Hot Zones

Kurt —  February 7, 2007

If you want to slow Kobe Bryant from beyond the arc, you want him to shoot from the left side of the court, not the right side.

I know that because of my favorite part of the site, the Hot Zones. Shots from every NBA player are charted and put into one of 14 zones on the court (I use the same zones when charting shots, save that I also break out dunks and lay-ups separate from other shots right around the basket). Just to make it easier, when players shoot well from an area it’s colored in red, cold it’s blue.

This is a useful tool for us fans because it (along with some observation) can give us insights into the shooting strengths and weaknesses of players. (Coaches have this information already, and should have it in more detailed forms.)

Let’s talk Kobe for a second — he clearly feels more comfortable setting up on the right side of the court. As you could have guessed from watching a few games, Kobe takes most of his threes from a wing spot extended. From the right wing side he is shooting 43% on threes (40 of 93), but from the left wing extended he is at 29.3% (22 of 75).

Kobe often drives out of those wing positions and again he seems to prefer the right side — he shoots better than 50% from the right side from three to about nine feet out. What makes Kobe so tough is that there are no other real weaknesses — he still shoots over 40% from everywhere inside the arc. And often these are running or off-balance shots after he has created room to shoot. Or shots with a couple hands in his face.

For fun, let’s look at some of the other Lakers:

Lamar Odom is an odd mix of hot and cold spots on the floor. He’s good at the free throw line extended on either side of the court, plus shoots very well in the paint and around the basket (55.4%). He’s not as strong from the right side baseline, and really takes few shots from either baseline — he’d clearly rather get to the basket from those positions, usually driving baseline.

Smush Parker clearly prefers the right side of the court, particularly for threes — he is shooting 46% on threes from the right side wing and corner combined. And when he’s in that right wing position for a three and someone makes a run at him, he can make a fake, step inside the arc and shooting 52.9% from that wing. However, outside of that one comfort zone Smush is not a good midrange shooter.

Andrew Bynum, save for the odd late-game three (which I clearly thought was more amusing than Phil did), gets nearly all his shots right at the basket (and is shooting 58% on them). It shows his need to develop that fade away (or a skyhook?) to give him a shot he is comfortable with from 6 to 8 feet out. You could say the same things (maybe even more so) about Kwame Brown.

Radmanovic likes his corner threes — he’s shooting 45% from the two corners combined — and that is a spot he seems to be finding more and more in the offense as of late, particularly for kick-out threes. What is hurting his game is that the midrange seems to be gone, he is cold from everywhere. His threes not from the corner also have been off some this season, although that may be improving as of late (at least it seems it has).

Luke Walton also likes the threes from the corner (shooting 45.2% from there) but he has a better midrange game than Radman. Luke is shooting well straight on and at the right elbow, a spot he gets the ball a fair amount as the triangle offense.

Brian Cook can hit the three, but what makes him so dangerous on offense is he has a very good midrange game from just about everywhere. The book on him is still to make him put it on the floor — he’s looked a little more comfortable at that this year but has not really been tested.

There’s been talk (from me included) about Jordan Farmar needing to be more consistent in his shooting to get more time. But, look at the shot chart and it’s clear the boy can shoot the rock.