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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.

11 Comments

  • Oct 25, 20133:12 pm
    by tarsier

    Reply

    We ll written. I remember reading that article and having a similar reaction.

    ShotScore shows that Monroe is not very good at converting shots. But that’s ok because the skillset of getting good shots is typically more valuable than that of being able to put in bad shots. 

  • Oct 25, 20136:34 pm
    by Otis

    Reply

    I agree that this is well written. Credit where it’s due.
     
    I think there’s one big thing that Dan is missing here. It’s a more complicated issue than presented. You’re actually arguing two different points here. If he’s saying that Monroe is inefficient, that doesn’t mean he should stop making attempts near the basket and become a jump shooter where his shooting percentage is much worse. He’s just saying that Greg takes “bad shots” in terms of degree of difficulty. Monroe does a lot of funky hook shots where he flings the ball up there and it dances on the ring and eventually falls or doesn’t. I’m surprised how often they do fall, but I don’t really like it in terms of shot selection. He just sort of learned to do that because this team didn’t have any better ways of manufacturing a bucket. I just don’t think Monroe is a #1 option, but he takes a lot of shots. Shots other guys make more often because they’re stronger and more athletic. He overachieves in a way with his size and good hands/footwork, but he’s below average at converting what should be easy shots. So the solution to the problem he’s presenting isn’t to tell Monroe to shoot from outside, but to have him attempting these shots on someone else’s roster, because he probably doesn’t have the physical makeup to be elite on offense, he’s a total sieve on defense, and he’s about to cost a fortune. I think most of what he does could be provided by a combination of Smith and Drummond.
     
    I sincerely hope the front office is keeping a legitimate eye on the trade deadline as they try to make these pieces fit. I’m very worried they wouldn’t even consider moving Greg until the offseason, and if so they’re going to lose so much value it’s heartbreaking.

    • Oct 26, 20137:43 am
      by sebastian

      Reply

      Otis, my man, you are so right. Moose is much closer to being a center than a power forward. WE don’t need two starting centers. WE need a “true” starting power forward. 
      You are also correct, to keep Moose on the roster is going to have a price tag easily at $15 for 4, the signings of Bougurt 3/$49, Favors 4/$60, Cousins 4/$62. I’m sorry, but paying a second starting Center $15 for 4 will not be the prudent course of action to pursue.
      WE must move Moose. Faried’s name has been tossed around by the Nuggets. Do WE get Danny Ferry on the phone and offer Moose and Charlie V. expiring for Hortford.
      Joe needs to find a deal involving Moose and I would like to see one, sooner rather than later, by the second game of the season like when Chaunce was traded in ’08.
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       

      • Oct 26, 201312:45 pm
        by Otis

        Reply

        Well if I’m trading Moose, I’d get a high quality SF and just slide Smith over to PF.

        • Oct 28, 20138:58 am
          by tarsier

          Reply

          A high quality SF… there are what, 4 of those in the league? And Monroe isn’t fetching any of James, Durant, George, or Anthony. So then who? Batum?

          • Oct 28, 201311:10 am
            by Huddy

            This is exactly what is wrong with the endless calls for trading Monroe.  I agree with Otis when he says if the team moves Monroe I would like a high quality SF in return because it would absolutely balance out the roster and make this team look exactly like a championship contender should.  What Tarsier brings up is exactly what is wrong with that dream scenario.  Batum is pretty much a great example of where realistic options for players we would get back begin (maybe Deng as well).  Batum is less valuable than Monroe and Portland would leave themselves with the same hole at SF the Pistons are trying to fill making it a rather lateral move.  Trading Monroe for “a high quality SF” sounds nice, but is an oversimplification.  There are a very select few SFs worth what Monroe is and the circumstances for making an exchange of upper level talent like that have to be perfect.  The Pistons lack the flexibility that first round picks would offer to the situation and there are already an extremely limited number of options (that wouldn’t result and a net loss of value by moving Monroe).
             
            You can say they will get nothing for Monroe if they wait or they will have to pay him.  Well they also might find this line up works well together and anyone willing to trade for Monroe would have to recognize what kind of contract they will have to offer him at the end of the season so if teams are interested despite his looming pay day why wouldn’t they be after it?  Because of a few months on this contract? 

