBA Range: Findings From The Database
Since April, I have been working on putting together a database to track prospects’ shooting numbers on NBA 3s at the college or international level. I was able to do this by using Synergy’s shot chart data and filtering the shot distances. For full transparency, there is a small margin for error. The following twitter thread will explain why, along with the process of grabbing the numbers, but the overall data is going to be off by only a couple of attempts.
Before the 2019-2020 college season, the NCAA moved the college 3-point line back, so I decided to use the 2019-20 season as the first year to gather data, and now have data from the last three drafts (2020-2022). This includes everyone that was drafted out of college or internationally, along with the top UDFAs, and also some of the top returners for this upcoming college season.
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Throughout all of this, it should be noted that there is limited NBA data on these players, so it is best to stay away from forming strong conclusions from these findings because it only includes players who have played a maximum of two NBA seasons. But with that being said, there is still value to be had from looking at this data (i.e. which players are already comfortable taking and capable of making longer 3s), and there are definitely some interesting takeaways and things to monitor over the next couple of seasons. It will be interesting to add more data, and look back at this in the future.
For example, one of the things that I want to add is the amount of games played and/or minutes for every player so it is easier to compare players. For example, Lamelo Ball had 60 NBA 3s attempted in 15 games when he was playing in the NBL, which is impressive volume, but that wouldn’t meet some of the raw total filters used.
Anyways, before we get into some interesting findings, here is the link to my database:
Now, let’s dive into a few interesting findings from using the database.
1) Only 3 drafted players have attempted at least 100 NBA 3s from above-the-break in their final college season. Those 3 players were:
Payton Pritchard: 43.75%, 49-112
Anthony Edwards: 25.45%, 28-110
Jaden Ivey: 30.77%, 32-104
Something that I do find interesting and have wondered over the years is how much does volume (regardless of efficiency) have an impact on someone’s shooting projection / translation. This ‘volume’ theory doesn’t necessarily have to just be from NBA range either, it could be from the college line.
This is something that I want to keep an eye on going forward to see if anything comes from it. Marcus Smart could be an outlier, but he is an example of someone who was willing to let it fly from deep in college and early in his NBA career, even when the efficiency was struggling. Along with the volume from Smart, he also showed flashes of shot versatility, shooting shots off-movement, off-the-dribble, and spotting up.
As mentioned earlier, Lamelo Ball had 60 NBA 3s attempted in 15 games. 51 of those attempts were above-the-break, which would have had him on track to be included in the list above, had he played the same amount of games as Pritchard, Edwards, and Ivey, with all three of them playing over 30 games. There’s no guarantee that Lamelo would have kept shooting at the same volume, which is why the larger sample size of games is always better, but it is just an example of how the added context of games played could be of use. And similar to Smart, while Lamelo’s 3-point volume was high, the efficiency from deep was not good.
2) Only 3 players over 6’3” have attempted at least 100 NBA 3s while shooting at least 40% from both above-the-break and the corners. Those 3 players were:
Total: 49.07% (53-108)
Above-The-Break: 44.87% (35-78)
Corners: 60% (18-30)
Total: 45.19% (47-104)
Above-The-Break: 42.11% (32-76)
Corners: 53.57% (15-28)
Total: 43.14% (44-102)
Above-The-Break: 44.62% (29-65)
Corners: 40.54% (15-37)
If we exclude the height filter to include ‘small guards’, another 4 players join the list: Antoine Davis, Markus Howard, Nijel Pack, and Payton Pritchard. All 3 of Antoine Davis, Nijel Pack, and Baylor Scheierman will return to school for another year, so it will be interesting to see if they can match this combination of volume and efficiency.
Kispert had some struggles early in his rookie season, but he started to put things together once he started to get consistent rotation minutes, and the shot looked good for a majority of the season.
In his first 22 games of the season, Kispert shot only 20.9% (9-44) from 3, but he shot 37.3% (103-276) in his last 55 games. And if we want to just look at Kispert’s last 25 games, he shot 39.7% (58-146) from deep.
There’s no NBA data on Cole Swider, but it is interesting to see his name pop up here, and in other queries, after shooting lights out for the Lakers in Summer League. In 8 Summer League games, Swider shot 52.8% (28-53) from 3.
