How Many Open Shots is “Normal?”

Published: November 30, 2016

I never thought I’d say this, but the Pelicans finally have an average to above average defense.  Not a great one,  but one that isn’t an eyesore, and one that features quick, aggressive guards who move with actual purpose.

There are a lot of variables that go into good defense, and one of them is how well a team contests each shot.  Statistics have proven that taking a shot under duress is a qualitatively different endeavor from taking one with acres of space, so in a binary sense, giving up a contested shot is “good” and giving up an open shot is “bad.”  This misses some nuance, as some guys are left open for a reason — sometimes, giving an opposing player an open shot is deliberate and desirable.  With that in mind, though, how many open shots against your team is “normal?”  If Steph Curry gets an open look against your team, does your rage have merit?  I decided to do a quick stats dive to see what the Pelicans are allowing and whether that is contrary to what can be seen with the rest of the NBA.

The Stats (updated through 11/28/2016)
via NBA Team Tracking

*Note that these percentages are rounded, so they may not sum perfectly to 100%*

Teams vs. Pelicans







Teams vs. Rest of the NBA







Side by Side







Going into what shots the Pelicans are allowing and figuring out if we have been “lucky” or “unlucky” given how many tight, open, etc. shots we’ve allowed is beyond the scope of this article.

With that in mind, everything the Pels are doing seems to be in line with the rest of the league.  Roughly 32, 33% of field goal attempts will be from 3 point land on an average night.  Pelicans contest rates at each range approximate the league average.

The definition of open, by the site’s standard, is having the closest defender 4-6 feet away.  These players are very tall and often feature wingspans closing in on 7 feet.  This hardly seems “open” to me, but then again, I have 20/80 vision and can’t shoot.  But because of this, I have chosen to focus on wide open shots instead of open ones.

It is far more likely that a team will get a wide open 3 than a wide open 2.

What I wanted to find out from the data was this.. at the Pelicans’ pace, how many shots should you expect to be open?  The Pelicans, on average, allow about 89 field goal attempts per game.  This means that in an average game this season, the Pelicans have allowed..

  • 4.8 wide open two pointers
  • 13.7 wide open three pointers

Not all of these open shots will actually be good ones, but defining the expectation that the Pelicans have given their opponents roughly 19 wide open shots a game is important.  More importantly, this is pretty much the norm for an NBA team.

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