By every possible parameter, Kobe Bryant is having one of the worst shooting seasons in NBA history. Over the last decade, be it by field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage or true shooting percentage, it looks bad for him in 2015-2016 and also last season through less than half of it before he was shut down. But what’s the right way of measuring a shooter, or in this case, a bad one?
We narrowed down the field to the last ten seasons (since 2004-2005) and split them individually, filtering by taking only players attempting 17 shots per game or more. Why that number? We wanted to go through the list of players that usually end up high on the scoring lists, and over 2014-2015 and this season, the players averaging 20 points or more per game are averaging 17.9 shots a night. So we took it down a notch so more people could feel included.
The simple way of looking at good or bad shooting, but it doesn’t take into account if a player focuses on 3-pointers, which is the popular thing now. Based on this measurement, Kobe Bryant is on pace to have the worst shooting season of any NBA player in the last ten seasons (with the 17 field goal attempts per game as the bottom line), hitting just 31.1% from the field. He actually has the second worst season as well, last year, making just 37.3% of his shots, although he did play in just 35 games before an injury took him out for the season, or he simply decided he’s had enough. James Harden’s shooting this season (39.8%) from the field comes in third from the bottom on this list, and these are the only three individual seasons (two of them incomplete efforts) under 40%.
Trying to find a full season worth of bad shooting takes us a bit higher to Deron Williams and 55 games in the shortened 2011-2012 season, hitting only 40.7% of his shots from the field when playing for the then New Jersey Nets. If we’re looking for an actual full season from someone without any lockouts getting in the way, the worst of the last decade has been Jamal Crawford in 2007-2008 when he played for the New York Knicks. Crawford hoisted 17.4 shots per game, making just 41% of them.
Going by this measurement takes into account the increased importance of making a 3-pointer, but not the free throw shots. Even by this one, Kobe Bryant in 2015-2016 (35.9% so far) and 2014-2015 (41.1%) fills out the bottom two slots. Above him comes Steve Francis and his 2004-2005 season for the Orlando Magic, with a eFG% of 43.8%, scoring 22.3 points per game on 42.3% shooting, but making only 29.9% of his three point shots. Chris Webber in 2004-2005 and in 2005-2006 (an entire season with the Philadelphia 76ers) comes next with similar numbers to Francis, followed by Tracy McGrady, also in 2005-2006, with a 44.2% eFG mark, shooting just 40.6% from the field while playing just 47 games that year. Monta Ellis has the worst 82-game season in the last decade (2012-2013) with 41.6% from the field and a eFG% of 44.8%, shooting just 28.7% from beyond the arc, attempting four 3-pointers each game.
True shooting paints another incomplete picture of the efficiency meter, including free throws in the calculations, but is a player’s ability to get to the line and also hit from the line fall into the definition of a good shooter? Great 3-point shooters are usually excellent from the line as well, but there are arguments for and against measuring players through this statistic.
In any case, at the bottom we once again find Bryant in 2015-2016. He’s struggling to get to the line (4.7 per game) so his 81.7% from the line isn’t helping him with an ultra-low 41.8% true shooting percentage. Webber in 2004-2005 comes again at 47.2%, a big difference from Bryant at the bottom. Then comes Bryant’s 2014-2015 season with 47.7%. Only eight season of under 50% true shooting, with McGrady in 2005-2006 and 2007-2008 in there, Webber also adding his 2005-2006 season, Monta Ellis from his infamous 2012-2013 season and finally, Antoine Walker, back when he still had money (2004-2005), with a 47.8% true shooting figure.