One of the few beneficiaries of the Clippers’ injury situation this season has been sharpshooting forward Steve Novak. On Sunday afternoon, Novak went 3-3 from the field — all three FGMs were from beyond the arc. He finished the game with a +13, far and away the best rating of any Clipper. Novak is now 13 for 24 as a three-point shooter in January, good for a 54.2%.
There’s an old cliché that you can always spot a coach’s son for his sweet, flawless shooting stroke. It’s certainly true in Novak’s case. His father, Mike, is the longtime basketball coach at Brown Deer High School in Milwaukee. Novak played under his Dad and, from an early age, would show up at practice and take 300 shots a day.
Chad Brooks is a smart basketball observer who sent along this email about Rick Majerus’ “180 Shooter” — a player whose field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and three-point percentage total 180:
I was always intrigued to hear him discuss his term “a 180 shooter” that is adding the percentages of free throw, field goal and three point percentage. If that sum reaches or exceeds 180 then you are the purest of shooters.
From reading your posts and following your links it is evident that you are very comfortable in the statistical minutiae of the NBA game. This led me to run my own very remedial data collection on “180″ shooters. I am as big of a fan of the college game (if not more so) as the NBA game. It amazed me that over the last 25 years how incredibly difficult it was for guys to achieve that 180 mark for their careers. There is no method to my madness on how I selected these shooters to look up. There could be an outside chance that I may very well be over looking some great shooters. After watching thousands of hours of basketball I basically just racked my brain for guys I thought could fill it up and then looked at their percentages. Many things can be taken away from this:
- Some guys only had one year to adhere to the 3-pt line, or no years at all (this could be argued both ways, inflation or deflation of percentages).
- How some college programs had an offense that purely revolved around their best shooter and how once in the NBA, these shooters were quickly brought back down to earth by NBA defenders closing speed. Many great college shooters often talk about the biggest adjustment from the college game to the pro game is the idea of an “open look.”
- It should be pointed out that for the vast majority, their cumulative total decreased once they hit the NBA. This is as to be expected for a series of reasons (length of season, no conference play – everybody plays everybody in the NBA, better supporting casts . . .) However maybe something needs to be said for A) Steve Nash’s work ethic and B) Mike D’Antoni’s system he had in place in Phoenix. Nash’s improvement of 12.9 is a definite outlier.
- The variable with the most impact was the advent of the three point line, making the “180 man” a possibility. It would be a arduous task but interesting to extrapolate jumpers that would have counted for three by the likes of Rick Barry, Jerry West and Pete Maravich to name a few.
- Lastly if you want to stack the odds in your son’s favor to tickle the twine your first step is to name him Steve. I guess Del Curry knew this long before Majerus coined his “180 man” term.
Brooks’ email was accompanied by this spreadsheet. The first set of names and numbers reflects the collegiate leaders in the “180 Shooter index”; the second set is the pro rankings; the third number is the drop-off/increase from college to the NBA [and for most, it's a drop-off].
Every few years, we see prolific college scorers struggle in the NBA. Sometime it’s confounding. But, generally, it’s the difficulty of finding the “open look,” as Brooks mentions in his second point, that limits their effectiveness. It’s comparatively easy for a Steve Alford, or a JJ Redick, or even a Roger Mason to get shots in an offense where three or four other players are primarily focused on getting him an open shot. But what happens when that shooter becomes a fourth or fifth option? What happens when, on the rare occasion that the shooter gets that open look along the arc, the guy closing isn’t 6′ 1″, but a freaky 6′ 7″ forward with a wing span of nearly seven feet?
One of the characterizations we throw around when evaluating a player is “he can create his own shot.” Usually this means that he’s got the raw athletic ability to create space for himself [Al Thornton, for example], or the handle to do so [Chris Paul]. You also have guys like Richard Hamilton who create that shot through sheer endurance, running his defender ragged until he finds that open space. But if a shooter doesn’t have the capacity to do that — or if his team doesn’t have the patience to allow him to do so [and why should they when there are three athletes on the floor who don't need an elaborate ballet to get an open shot] – the open looks simply aren’t going to be there.