3) 12 players attempted at least 50 corner 3s while shooting at least 40% on such attempts. That list includes:
The name that sticks out to me the most in this list is Josiah-Jordan James. Out of these 12 instances, there were only two times where a player did not shoot at least 35% from 3 in their college season (including college line) while shooting over 40% from the corner. The first instance was Ochai Agbaji who shot 33.8% (46-136) from 3 in his Sophomore season while shooting 44.64% (25-56) from the corners, and then went on to shoot 37.7% and 40.7% from 3 over the next two years.
The second instance is Josiah-Jordan James, who shot 32.4% (56-173) on overall 3s this past college season while shooting 40.38% (21-52) from the corners. It will be interesting to keep an eye on James’ shot this upcoming season to see if it improves as a whole, because he is someone who already brings a lot of value on the defensive end, and a consistent shot would make him an intriguing prospect worth drafting.
While James is on this list with a bunch of solid shooters, it doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to have the same improvement that Agbaji had; but while it’s far from a guarantee, there are some positives to look at. On the positive side for James’ shooting projection, he has increased his volume from 3 in each of the last three seasons, and improved his efficiency from his Sophomore season (30.8%) to his Junior season (32.4%). It’s always nice seeing improvements in both volume and efficiency at the same time. Additionally, James is a 78.7% career FT shooter in his three years at Tennessee, although on limited volume (118-150). On the negative side, James’ form isn’t the most consistent, and he can get a little stiff when shooting the ball, which results in some bad misses.
4) There were only 4 players from the 2020 and 2021 NBA Drafts, including the top undrafted players, who shot at least 40% on 100 or more NBA 3s.
Kispert, Howard, and Pritchard have already shown up in previous queries, but Desmond Bane is a new name that comes up here. The reason Bane did not show up in the previous queries is because he only shot 35.29% from the corners while shooting a ridiculous 48.28% from above-the-break. Bane actually shot 40% (16-40) from the left corner, but only shot 28.6% (8-28) from the right corner, which brought his percentage down.
For some reason, Bane’s special shooting seemed to be overlooked as a prospect by most of the league. Maybe it was because of his unorthodox form, but that still seems a bit odd considering the fact that he shot 43.3% (249-575) from 3 over his four seasons at TCU. Bane consistently stood out when looking at his shooting numbers in college, and seemed like a great value at the time of the draft, but he’s now looking like one of the biggest steals in the 2020 NBA Draft. I wrote about Desmond Bane prior to the draft when he was being mocked as a 2nd rounder. The Stepien is no longer up, but I copied my article and that can be found here. As a heads up, some of the clips didn’t transfer over, but all of the writing is still available.
5) Out of the 51 returning players in the database for the upcoming college season, only 10 players have attempted at least 75 NBA 3s and shot at least 38% on such attempts.
These are some names to keep an eye on for the upcoming college season.
Everyone already knows about Terquavion Smith (NC State) and Julian Strawther (Gonzaga), two guys that could have been drafted a few months ago had they decided to stay in the draft. Baylor Scheierman (South Dakota State > Creighton) was one of the best shooters in the country, and that is also the case in the database. Scheierman also ranks in the 99th percentile in the Cerebro Database when looking at 3PE (3-Point Efficiency). A couple of other transfers are Malachi Smith (Chattanooga > Gonzaga) and Nijel Pack (Kansas State > Miami). Pack is a small guard, but a straight up nuclear shooter.
I recently wrote about Houston Mallette (The Case For Houston Mallette), and how he is one of the best returning players with the potential to be a special shotmaker.
Tyler Burton (Richmond) is someone that I thought was a good two-way target for teams because of his size and shooting before he withdrew from the draft, but it will be interesting to see how he looks this upcoming year without having Jacob Gilyard or Grant Golden on the team.
As mentioned earlier, this data is pretty interesting, and it will be worth keeping an eye on several things moving forward with some of these players, and future trends. Is outlier volume from 3 a better indicator than efficiency when projecting shooting? Does knowing where a player got most of their shots (above-the-break vs corner) matter more when trying to project shooting? Are the top returning shooters able to sustain the level they shot at last year, especially when taking into account the shot difficulty that players like Terquavion Smith, Houston Mallette, and others dealt with? All of these questions are things that will be worth monitoring going forward, and we will hopefully have more concrete answers in the near future.
Zach Milner, @ZachMilner13 on Twitter
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