The Worst Shot in Basketball


The playoffs are a skip and a jump away, so naturally it’s almost time to put in the official playoff prediction. If you’re like me, chances are you’re still undecided. There’s a lot of information out there, an awful lot of reasoning to support several teams, and their chances to host the Larry O’Brien come this June. The debate between analytic lovers and eye test advocates rages on, what you base your opinion and predictions on is up to you. I’m not trying to sway anyone with this research, rather I’ve strived to provide just one small piece of information that may or may not influence your opinion.

A lot has been made the last few years about how important the three point shot has become. With that knowledge, also comes the understanding that shooting just inside the three point line is the worst statistical shot in basketball. The measure of difficulty is on par with a three pointer, and yet hitting a 22 footer does not yield the 150% point bonus stepping one foot back does.

Daryl Morey and the Rockets are clearly firm believers of this as they take six more three pointers per game than any other team. They also take the least 19-22 foot shots across the league by a large margin. But does it correlate to winning? Does avoiding, shooting just inside the three point line really effect wins and losses? That’s a debate that will rage on, for example the infamous triangle offense allows for an awful lot of 19-22 foot attempts. The 2008 – 2009 Lakers who won a Championship took 581 attempts at the discussed range. That would be the fifth most attempts currently this season. However, when you look at the chart below you’ll note that the Knicks and Timberwolves have taken the most attempts from that range, and also have the league’s two worst records. The Rockets, Cavaliers, Spurs, Hawks, and Warriors are all in the bottom 11 for attempts. Coincidence or not, that’s up to you.


Chart note: All statistics via as of March 31, 2015.


Team 19-22 Foot


Total Attempts


Conference W/L Rank
Timberwolves 698 1 15
Knicks 693 2 15
Clippers 619 3 5
Lakers 595 4 14
Pacers 559 5 10
Wizards 553 6 5
Hornets 532 7 11
Trail Blazers 528 8 4
Celtics 522 9 8
Mavericks 501 10 7
Grizzlies 496 11 2
Bulls 454 12 3
Kings 451 13 13
Magic 447 14 13
Pelicans 441 15 9
Heat 439 16 7
Nets 434 17 9
Bucks 417 18 6
Raptors 380 19 4
Hawks 371 20 1
Warriors 367 21 1
Nuggets 366 22 12
Jazz 364 23 11
Spurs 352 24 6
Suns 350 25 10
Pistons 349 26 12
Thunder 331 27 8
Cavaliers 307 28 2
76ers 296 29 14
Rockets 198 30 3



One comment

  1. The long 2s debate is becoming stale and played out. What makes shots bad shots is when you have personnel taking them and not hitting them. The 19-22ft shot is not a bad shot if it’s open and a team has personnel who can hit them.

    Because I’d want any historically good shooter taking those shots if open

    I think another reason the 19-22ft area proves statistically to be bad because players probably aren’t practicing taking and hitting those shots in practice. The league has essentially been dumbed down to beat your man off the dribble or be lazy and take a deep perimeter shot(beyond 23ft) because the reward is higher.

    Well if defenses are geared to look for shots at the rim or 3s guess what shots are typically wide open? 12-22ft or more so 12-18ft. The 19-22ft is an escape area typically. One could argue the reason 19-22ft shots are taken by teams maybe more than they should because too many players hover around the 3pt line and either never get back far enough or don’t have the skillset to be productive within this area.

    League rules have catered more towards the game played in a frenetic fashion doesn’t mean principled foundations die though.

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