Paint Percentage

Published: July 19, 2013

We need more paint.. lots more paint.


New Orleans finished ranked 15th (tied) in offensive efficiency, but despite having a respectably efficient offense, possessions were often stagnant and horrifying to watch. Possessions where the ball would slowly swing around the perimeter or the lead guard would get his momentum stopped before he crossed the 3 point line were by no means aberrations, and many of these instances resulted in long-range chucks to beat the shot clock. In today’s NBA, most of the offense is created through guard play, which is why guards who can penetrate and create offense are so valuable. Last year, the Pelicans were short on guards who could get into the paint and create their own shots, for a variety of reasons:

  • Eric Gordon: shelved for half of the season (and not 100% healthy for the rest)
  • Austin Rivers: 20 year old rookie
  • Brian Roberts: more of a scorer and diminutive size limits effectiveness in paint
  • Roger Mason, Jr: a floor-spacer who works off of the penetration of others

Due to the reasons listed above, Greivis Vasquez was tasked with creating a lot of the New Orleans offense. Vasquez stands 6-6, but is not fleet of foot, and his inability to beat hedges, split defenders, and beat his man in isolation forced New Orleans into many desperation heaves at the basket. It would be unfair to blame Vasquez for how stagnant the offense was, as it wasn’t his fault that the team lacked multiple shot-creators; however, Jrue Holiday’s insertion into Vasquez’s position should alleviate the severity of these problems. Couple that with the arrival of Tyreke Evans as the third guard and the (hopeful) health of Eric Gordon, and the Pelicans offense should be much more effective at getting into the paint and creating better looks this season: but just how valuable is it to get into the paint, and how often was it happening last season?

I decided to go to the film and divided the New Orleans season into 10 segments, randomly choosing a game from each segment (I underestimated the time to compile this data, so I wound up using 8 games*). From each game, I charted the New Orleans possessions and counted how many possessions the team got the ball into the paint at any point during the possession. I then marked how many points resulted from the possession, and divided them into points from free throws, 2 pointers, and 3 pointers. It’s ridiculous that Houston wound up in the study 3 times, but that’s what the random number generator gave me, so that’s what I did.

*Note: any shot followed immediately by another shot attempt was counted as a single possession. For instance, if Vasquez took a 3 pointer and Robin Lopez grabbed the offensive rebound and put back a shot right away, it was counted as one, not two possessions.  If the rebound resulted in a reset of the offense, then the possessions were evaluated independently and both were counted.

Also, I apologize, but there will be a few points missed here and there. Sometimes, when the Pelicans would have a very good or very bad possession, I would get wrapped up in it and forget to mark the points. It happened very infrequently, but did occur a few times.

Points are broken down into categories. For example, from the first row (vs. Houston), the Pelicans had 50 “Paint Possessions,” and from these, made 14 free throws and had 34 points from 2 pointers and 6 from 3 pointers.

Paint Possessions

Game     Possessions   FTs    2 pointers    3 pointers    Points/Poss*
Houston 50 14 34 6 1.08
Phoenix 48 10 36 3 1.02
Minnesota 51 4 44 9 1.12
Houston 46 12 32 3 1.02
Houston 49 8 34 12 1.10
Memphis 47 8 36 9 1.13
Cleveland 53 17 38 6 1.15
Los Angeles Clippers 48 8 36 6 1.04
Averages 49.0 10.1 36.3 6.8 1.08


Possessions Outside of the Paint

Game     Possessions   FTs      2 pointers   3 pointers   Points/Poss*
Houston 46 6 14 18 0.83
Phoenix 50 4 12 39 1.10
Minnesota 39 2 14 24 1.03
Houston 47 1 30 12 0.91
Houston 48 5 20 9 0.71
Memphis 46 8 12 18 0.83
Cleveland 40 2 14 21 0.93
Los Angeles Clippers 33 6 24 6 1.09
Averages 43.6 4.3 17.5 18.4 0.92


    Number      %       Points/Possession
Paint Possessions 392 52.9% 1.08
Non-Paint Possessions. 349 47.1% 0.92
  • Points in the paint have always been valued. But this data illustrates that possessions where New Orleans got inside the paint at any time are noticeably more efficient, as there is a substantial gap in the points per possession (1.08 versus .92) between the two categories.
  • The clearest outliers in the data from the second section are the games against Phoenix and the Clippers. Ryno was absolutely unconscious from 3 point land against Phoenix and Anthony Davis’s mid-range shot was money versus the Clippers.
  • There are many more 3 pointers from possessions outside the paint. New Orleans rarely got into the paint and kicked it out.
  • Vasquez struggled to get inside the paint, and when he did, he was almost always on the very edge of the paint and his defender was almost always on his hip, which could explain why he wasn’t driving/kicking to 3 point shooters when he got into the paint.
  • The offense was moving the opposing defenses noticeably better in the games where Gordon appeared, even if he resorted to taking ill-advised jumpers in those particular games.



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