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This Is The Worst Shot In The NBA

Kirk Goldsberry is a geography professor at Michigan State and the man behind that wonderful visualization of every NBA shot attempt over the last five years. He's been applying his unique talents to CourtVision, an attempt to understand basketball through spatial analytics, and already his project is bearing fruit.


Today Kirk combs through that data and identifies the single least efficient spot to shoot from: 13 feet from the basket, at about a 45 degree angle. It's not an intuitive location, but makes a lot of sense when you consider just who is doing the shooting.

Collectively, the NBA shoots 36% from this spot, which is much lower than other places much further away from the basket. Why is this? I think 2 things are happening: 1) this is not a terribly easy shot to make, but perhaps more importantly, 2) this spot is frequented by big guys and is near the "edge of their range." So this spot is within the domain of centers and power forwards, but these guys are not the league's best shooters – even from 13 feet. Consider the 5 players who have shot the most from this location over the last few years: Tim Duncan, Al Jefferson, Dirk Nowitizki, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Elton Brand – no guards or small forwards. The only relatively smallish guy near the top is David West, who shoots an abysmal 30% from this spot; as a rule you have to be tall to shoot regularly and/or comfortably from this area.


A guard, this close to the post defenders, will rarely get a look open enough to take this shot. And a big man will rarely find himself looking to shoot from any further away. So it's sort of a no-man's land, inhabited only by Chris Bosh, who shoots an NBA-high 53.3 percent from there.


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