As spatial analytics slowly creeps its way into the NBA, we're beginning to evaluate performances and tendencies in new ways. Perhaps the most basic illustration of the virtue of spatial approaches applies to shooting. Although field goal percentage is concise and simple, and, as a result, has made its way into the parlance of basketball fans everywhere, it can also be a misleading judge of shooting ability; generally speaking, FG percentage ignores space and the basic basketball tenet: Some shots are easier than others. Layups are easier than half-court heaves, and players who thrive exclusively close to the basket are always the league leaders in FG percentage. Consider the top five all-time career leaders in FG percentage: Tyson Chandler, Shaq, Artis Gilmore, Mark West, and Dwight Howard. Now these guys are obviously incredible scorers, but are they great shooters?
One simple way to evaluate shooting in the NBA is to examine FG percentage in different court spaces. As of January 22, the NBA had made 44.7 percent of its 100,607 shots, but its shooting efficiency varies considerably depending on space: