The restricted area, as our own Jeff Morton detailed, is still the most valuable area in basketball. Scoring many points at an efficient rate in the area closest to the hoop has always been every NBA team’s main objective. Some will say that the Golden State Warriors and the three point shooting expansion have changed that, but according to, the Warriors remained in the top half of the league last year in attempts inside five feet. They also converted at the sixth highest percentage, so they didn’t abandon it altogether.

Last year, the top six teams in field goal percentage inside five feet were:

  • San Antonio Spurs (perennial contender)
  • Miami Heat (recent contender)
  • Los Angeles Clippers (offense operated by Chris Paul and includes Deandre Jordan)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (LeBron James)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (on the rise with Karl-Anthony Towns)
  • Golden State Warriors (need I say more?)

Last year, the Denver Nuggets shot the second most field goal attempts in this range (35.4), but converted at the fourth worst percentage (55.2%). Each of the teams listed above converted at higher than 61%! It’s clear that the Nuggets have some work to do in this range.

With that in mind, I wanted to check on how the Nuggets are doing at this through their first three games. Of course, three games is an incredibly small sample size, but it provides the first data point on where the Nuggets stand. With the Balkan Buddy Ball experiment, the Nuggets should be focusing on getting quality looks in the paint.

Let’s see how the data of the first three games compares to last year for all of the players who have attempted shots so far:

Player FG% less than 5 ft (2015-16) FG% less than 5 ft (2016-17)
Emmanuel Mudiay 43.6% 36.4%
Will Barton 57.0% 53.3%
Danilo Gallinari 50.2% 36.4%
Nikola Jokic 58.4% 83.3%
Jusuf Nurkic 44.7% 51.7%
Kenneth Faried 60.7% 38.5%
Jameer Nelson 52.5% 50%
Wilson Chandler 61.6 (2014-15) 66.7%
Jamal Murray N/A 0.0%

The most promising numbers for me come from Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic. Jokic has barely missed while on the interior so far, and while it’s obviously early, it pairs well with the eye test that he still has the best touch on the team in terms of shots coming close to the rim. Nurkic has had a trial by fire in terms of the number of shots he’s attempted inside, and his sample is one of the largest in the NBA. He’s still lower than the majority of star big men, but he’s currently higher than Deandre Jordan of the Clippers, which is prestigious company.

The most concerning number for me comes from Emmanuel Mudiay. While most of the veterans have a large sample and will regress to their mean, Mudiay’s 43.6 percent from inside five feet is the only data point we have to describe his interior finishing. That number was the second worst in the entire NBA last year to Joakim Noah. It’s something that has been repeated and repeated, but until Mudiay learns to finish in the paint, he will continue to struggle with his entire offensive game.

Well that’s it for me! Let me know your thoughts about who’s playing well inside and who needs to improve. Do you have any ideas on how to improve the finishing inside five feet? Let us know in the comments section.