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5 to Watch in 05
by: DraftExpress
December 30, 2004




It doesn't take more than a few minutes of watching an NBA playoff game to realize how important outside shooting has become to the way the sport is evolving these days. Great shooters open the floor for their teammates to operate and make the offense flow much more smoothly. Still, ranking the best shooters in the NBA or this upcoming draft class is a highly subjective proposition.



Players who can sit in the corner and knock down open shots are valuable commodities in today's NBA, but without teammates who can actually create those looks, their value would be diminished because the defense would have no reason to actually leave them open. Every NBA game you watch is a chess match, a give and take of opposing strategies and decisions with adjustments made on the fly based on what coaching staffs and their trusted playmakers are seeing on the court.



The best creators in the NBA are not only great athletes who can get to the rim at will, but also are capable of pulling up off the dribble and punishing the defense. This is arguably a much more difficult and important skill to have – it's incredibly difficult to slow down a great off-the-dribble shooter who can create an open look in a flash.



With that said, how do we evaluate the best shooters available in this draft class? Here are some of the measures we came up with, with an explanation for why we isolated each stat, along with a look at the top-five players in the NBA and the 2015 NBA draft in each category.



3-pointers attempted per-40 minutes



Methodology: Anyone can go out and jack up 3-pointers without conscience, but if that strategy doesn't prove to be effective for winning games, there is little doubt that the player's teammates and coaching staff will quickly pivot away from it. Many of the players we'd consider to be the best shooters in the league are indeed those who heave up the most shots on a per-minute basis. Studies have shown that the volume of a player's attempts in college actually tell us more about what kind of shooter he will develop into than his actual accuracy, which can be swayed easily by the small sample size of the NCAA season.



Tyler Harvey (9.8)
Michael Frazier (8.2)
D'Angelo Russell (7.6)
Mario Hezonja (7.4)
Corey Hawkins (7.4)



NBA leaders
Stephen Curry (10.1)
J.R. Smith (9.9)
C.J. Miles (9.5)
Louis Williams (8.9)
Wesley Matthews (8.8)



3-point percentage



Methodology: While per-minute attempts is an interesting stat, it's important to realize that not every player is in position to heave up a huge amount of outside shots because of their role on the team, style of play, or perhaps a lack of confidence in their ability to make 3s. In a perfect world, we'd be looking for a player who can hit a barrage of outside shots at a great clip, but NBA teams also like players who know their role and are willing to play within the confines of a system.



Corey Hawkins (49%)
Anthony Brown (44%)
Pat Connaughton (42.5%)
Daniel Diez (42.5%)
Frank Kaminsky (41.6%)



NBA leaders (min: 3.4 attempts per-40)
Kyle Korver (46.5%)
Stephen Curry (44.4%)
Eric Gordon (44.4%)
Anthony Morrow (43.4%)
Klay Thompson (43.4%)



Free-throw percentage



Methodology: While it may seem strange to isolate a player's ability at the free-throw line and attempt to extrapolate it to their overall shooting prowess as a whole, there is certainly a method to the madness here. Historical draft studies consistently show that a player's free-throw percentage in college tells us just as much, if not more, than his 3-point percentages do. The explanation here again revolves around sample size (some of the prospects in this study shot only around 100 3-pointers this season), as well as the fact that shooting form, touch, hand/eye coordination and other factors that many great free-throw shooters have overlap quite neatly outside the charity stripe as well.



Joseph Young 93.2%
Quinn Cook 89.1%
Tyus Jones 88.9%
Michael Frazier 87.0%
Tyler Harvey 85.6%



NBA leaders
J.J. Redick 90.8%
Jodie Meeks 90.6%
Chris Paul 90.6%
Caron Butler 90.2%
Stephen Curry 89.8%



Catch-and-shoot points per-40



Methodology: This stat tells us a bit about the different prospects' role on their former team, as well as their readiness for operating within the confines of an NBA system. These players mostly had narrowly defined duties as floor spacers for their respective teams. For good measure we threw their points-per-possession average in parenthesis, to give you a better idea how accurately they were able to accumulate the scoring numbers they put together in catch-and-shoot situations.



Daniel Diez 7.44 (1.35 PPP)
Mario Hezonja 7.29 (1.24 PPP)
Pat Connaughton 7.01 (1.36 PPP)
Kristaps Porzingis 6.43 (1.13 PPP)
Michael Frazier 6.27 (1.16 PPP)



NBA leaders (points per game)
Kyle Korver 6.8 (1.37 PPP)
Chris Bosh 6.3 (1.12 PPP)
Dirk Nowitzki 6.3 (1.04 PPP)
J.J. Redick 6.2 (1.22 PPP)
Klay Thompson 6.2 (1.27 PPP)



Pull-up jumper points per-40



Methodology: As we discussed in the intro, it's quite a bit more difficult to score points efficiently when players are forced to create offense on their own. As evidence, the NBA sample set below includes some of the league's best pure scorers. Unfortunately, the varying degree in the level of competition of our draft set hampers us from making a real apples-to-apples comparison. While it's extremely impressive to see what type of off-the-dribble damage the likes of Corey Hawkins and Tyler Harvey were able to do at the low-major level, particularly with the incredible efficiency they combined that with, they were clearly in a better position to do so against the smaller and less athletic competition they faced on a nightly basis. This is hardly a problem unique to this shooting category, as it's one of the biggest challenges NBA teams face as a whole in ranking all NBA draft prospects against each other.



