Stat of the Week is a funny concept early in the season. So much of statistical evidence is based on the quantity of the sample size. If there’s enough data to draw a conclusion, that’s what statistics are supposed to do. Until that point, every new piece of information could radically change the sample.
With that in mind, take the following numbers with a grain of salt.
The Denver Nuggets have started the season 2-4, but they possess the fourth highest offensive rating on NBA.com as well as the fourth highest effective field goal percentage. Both numbers are great indications of championship caliber offense, especially the eFG%, and the Nuggets players have done a great job remaining efficient for the first six games of the season.
For this exercise, I decided to evaluate different shot locations on the floor to shine a light on various players that deserve praise or criticism. Based on percentages and sample size, I selected the best and worst Nuggets shooter from every spot on the floor at the start of the 2020-21 season. The goal? Learn more about where players are succeeding and struggling.
Best: Paul Millsap
Shooting: 15-of-16 (93.8%)
Paul Millsap has filled his role on the Denver Nuggets about as well as can be expected. He spaces the floor well, rarely forces his own individual offense, and complements Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokić very well. The restricted area is the best indication of that. Millsap frequently cuts into the paint the moment Jokić is looking for a baseline cutter. It took awhile for Millsap to perfect spacing from the short corner, but it’s safe to say that the 35-year-old veteran is currently finishing at the rim the best he ever has.
Worst: PJ Dozier
Shooting: 8-of-14 (57.1%)
On the flip side, Dozier has been merely okay at the rim in his minutes thus far. 57.1% isn’t a terrible number by any stretch of the word, but there have been times where Dozier has attacked the basket recklessly and out of control. It’s early in the season, and it shows how well Denver is finishing in the restricted area overall that the lowest mark of any rotation player is 57.1%. Let’s hope Dozier bounces back and uses his combination of athleticism and fluidity to become more efficient.
Paint (non-restricted area, AKA the floater zone)
Best: Nikola Jokić
Shooting: 21-of-30 (70%)
Perhaps the most insane number featured in this article, the consistent touch Nikola Jokić displays on shots in the floater zone is unparalleled in the NBA. Kyrie Irving is the only player in the NBA right now who can match Jokić’s efficiency on those shots at a similar number of attempts. Jokić almost always attempts a floater from this range, showing off deft touch and ability to slow down his shooting motion while on the move. Outside of the Sombor Shuffle, it is the most impressive shot in Jokić’s arsenal.
Worst: Paul Millsap and Isaiah Hartenstein (tie)
Shooting: Both are at 1-of-7 (14.2%)
The vast difference between Jokić and the rest of the NBA is readily apparent here. Millsap and Hartenstein both possess shooting touch around the rim, but the zone outside of the restricted area is much more complicated. Often, a defender is contesting right in front of the shooter, and for Millsap and Hartenstein, that has bothered them thus far this season.
Best: Jamal Murray
Shooting: 13-of-24 (54.2%)
The highest percentage in the mid-range actually belongs to Michael Porter Jr. shooting 80% on 4-of-5 shots. Such a low attempt total from that zone begs the question of small sample size, so let’s go with Murray instead. 13-of-24 attempts is by far the most on the team, and Murray has delivered with an excellent percentage. Creative finishes in the mid-range have kept the Nuggets in several games, and even though Murray is expanding his game to attacking the rim and hunting for more threes, the mid-range is his most polished area with the greatest number of moves in his bag.
Worst: Will Barton
Shooting: 2-of-10 (20%)
Barton has struggled in the paint (non-restricted area) and the mid-range thus far this season, combining for just 7-of-30 on two-pointers that aren’t right under the rim. For a creator like Barton who has the ball in his hands often, this is an important issue to iron out. The 6’5” swingman seems to be lacking some explosiveness on his shots around the rim as well as lift on his mid-range jumper. The Nuggets need Barton to be at his best for the team to be the best it can be, so hopefully Barton can return to form shortly.
Best: Facundo Campazzo
Shooting: 5-of-6 (83.3%)
Jamal Murray was in close contention for this spot by shooting 5-of-7 thus far, but Campazzo takes it home after an impressive performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. The Nuggets have needed a shooting boost from their bench, and Campazzo provided a strong boost all by himself. The corner three is a spot on the floor where Campazzo may find himself frequently while playing next to Monte Morris and other playmakers on the roster, so him staying ready is important for Denver’s bench offense while he’s out there.
Worst: Monte Morris
Shooting: 1-of-9 (11.1%)
Morris has shot well in other areas on the floor, including the next shot location on the list, but he has been cold from the corners to start the season. Like Campazzo, it’s important for Nuggets guards to all be ready and able to fire from the corners as Murray, Jokić, and other playmakers operate from the middle of the floor. Jokić in particular finds the weak side corner shooter frequently on passes out of the post. Morris hasn’t knocked them down this season, but he shot 42.4% from the corners last year. It’s safe to say Morris will improve after a slow start.
Above the Break three
Best: Monte Morris
Shooting: 6-of-11 (54.5%)
It’s safe to say Morris will improve from the corner because he’s been great from above the break. Transition threes, hockey assists to the wing, and even a pull-up three here or there have been the name of the game for Morris above the break. He displays a confident and repeatable shooting stroke, and as he transitions from being a young player to being a veteran, this three-point shot may become the tool that defines just how high his ceiling can be.
Worst: Gary Harris
Shooting: 0-for-13 (0%)
This one is rough. Gary Harris has struggled with consistency on his three-point shot for the better part of three years now. What was once a defining trait for his future stardom in the NBA has turned into his greatest detraction. Nuggets fans everywhere want the threes to fall for Harris so badly, but they just haven’t. Harris is shooting 3-of-24 (12.5%) on threes this season, and it’s becoming an issue for Denver’s offense. As potent as it already is, it could be significantly better with better three-point shooting on the wings. Harris will do what he can to improve, but after shooting 33.9% in the 2018-19 regular season and 33.3% in 2019-20, there are legitimate questions as to how much he can improve his shooting efficiency going forward.