Catch and Shoot: Finding the best shot

I read recently about the impact that taking a catch and shoot shot has on scoring over taking a pullup shot. This had some impact on a project I was working on. And while there is plenty of information available on this topic, I thought I would investigate for myself to see how catch and shoot compares to pull up shots. The data for this investigation has been pulled from the SportVU data using a python script. It was then loaded into spreadsheets, in order to perform various functions on it and find the important pieces of information.

The first important point is that the rumours are true, catch and shoot is generally a better shooting option. The efg% across the 30 NBA teams is 10% higher for catch and shoot (50.67%) versus pullup (40.67%). This increase is somewhat situational. Pullup shots are generally not wide open jumpshots and are contested a lot more. Meanwhile catch and shoot happens a lot for players who found space and take the open shot straight from the pass. Below is an image showing the teams who are using catch and shoot on a frequent basis. No surprise, the Atlanta Hawks are on top with the most points gained and most attempts per game. The size of each bubble in the chart is determined by the teams eFG%. So the bigger the bubble, the more efficient the team is with the catch and shoot.

I noticed that the raptors are quite low on the attempts but have a pretty big bubble, meaning high eFG%. It turns out they have the third best eFG% taking catch and shoot attempts with 54.8% but taking the second lowest attempts per game with 19.6. They are having a good season irregardless of this, but they should start taking advantage of this by taking a few more attempts per game. They at least are doing well in their own strategy. The 76ers (that little brown circle down the bottom of the image below) are trying to follow the Hawks lead but it’s just not working. Their eFG% is 45.9, second worst in the league. But with the rebuilding effort that they are in now, they must be trying to develop the strategy and then bring in the players to play it. With…. a lot …. of picks in the upcoming draft, this approach may yet work.


So if that is how the teams stack up, how do the players look? Not too surprisingly again, Kyle Korver is leading the league with the highest eFG% from catch and shoot attempts. The players below are the top 20 players in catch and shoot eFG% after filtering out players with few games and minutes per game. Some players such as  Eric Gordon and Deron Williams have a significant improvement in shooting when taking catch and shoot attempts with a 32% and 30% improvement respectively. Thats not to say this is the only way to play.

There are plenty of players who don’t make use of this advantage. During my investigation of the data I looked at the players who are shooting more pullups than catch and shoot attempts. The top 10 of these are below with the eFG difference between catch and shoot and pullup. Even though these players are shooting better on the catch and shoot they still take more pullup shots. I think there are two big factors for this. One is these are some of the best players, such as LeBron, Chris Paul, Russel Westbrook (James Harden was just outside the list). These guys are able to create their own chances and also do not get left open for an easy catch and shoot that often. I also noticed a lot of point guards among the group. I think this is because these guys function as the primary ball carrier and are setting up the catch and shoot attempts for other players but not themselves. As I mentioned earlier in regards to Deron Williams high eFG% difference, he is taking 4.4 pullup attempts to 2.7 catch and shoot attempts every game. This goes against the efficiency he is seeing in but it makes sense as he has to run the offense for the Nets.


The final table to look at is the players who trying to take advantage of the better shot the most. These are the players shooting the most catch and shoot attempts over pullups. Interestingly Bargnani is second and yet doesn’t see an improvement between shots. Aside from that the others are all getting a decent advantage by taking more attempts per game.


This was information I had read about and looked at previously but it was very interesting investigating for myself to see the difference it can make to a team and player. Certainly the Hawks and Kyle Korver are benefiting significantly from it this season. It was also very interesting getting stuck into the SportVU data for the first time. The detail and information available there, really improves on what analysis can be done on the players. In this case it tells us, take those catch and shoot chances when they arise, especially if you are the Raptors.


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