Greg Monroe’s effectiveness not captured by Kirk Goldsberry’s ShotScore

Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland developed a new metric call ShotScore. Here’s an explanation, though I recommend clicking through to see the accompanying graphics for a better understanding:

The inconvenient truth is that every NBA field goal attempt has its own level of difficulty that’s determined by several factors, including the shooter’s location on the court. Even though previous approaches have mostly ignored this thorny reality, thanks to relatively new forms of NBA data we can now begin to understand it.

Last year, NBA players took just about 200,000 shots. The league’s collective shot chart reveals the spatial nature of the NBA’s average shooting efficiency.

But this chart also provides a useful baseline that we can use to evaluate individual shooting performances. By overlaying players’ shot constellations, we can estimate the expected total number of points that an average NBA shooter would produce, based on where he took his shots; then we can compare a particular player’s actual yield against it.

For example, last season LeBron James attempted 1,354 shots. Using that league-wide baseline as our guide, if an average NBA shooter attempted this exact same set of 1,354 shots, he would produce a yield of 1,397 total points.

Greg Monroe posted the second-worst ShotScore in the NBA last season, ahead of only Monta Ellis. Goldsberry (again, click through to see the graphic):

Monroe was by far the NBA’s most active shooter near the basket last year. That’s good, except that he struggled to convert his shots down there. He has never met a close-range shot he doesn’t like. This is compounded by his immature midrange game. Although Monroe’s interior numbers weren’t terrible, his slightly below-average production combined with his extreme volume resulted in him arriving at the bottom of the ShotScore list.

Despite his troubles last season, Monroe remains a very strong NBA prospect. With Monroe, Andre Drummond, and Josh Smith the Pistons seem well positioned to dominate the interior for years to come. There is little doubt that Monroe will improve both close to the basket and away from it as his game matures, but as it stands, he is notable for his inefficiency.

I responded at the Detroit Free Press:

the final word of his Monroe analysis — “inefficiency” — is misleading.

Monroe led the league in shots inside 5 feet last season, but he made just 57.8% of them, less than league average. So he had a negative ShotScore in that zone.

Between 20 and 24 feet, Monroe made 44% of his attempts, better than league average. In that zone, Monroe posted a positive ShotScore.

Does that mean Monroe should take more shots between 20 and 24 feet and fewer inside 5 feet? No, of course not.

Inside 5 feet, Monroe scores 1.156 points per shot. Between 20 and 24 feet, Monroe scores 0.88 points per shot. Obviously, the former mark is better.

When games begin, it doesn’t matter how the NBA shoots from each shot location. It matters how many points players score per shot.

Though Monroe shoots below the league average inside 5 feet, his percentage from that range would rank No. 1 in the NBA from 5-to-9 feet, 10-to-14 feet, 15-to-19 feet and 20-to-24 feet (at least 40 shots from each zone).

Monroe’s skill is not making shots near the rim. It’s creating shots near the rim, the highest-efficiency area on the court.

ShotScore has value, but it does a terrible job of capturing Monroe’s ability.

Is Monroe a skilled shooter? Probably not, or he at least wasn’t last season. But he’s an effective shooter, and that’s more important.

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Tags: Greg Monroe Monta Ellis

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