Good Bad Shots

By Josh Eberley #41

Composure amid chaos, rhythm against the relentlessness of the rain. The art of the bad shot comes from a commitment to force the improbable with unabated repetition.

Statistics be damned, no one impassions the fans like a bad shot maker. Already the word, “Kobe,” is vibrating across your cerebral, Bean’s brand is vibranium forged. Impenetrable and super surged, the Mamba made his game synonymous with the superfluous. It’s been two years since Bryant hung it up and still, the throne remains unclaimed. Who has the greatest claim to the kingdom of contested jumpers, unwarranted stepbacks, and double-team heaves—the League’s best bad shot maker.

First, we need to put things in perspective. Perhaps your first thought was two-time MVP Steph Curry or MVP frontrunner James Harden. Don’t get it twisted, while they take difficult shot attempts, bad shots are relative to the shooters. Harden might be the best isolation player in the NBA by a comfortable margin but he still leads the League in free throw and three-point attempts. Curry is widely regarded as the greatest shooter of all-time and one of the best at the 25-feet-and-beyond shot, so there are rarely bad shots from Curry. We’ll have to narrow it down a little before we jump in.

Targeting players who play away from the Moreyball style, players who don’t fire most of their attempts from behind the three-point line or in the paint, we’re looking for midrange specialists. Casting a wide net and starting with players who attempt at least four pull-up jumpers inside the three-point arc a night. It gives us a nice big net of 21 high-volume players not afraid to pull up at any time:

 

LaMarcus Aldridge Anthony Davis Victor Oladipo
Giannis Antetokounmpo DeMar DeRozan Chris Paul
Carmelo Anthony Kris Dunn Dennis Schroder
Harrison Barnes Kevin Durant John Wall
Bradley Beal Kyrie Irving Kemba Walker
Devin Booker C.J. McCollum Russell Westbrook
Jimmy Butler Khris Middleton  Andrew Wiggins

 

Place your bets and let’s start to shave the list. Bad shot makers want to disassemble defenders and if they can do it in isolation, all the better. Guys that don’t attack defenders in isolation at least twice a night can’t possibly hold the mantle. So, scratch out Aldridge, Davis, Dunn, Walker and Wiggins.

Additionally, players that get to the rack at will don’t fit the bill. It’s the old LeBron James vs. Anthony scoring debate from the mid ’00s. James was the more effective and efficient scorer, but the way he scored took him in close to the basket and away from the, “in your eye” jumpshots that ignited seats and couch cushions alike. Players that don’t shoot jumpers at least 70 percent of the time are gone. So, Antetokounmpo, Oladipo, Schroder, Wall and Westbrook are out.

Filtering the list once more to reach our top supreme bad shot makers, we must account for self-created offense. Bad shot makers aren’t catch-and-shoot players. With all due respect to J.R. Swish, most bad shot makers want to find their own shot. Players assisted on over 50 percent of their jumpshots co-exist too seamlessly within their own offense and don’t force the issue enough to rule our testosterone-filled kingdom. So, wave goodbye to Anthony, Barnes, Beal, Booker, Durant and Middleton.

Leaving us with:

LaMarcus Aldridge Anthony Davis Victor Oladipo
Giannis Antetokounmpo DeMar DeRozan Chris Paul
Carmelo Anthony Kris Dunn Dennis Schroder
Harrison Barnes Kevin Durant John Wall
Bradley Beal Kyrie Irving Kemba Walker
Devin Booker C.J. McCollum Russell Westbrook
Jimmy Butler Khris Middleton  Andrew Wiggins

 

Let’s take a look at the five guys who make bad shots look so good.

 

Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images

5. Jimmy Butler

Butler may be a surprising pick here. Butler has been terrific the last few seasons and yet he seems to be perennially forgotten amongst his relative peers. Butler is assisted on only 36.06 percent of his jumpers, the lowest mark of any non-point guard or DeRozan in this process. He also hits 42.2 percent of the jumpshots he takes, which is good for seventh of all players noted. Butler’s not a particularly good three-point shooter and yet he’s one of only 12 players to average over 20 PPG four straight seasons. Respect Jimmy Buckets.

Butler’s shot reel


Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

4. C.J. McCollum

Teammate Damian Lillard attempts 43 percent of his offense from down town but Microwave McCollum spreads his attempts a little more evenly, shooting from outside only 32 percent of the time. McCollum’s 2.8 isolation attempts a game placed him 14th of the 21-player list but only DeRozan (7.1) and Westbrook (7.2) pull-up more from two-point range than McCollum (6). However, McCollum hits at a higher rate than either of them, his 46.1 percent on pull-up attempts makes Westbrook’s mark of 38.1 percent look utterly tragic.

McCollum’s shot reel


Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

3. Kyrie Irving

Uncle Drew is more clutch than you know, he just missed getting cut off on multiple occasions during the early hurdles. There should be no doubt, if Irving wanted this crown it’d be his for the taking. With a heavenly handle and one of the League’s quickest and most creative triggers, Irving was built to inherit the empire Bryant built. However, Irving plays in a well-structured system under Brad Stevens in Boston. Only 27.91 percent of his shots come between 8 and 24 feet, the second lowest mark behind only Walker on the 21-player list. It’ll be interesting to see if Irving’s discipline is maintained in the playoffs, if he’s truly unleashed—we may have to amend this list.

Irving’s shot reel


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2. DeMar DeRozan

Alas, the modern model closest in form to the Mamba will fall just short. DeRozan checks all the boxes here. Even in a year that’s netting him MVP consideration, DeRozan is beautifully and unapologetically himself. Of our contestants, DeRozan takes the second most pull-ups a game, he owns the fifth highest percentage of jumpers in his own offensive arsenal, and he’s assisted the fourth least of all 21 names. In addition, DeRozan comfortably still owns the largest relative percentage of offense between 8 and 24 feet, his midrange share of 49.8 percent topped Aldridge and Wall for highest on the list. A note for those who would dispute his placement, DeRozan’s isolation basketball has dipped significantly. His 2.9 possessions of isolation a game rank him 21st in the League and are noticeably down from the 4.6 possessions of isolation he used per game last year.

DeRozan’s shot reel


Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Chris Paul

The Point God is not playing this season. He has unfinished business with this League and an unjust playoff reputation that needs shaking. Paul is second in isolation possessions used behind only Westbrook on this list. Paul averaging an insane 1.2 points per possession in isolation. Compare that to Westbrook’s .89 and it paints a picture. Paul’s field goal percentage on pull-up two-point attempts of 51.5 percent trails only Middleton (52.4). Paul is assisted on only 14.88 percent of his jumpshots. No other player is assisted less than 20 percent. No player on this list is taking more jumpshots relative to their own arsenal than Paul either. Need more evidence? An absurd 89.11 percent of Paul’s attempts are jumpers. Anthony is the next closest at 87.06 percent. All in all, it’s remarkable the smallest player on this list is leading in so many categories. Someone call the Answer, we need to talk about that pound-for-pound title.

Paul’s shot reel

Stats from: stats.nba.com, nbaminer.com, and basketball-reference.com.