Kirk Goldsberry is a professor specializing in spatial reasoning, visual communication, and geographic representation who also loves the NBA. His research paper titled CourtVision: New Visual and Spatial Analytics for the NBA was the runner-up at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.
Goldsberry’s goal with the paper was to determine who the best shooter in the NBA was. Instead of just looking at field goal percentage and true shooting percentage Goldsberry broke down every player in the NBA seeing how well they shot from the widest variety of locations.
He found that Steve Nash and Ray Allen were the best shooters in the NBA. I could have told you that. The research was awesome though and goes much further than just settling the argument of who the best shooter in the league is.
It’s about where on the court players shoot the best from and how often they shoot from certain spaces. It can provide great scouting analysis of teams and specific players.
Most recently, Goldsberry took a look at Kevin Durant this season.
Durant is shooting a career-high 50 percent from the field this season and 37.9 percent from three. Durant also has a career-high 61 true shooting percentage this season and is in the conversation for winning the MVP this season.
It’s more interesting to look at Durant’s shooting through the eyes of Goldsberry’s CourtVision.
Durant shoots the majority of his threes from the top of the key and the wings. He takes a lot of threes off the dribble in isolation situations and on catch-and-shoots.
We see that Durant is better at shooting at shooting on the left side of the court. This is because Durant likes to come into his shot with his left hand when dribbling. Most great right-handed shooters are like this.
Only the best right-handed shooters become just as good at shooting when going to their right like Nash, Allen and Kobe Bryant. Then there are some like Paul Pierce who seem to like it more. But for the most part, good right-handed shooters prefer to bring the ball up from their left hand.
It’s interesting that Durant is under 30 percent on threes from the right wing. I think that is because of his low percentage when shooting from their off the dribble. He is definitely a good catch-and-shoot guy from that spot or at least should be since he is a righty.
The other thing to note about Durant being a better shooter on the left side of the floor is how he gets his shots. He uses his length and stepback move as an advantage rather than strength to get most of his shots. He’s better with a fadeaway than a strong drive and pull-up. This is why you see better shooting numbers on the left side of the floor and especially the mid-range area.
Players still play Durant to drive left because he is a better finisher at the rim on the right side. We still see Durant drive and shoot on the right side of the floor a lot though. Durant does the smart thing of attacking the top foot when he is defended one-on-one and is looking to drive which means he usually goes right.
As Durant develops for him to become an even more complete scorer he will have to get stronger at finishing with pull-up jump shots going to his right and work on making the stepback shot to his right.
Durant is still probably the best scorer in the world so it will become pretty unfair as he improves in these areas.
Head on over to Kirk Goldsberry’s website to see more of his work using CourtVision.
Also follow him on Twitter @kirkgoldsberry