          • Oct 28, 20132:19 pm
            by Otis

            There are probably 100,000 combinations of players and picks that I would gladly accept in a trade for Monroe. Honestly, if there’s no match at SF, give me a SG or a PG as the centerpiece. Or a particularly juicy pick in the 2014 draft. My top priority is getting legitimate value for him instead of having to overpay him or get nothing in a sign-and-trade. If it’s picks, so be it.
             
            The issue of his looming contract is fair, but that’s why I would have traded him this summer. I would have traded him last season. Once it’s been established that he’s not elite and will probably never be elite, I would have cashed in. It’s fine for a team that has a need for a scoring/rebounding center to pay him a fortune, because he’s valuable. But we have two big men who can do basically everything he can for less money, and two years down the road that trio alone is going to take up the vast majority of your cap. If we’re talking about three complementary players who are the foundation of a strong inside-outside game, that’s one thing. But these guys aren’t superstars and so far they don’t even seem like they make each other better.
             
            Also, I do think there’s something to be said for another team taking a chance on Monroe and being willing to give up some picks/talent for him even with that looming extension. He might be able to help with a playoff push, they might just want to get their hands on him and see how he fits before making a huge commitment. In these instances, they’d have his bird rights and could still get *something* for him in a S&T. A little for-instance: Last year the Tigers gave up three prospects (including their top pitching prospect) for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, then turned around and showered Sanchez with a lavishly ridiculous $80M. So these things to happen. The sooner you trade him, the more cheap production your trade partner gets out of him, and the more they can gauge him, so the sooner the better.

          • Oct 28, 20133:40 pm
            by Huddy

            If there is no SF you would take a PG or SG…ok so the team gets a PG and has two high paid starting level PGs (AKA players who play the same position just like the issue is with Monroe currently)?  SG?  Maybe the weakest position in the NBA, in other words same situation as SF…a couple of elite guys that aren’t going anywhere or guys that are of lesser value than Monroe that a team would have to be willing to add picks to in order to make the deal work.
             
            How many high first round picks in the insanely hyped 2014 draft are you under the impression are on the table in the NBA?  After you break it down to those teams that for some reason are moving high first round picks in a good draft for a player they can make a run at for no added assets in FA (not to mention no team with a high pick is making much of a playoff run with or without Monroe) How many players on those couple of teams are really the great upgrade we are looking for?  its not 100,000s of options.  You may be able to think of 100,000 that you would like to see, but if you take in to account what other teams are reasonably in the market for this deal it is not as simple as you make it sound.
             
            Baseball is quite different from Basketball in terms of trade market, but even so there is a bid difference between “these things do happen” and “its ridiculous that the organization hasn’t made this move yet”.  The fact that those kinds of trades do happen (and again baseball is quite different it is probably telling that the first example you could think of wasn’t even the same sport) doesn’t mean this is some no brainer move that obviously should already be done. 

  • Oct 25, 20138:02 pm
    by Byron

    Reply

    I was surprised Goldsberry never wrote a third article on who created the most and least valuable shots, independent of their hitting them.

  • Oct 27, 20134:26 am
    by @GPMasters

    Reply

    But ShotScore, as per the article, was designed to tell us who the best shooters are, not who the best scorers are. So the ranking of Monroe is correct from that perspective.

  • Oct 28, 20134:34 pm
    by tarsier

    Reply

    Otis, in response to your comment:

    “There are probably 100,000 combinations of players and picks that I would gladly accept in a trade for Monroe.” 

    Please name a few that the other teams would seriously consider.

    Most of the reasonable options I can come up with are centered around Klay Thompson, Dion Waiters, Eric Gordon, or Rudy Gay. The first two aren’t good enough (but the Dubs are so high on Klay, I doubt they’d take that anyway–maybe if Lee or Bogut goes down). The last two aren’t that good either and are attached to terrible contracts.

    The only trade I could see possibly happening that I’d actually be excited about is Monroe+Jerebko+Bynum for McLemore+Vasquez+Salmons. I don’t know if either side would agree to this, but it has potential to help both sides.

    With a back court of Jennings/Vasquez/McLemore/Pope and a front court of Smith/Drummond plus enough cap room for a max contract, you can at least make a pitch to James, Anthony, or Love. And possibly fall back on Dirk, Pau, Granger, or Bosh if that doesn’t work.

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