Digging in: Analyzing the Hornets’ Shot Selection

Published: January 15, 2012

Ryan Schwan analyzes the numbers around the Hornets shot selection.

Grim.  That’s what the offensive numbers are.  I don’t need to tell you how painful it is to watch these guys struggle to score night in and night out.   Still, here’s a few tidbits that you may not have known.  The Hornets’ skill on the offensive glass (They snatch 30.72% of available offensive rebounds, good for 2nd in the league)  allows them to avoid the ultimate distinction of offensive futility:  The worst offense in the league.

How do I know it’s this bad?  Because the Hornets XeFG% is dead last in the league, at 46%.  Now, you might ask, what is XeFG%?  It’s a nifty stat that calculates the expected effective field goal percentage of the Hornets.  Essentially, it tells you that if the Hornets shoot at an average rate for the league from the same spots on the floor, they should score points as if they were shooting 46%(This value takes into account 3-point shooting too.  Nifty, eh?).  In other words, the Hornets would average about .92 points per shot.  For those that don’t know, that’s terrible, and it’s dead last in the league.

Of course, that number is what you’d expect them to shoot.  These Hornet, however, aren’t even reaching that low bar, producing an eFG% of 45.2% as a team.  So not only are they taking bad shots, they are finishing them badly.


Here’s some nice tidbits I found in the data.  Enjoy the summary, and afterwards is a nice chart detailing the Hornets shooting, um, prowess?

  1. Usually a team with a terrible XeFG% takes a tremendous number of shots from 16-23 feet.  The Hornets takes the 12th most, which is about average, so the problem isn’t too many long two’s.  That’s nice, because frequently it means your team is just being lazy.
  2. The Hornets are terrible at getting to the rim, but take a huge number of shots 3-9 feet or 10-15 feet from the basket.  Way more than any other team.  This jives with the number of floaters the Hornets guards take – and fade away jumpers Kaman tosses up, since none of them have the jets or dribbling skills to get all the way to the rim. (Oh, Gordon, Gordon, wherefore art thou, Gordon)
  3. The Hornets’ percentage of shots taken from behind the arc continues to fall and is now the third lowest in the league.   I’m not sure this is a good thing.  While the Hornets have few knock-down shooters from deep, the law of averages and the career three-point averages of the Hornet’s shooters do indicate their percentage will go back up.  This is bad because the three is just too efficient a shot to abandon.  For example, though the Hornets shoot 27% from three, the extra point they get from their made shots make them just as effective as the 40% completion rate the Hornets are producing from 3-9 feet.  In other words, a Kaman post up will get you as much as an Ariza or Aminu three.
  4. It’s a shame the Hornets don’t get to the Rim more, since they are deadly at that range.  Of course, I also have a feeling there success there is a result of the putbacks off offensive rebounds more than some skill at getting to the rim.

Distribution of Shots

Type of Shot Percentage League Rank NBA Average
At Rim 23.5%* 27th 29%
Short (3-9 Ft) 18.8% 1st 14%
Mid (10-15 ft) 13.5% 1st 9.3%
Long (16-23) 27.4% 12th 25.2%
3-Point 16.8% 28th 22.4%

*23.5% at Rim means 23.5% of shots the Hornets take occur at the rim.

Conversion Rate

Type of Shot FG% League Rank NBA Average
At Rim 67.0% 5th 63.2%
Short (3-9 Ft) 40.0% 10th 37.6%
Mid (10-15 ft) 36.4% 17th 37.8%
Long (16-23) 37.1% 16th 37.8%
3-Point 27.2% (40.8%)* 28th 34.1%(51.1%)

*I’m including the eFG% in parenthesis, which takes into account the extra point from three point shots.

Thanks, Hoopdata!


  1. TIm

    January 15, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Lord… I l

    • Tim

      January 15, 2012 at 11:52 am

      Uh… Sorry about that^. Last night, after the heartbreak of the Saints, I thought I’d tune into the Hornets and watch the game. I turned it on somewhere near the end of the second quarter, and our 9 point lead dissipated because of turnover after turnover. It was just brutal. I never turned the game back on.

  2. Jason Calmes

    January 15, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Nice work.

    A few things:

    1) The Hornets aren’t taking the worst shots the most often, and we are taking our worst shots the least often. This, if I recall correctly, is an improvement, even if it’s just eating dinner that’s been in the trash for 2 days instead of 3 days.

    2) The Hornets flip-flop of strength from backcourt to frontcourt is further realized in this data. At least we are adjusting to it, but it’s not making Tavares’ job any easier. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

    3) Your rebounding comments make me wonder if the Hornets are using what seem to be missed shots as a disguised pass to the rim. An alley-oops? How many alley-oopses have we had this season? Too bad missed threes lead to fast breaks more often than other shots with the potential for long defensive rebounds to the speedy guards we love to watch blow by us, otherwise we could use a supposed strength to get us some work on our weakness.

  3. J

    January 15, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    they’ve to find their “sweet spot” behind the arch plain and simple

  4. nikkoewan

    January 15, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    One of my favorite segments of the week. Hm, actually, i wouldn’t mind not shooting 3s, as long as they convert those supposed to be 3 point attempts into at the rim buckets. (just like MEM, i think)

    As a sidenote, you fail to mention that the Hornets have the highest percentage of assisted at the rim buckets. that’s a good sign because that means, for the very few occasions our guards do get to the rim, they know when to shoot it or dump it to the big, resulting in the 5th best conversion rate. I’m pretty sure when Gordon returns, those at the rim numbers and 3 pt percentage will improve.

    Merely replacing Marco Belinelli’s shot selection and conversion to Gordon’s shot selection and conversion, the Hornets will easily have changed their distribution from a 4.5 3s per game player to a 6 “at the rim” buckets per game. The thing I love about Eric Gordon is that he’s very much like Marcus Thornton in scoring. Gordon’s a better passer, i think (haven’t check the numbers, that’s pure hunch), but both are very efficient because they take AND make a high number of two of the most efficient shots in basketball: at the rim buckets and 3 pt shots.

    We’ll see as the season progress.. can’t this section be twice a week? Us math and stat geeks need to have our fill!! Right, 42? Schwan?

    • Jason Calmes

      January 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm

      Why are Joe, Michael, Andrew and the new guys not geeks? What did I do to you?!?!

      I’ve got some number crunching stuff brewing, but not this kind of stuff . . . just looking at the lottery.

      • nikkoewan

        January 16, 2012 at 4:28 am

        OK FINE! all of us are proud geeks.. Happy?

        back to the topic though, I must say, i’m surprised and sad we’re the number 1 team taking mid range jumpers, and yet we rank 17th in the league in conversion rate.. I think first and foremost that has to change. Monty’s offense is mid range shot heavy. I think that has to change..

  5. Pingback: Game On: Grizzlies @ Hornets (With Live Pre-Game and In-Game Chat) | New Orleans Hornets | Hornets247.com

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