Corey Hawkins 6.37 (1.27 PPP)
Tyler Harvey 5.45 (1.41 PPP)
Joseph Young 4.69 (0.99 PPP)
D'Angelo Russell 4.41 (1.04 PPP)
Mario Hezonja 3.38 (1.06 PPP)



NBA leaders (points per game)
Chris Paul 7.1 (1.007 PPP)
Stephen Curry 5.8 (1.095 PPP)
Russell Westbrook 5.2 (.799 PPP)
Monta Ellis 5 (.788 PPP)
Kyrie Irving 4.9 (.913 PPP)



Overall jump-shot points per-40



Methodology: This is simply an index of all points the different prospects were able to score off jumpers on a per-40-minute basis, be it from catch-and-shoot situations, off pull-ups, and also from what Synergy describes as "no drive jumpers." These "NDJs" aren't quite catch-and-shoot jumpers, as they often involve a few seconds of a player sizing up their opponent, possibly with a jab-step thrown in for good measure, before heaving up a jumper, and thus don't fit into either category neatly. This is a nice composite look at pure production of the different jump shooters, regardless of how they got their offense. The two highly skilled, but undersized low-major combo guards find themselves again at the head of the pack, as does Croatian 20-year old Mario Hezonja, who put up these numbers against ACB and Euroleague competition significantly older than him. Once again, the NBA sample confirms that we are looking at something of great value if these players were able to translate their jump-shooting scoring prowess to the next level.



Tyler Harvey 12.76 (1.27 PPP)
Corey Hawkins 11.31 (1.34 PPP)
Mario Hezonja 11.1 (1.16 PPP)
Joseph Young 10.77 (1.06 PPP)
D'Angelo Russell 9.49 (1.07 PPP)



NBA leaders (points per game)
Stephen Curry 11.2 (1.17 PPP)
Chris Paul 11 (1.07 PPP)
Klay Thompson 10.9 (1.14 PPP)
J.J. Redick 9.8 (1.13 PPP)
J.R. Smith 9.1 (1.10 PPP)



Points per possession on jump-shot attempts



Methodology: This is a pure efficiency measure, a look at how effectively the prospects in our data set were able to put the ball in the basket in jump-shooting situations. For good measure we threw in the number of jumpers they attempted per-40 minutes, to give you an idea of the volume of shots they took, an important component in evaluating a players' efficiency. Obviously the more attempts a player averages, the more difficult it is to convert at a great clip.



Corey Hawkins 1.34 (8.42)
Pat Connaughton 1.28 (6.07)
Tyler Harvey 1.27 (10.05)
Daniel Diez 1.23 (7.05)
Mario Hezonja 1.16 (9.56)



NBA leaders (min. 5 attempts per game)
Kyle Korver 1.28 PPP (6.4)
Stephen Curry 1.17 PPP (9.6)
Eric Gordon 1.16 PPP (6.8)
Wesley Matthews 1.15 PPP (7.4)
Danny Green 1.14 PPP (5.7)
Klay Thompson 1.14 PPP (9.5)



Jump-shot points per possession over degree of difficulty
Corey Hawkins +0.26
Tyler Harvey +0.15
Pat Connaughton +0.07
Daniel Diez +0.04
Mario Hezonja +0.01



This is a unique stat compiled by DraftExpress director of operations Matt Kamalsky, an index composite based on the expected shooting percentage of all the shots we studied based on the group average of our sample. To compile it, he averaged the efficiency of all the shooters we looked at in the different situations we studied, and then weighted in how they performed with the attempts they averaged. Players who took and made the biggest quantity of high-degree-of-difficulty shots based on how the group as a whole performed rank highest here.



Corey Hawkins comes out very well in this study as a whole, and his ability to convert off-the-dribble jumpers at an outrageous clip is well represented in this area. Much of the same can be said about Tyler Harvey, to a slightly lesser degree. And while Pat Connaughton doesn't take that many pull-ups or no-drive jumpers, the fact that he hits his catch-and-shoot jumpers at such a fantastic clip helps him quite a bit here. In future studies, we may try and add a "level-of-competition" measure into this stat, which would likely make Daniel Diez and especially Mario Hezonja (who also competes in the tougher Euroleague, in addition to the ACB) look even more impressive.



Overall shooting rankings



1. Mario Hezonja
2. D'Angelo Russell
3. Frank Kaminsky
4. Corey Hawkins
5. Tyler Harvey
6. Pat Connaughton
7. Kristaps Porzingis
8. Devin Booker
9. Daniel Diez
10. Joseph Young



This last ranking is entirely subjective, and takes into account everything we discussed above, as well as additional factors like size, level of competition, role on their team and age, which could leave room for future improvement. NBA teams will also look at other components when ranking prospects in the draft as a whole, specifically defense, which is a crucial element we did not discuss that will play a huge role in whether many of these players will even see the floor at the NBA level.



More 2015 NBA draft coverage:




 


Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com .

 

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