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Where Do NBA Shooting Fouls Actually Take Place?

Illustration for article titled Where Do NBA Shooting Fouls Actually Take Place?

Yesterday, Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry wrote a piece about how James Harden gets fouled like a Super Mario coin brick. But buried in the piece was this fascinating map of every single shooting foul so far in this NBA season, so we thought we'd take a closer look. (Do yourself a favor and click "Expand" in the upper left of the image for a full-sized version, or click on the original in Kirk's post.)

It's always been obvious from an intuitive perspective, but this is the best visual representation of the basic "Get to the hoop if you want to get fouled" conventional wisdom, as well as the underpinnings of the Moreyball drives-and-threes style.

The map as a whole is heavy on the left side of the court, probably owing to more right-handed players being comfortable driving from that side of the floor. This varies from player to player, though—Harden, a lefty, also shades right.


Also, if you look at where the fouls on corner threes are located, you'll notice that the left wing is a little closer to the baseline than the right wing. I'm not sure if this is just a quirk of Goldsberry's mapping, but seems like it's possible right-handed players can nudge just slightly closer to the baseline (and away from perimeter help defense) on the left wing because of the backboard.

Now, about those two ridiculous fouls 35 feet from the basket.

We know that one of them is definitely Patty Mills fouling Goran Dragic at the end of a quarter, which could be the single dumbest shooting foul of the entire season:

The other we're not sure about, but it could be this preposterous call on Matt Barnes that sent J.R. Smith to the line to end the first quarter:

Maybe, but the spot on the floor seems off. Whatever. This is still a ridiculously fun chart, and raises all sorts of questions—like who's committed the most shooting fouls on corner threes this year, and is that a habit that carries over from year to year? And: How much different would this chart look if the Rockets were swallowed by a massive sinkhole?


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