There have been some notable really bad shooting performances from usually pretty good players this season. Most notably, Lamar Odom is shooting 34% after shooting 53% last year. Plenty other players have also looked ugly too: James Toney, DeShawn Stevenson, Ron Artest, Baron Davis, and Jason Kidd are other well-known players hovering below 36%. But is there really more bad shooting this year than normal? It would seem that this might happen in a lockout year but the fact is not confirmed by anecdotal evidence. Just to see how true this might be reallly be, I ran a search of all players who played more than 30 games and 15 mpg, who were under 37% from the field. These benchmarks numbers are somewhat arbitrary but shooting below 37% does seem to be a particularly ugly shooting accomplishment and nice line to draw. So, let’s take a look at the yearly number of players who fall into this category since 1997-98:
1997-98: 8 players
1998-99: 22 players (50 game schedule so eligibility was reduced to 20 games)
1999-00: 7 players
2000-01: 12 players
2001-02: 11 players
2002-03: 11 players
2003-04: 10 players
2004-05: 9 players
2005-06: 5 players
20006-07: 5 players
2007-08: 9 players
2008-09: 5 players
2009-10: 5 players
2010-11: 8 players
2011-12 17 players (through 50 games so far, threshold reduced to 20 games for eligibility)
Bingo. We have seen more players really crap out this year then usuald. In fact, the only worse season was 1998-99, the other lockout season, which was highlighted by particularly poor play. This year, the NBA has looked relatively crisp considering the rushed start to the season but a mix of youngsters who need more time to develop (Kemba Walker, Ricky Rubio) and vets who just might be cooked (Artest, Corey Maggette, Kidd). The age distribution of this year’s horrible shooting group is spread mostly in the early 20s or the over 31 set and there are no players between ages 26-30 who are in this group. Past history indicates that the older guys will have problems arresting the declining. Of the 30-odd players over age-32 who made this list of bad shooters since 1997-98, only a few were able subsequently improve. John Starks, who was awful in the lockout season improved his shooting the next few years but still was not good and role players Lindsey Hunter and Jerome Kersey improved a bit, though their volume of shooting was so low that the improvement was not statistically very significant. As such, it’s safe to assume that most of the older guys who shot poorly this season are not likely to bounce back, unless something weird happened (Odom is the best candidate for some improvement, given that his problems appear as much emotional as due to decline).
A few more odds and ends of the bad shooting list:
-Kidd last season had the most win shares, by far, of all the crappy shooters at 6.4 since 1997-98, followed by Bruce Bowen 2000-01 at 4.2.
-The highest volume bad shooter is Starks in 1998-99, when he shot .370% from the field and .290% from three and averaged 14.6 shots per game. Yes, Starks was the big reward that the Warriors got for trading Latrell Sprewell.
-Vernon Maxwell might be the least effective volume shooter in 1999-00 for Seattle. He shot .345% from the field and still got off 10.4 shots per game. He shot poorly and then brawled with Gary Payton in the weight room.
-Jason Collins was the most hesitant bad shooter (for the 2006-07 Nets). Collins started 78 games and averaged almost 29 mpg and shot .364 but took only 1.9 shots per game.
-Five of the top ten most shots per game for bad shooters came in the last two years (Rubio, Walker, Maggette, Chauncey Billups, and Gilbert Arenas).
-Best young player on the list? Steve Nash in 1998-99. The Mavs handed him the keys that year and he did not play well, despite being 24. We assume the lockout hurt him too. He was very good as a backup the year before and bounced back in 1999-00.