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Shooting for Success - 2014 Off Season Roster Construction

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Has Dell Demps eliminated the possibility of another Unholy Trio?

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

The HP Basketball Network is pumping out fantastic content. Upside and Motor, ran by Sam Vecenie, covers the draft and NBA prospects. Mid Level Exceptional, ran by Matt Moore himself and Jared Dubin, attacks basketball coverage on the salary cap and business side of the ledger. Nylon Calculus, the most recent addition headed by Ian Levy of Hickory High fame, is their analytics site. It is this last site I will focus on, because they have produced a thing of absolute beauty.

Shot Charts are something many of us here at The Bird Writes are fascinated with. Unfortunately, beyond the proprietary shot charts created by Krik Goldsberry at Grantland, most of the shot charts we can easily access are of limited usefulness. Each area drawn, using the NBA.com shot chart for instance, is massive and covers a lot of the court.  It shows general tendencies but does not dig into more specific locations. Thanks to Nylon Calculus, that problem has been solved.

Every shot chart below is pulled from Nylon Calculus. If you so desire to look up the shot chart for Chris Paul in his rookie season, his last season in New Orleans, or last season you can do that. For our purposes here I am going to focus on the five Pelicans expected to space the basketball court this season. Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, John Salmons, and Austin Rivers figure to be featured prominently in the rotation this coming season.

Shot Charts Galore

Holiday shot his three point shots off the dribble at a much higher rate than anyone else on this list (covered in the below chart). While Holiday shoots much better than anyone on the list off the dribble behind the arc he is still a better shooter on catch and shoot opportunities. If Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday play substantially more minutes together I would not be surprised if Holiday is moved off the ball and his catch and shoot opportunities increase.

Pelican fans throughout the internet bemoan Eric Gordon's contract. Here is something to celebrate, his shot chart. Gordon avoids shooting mid range shots and focuses the majority of his energies behind the arc or at the basket. Remember that the colors are in reference to league average, so despite the blue around the basket Gordon was still converting around 55% of his shots in the restricted area. Corner three point shots do not appear to be his specialty while he is an absolute inferno from the right wing.

The caveat here is sample size, Anderson played in just 22 games last year. From the left wing to the right corner Anderson was deadly last season in his limited minutes. Anderson struggles shooting in the left corner and jumping back through the seasons this is not an aberration. In both seasons in New Orleans that left corner has been below league average. Corner threes were a much bigger part of Anderson's game in Orlando than in the Crescent City. Whether this is a function of his role or the offense Monty Williams runs is an area for considerable debate.

Finally there is a player who can hit the left corner three. Well that is not exactly fair, as according to NBA Stats Rivers hit just five from that spot on the court this past season. His 20 three point makes from the top of the key and right wing are also promising. As we'll see below, how Rivers get his shots is incredibly important.

All of the Pelicans returning from the team last year made the bulk of their three point shots from the wings or at the top of the key. Combined Holiday, Gordon, Anderson, and Rivers made 34 corner threes. Anthony Morrow alone made 35, and will be in an Oklahoma City uniform this fall. John Salmons hopes to replace some of that production. He made 31 from the corners last season with the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors.

Catch and Shoot

Shot charts are only half of the equation now with the data available. Thanks to NBA Stats it is also possible to determine how well a player shoots in catch and shoot situations. NBA Stats defines a catch and shoot opportunity as "Any jump shot outside of 10 feet where a player possessed the ball for 2 seconds or less and took no dribbles." Digging through these stats and doing a little basic math I have determined how many threes each player attempted as "catch and shoot" threes compared to all other three point attempts. Let's take a look at the data.

3pt FG% 3pt FGA C&S - 3pt FG% C&S - 3pt FGA Other - 3pt FG% Other - 3pt FGA
Jrue Holiday 39.0% 77 43.5% 23 37.0% 54
Eric Gordon 39.1% 258 45.7% 173 25.9% 85
Ryan Anderson 40.9% 164 42.0% 143 33.3% 21
Austin Rivers 36.4% 99 46.4% 69 13.3% 30
John Salmons 38.7% 163 42.6% 129 23.5% 34

This largely confirms what everyone already believed, shooting with one's feet set before the ball arrives is a higher percentage play than dribbling into the shot. How dramatic the difference is still shocks me for some of these players. A catch and shoot three point attempt from Austin Rivers yields an expected points per shot of 1.39. Allow Rivers to create that shot himself and it plummets to 0.40.

Every single player shows a decrease in effectiveness. Jrue shows the least decrease, followed by Ryan Anderson. I would suspect that most fans and writers would rank Holiday and Anderson as the two best shooters on the team at this point in time. Pull up or off the dribble three point shots should be avoided at great cost by any of the remaining players.

Along with these five players Luke Babbitt (37.9% 3pt% on 95 attempts) is available. Babbitt shot 32/87 (36.8%) on catch and shoot situations. He is the only player who shot better behind the arc when not in a catch and shoot opportunity, but did so on just 8 attempts, converting 50%.

Roster Wrap Up

As currently constructed the Pelicans have six players who are above NBA average (36.0% last season) behind the arc. Outside of Tyreke Evans, every single player (Anthony Davis, Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, Jeff Withey) is a big man. Unless Monty Williams intends to spend long periods of time playing Omer Asik with a big man not named Anthony Davis or Ryan Anderson (which would be a shock to everyone) it is safe to say the Unholy Trio (Monty putting three non-shooters on the court at once, best exemplified by Tyreke playing with Al-Farouq Aminu and Greg Stiemsma) is dead.

Beyond shoring up the defense with the addition of Omer Asik, this is the greatest accomplishment of Dell Demps this summer.