Have you ever wanted to see how your favorite WNBA team shoots from a specific area on the court? How about which teams are the best at defending the paint? Or maybe you’d like to compare the league’s best shooters by distance?
All of this is now possible at WNBA Stats. Today, we’re going to dive into team and player shot locations and percentages, as well as generate different types of visuals for that data.
Team shot distances
First, let’s learn how to find shot location statistics. On WNBA Stats, it’s under “Teams” in the nav bar.
We will then be presented with something that looks like this:
That’s the landing point for WNBA shot location data. Makes, attempts and percentages are split up in five-foot increments. The data can be sorted by clicking on “FGM,” “FGA” or “FG%” at the top of each column.
We can already pick out some useful information from this. The Mystics, for example, don’t take many shots from inside five feet. But at 64.6 percent, they’re by far the most efficient WNBA team from that distance. The Fever take the most shots per game from 15-19 feet, and the Sky love their 20-24-foot shots.
Using the filters at the top, we can mess around with this some more. Unfortunately, there’s no way to see the numbers in a per-possession context, so adjusting for pace is impossible. But changing the distance range to “By Zone” will at least let us look at shot distance in a different way:
Viewing the data in this way gives us a little more context, especially for shots in the paint and three-pointers. Where paint points come from (restricted area vs. non-restricted area) is vastly different for Chicago than Connecticut, for instance. And for the lack of three-point shooting on the Aces’ roster, they’re actually quite efficient from two of the three 3-point shooting zones.
As for the Wings? Yes, you’re reading that correctly — they have yet to make a three-pointer from the right corner this season. Yikes.
Team shot charts
Now let’s see if we can visualize this data and make it look a little prettier. We’ll pick a random team — how about the Lynx? — and go to their team page. Under the drop-down menu, switch to “Team Stats” and then “Shooting.”
OK, that’s a lot! On this page, everything in orange can be clicked for a shot chart, but not every piece of data warrants it — cutting layup shots, for instance, aren’t going to yield a very meaningful shot chart since they all come from the same spot. Let’s keep it simple for now and just click on the 1,410 total field goals attempted (FGA) by the Lynx. We’ll get something like this:
Now, remember from last week’s piece on video that orange numbers usually mean there is video available for that statistic. Sure enough, asking WNBA Stats to display visualizations for each of Minnesota’s 1,410 FGA on the season will yield 1,410 videos, which is cool, but not really what we’re here for this time.
The above chart, however, looks pretty nice and self-explanatory. The Lynx have shot the ball slightly better than league average in the restricted area and slightly worse than league average from everywhere else in the paint. They haven’t taken many three-pointers from either corner, and have shot poorly from both zones. They’re been about average on above the break threes.
We can also ask for a different type of chart. Shot plots can be useful for smaller sample sizes, but get a little messy with larger ones:
Yeah, that doesn’t really tell us much.
An extended color scale shot zone chart might be of some use, though!
This is pretty cool because it both visualizes the data and keeps the relevant numbers in there so you know what you’re looking at. As a bonus, it also includes shot distribution (DIST) percentages: The Lynx take 33.8 percent of their shots in the restricted area, 18.2 percent of their shots from elsewhere in the paint, 21.8 percent of their shots from midrange and so on.
Player shot distances and charts
Along those same lines, we can now also look up shot distances for individual players. Using the nav bar, go to “Players” and then “Shooting.”
Now, the per-game samples are much smaller here than for team shot distances, so switching to totals might be better for context’s sake. That being said, you’ll notice that this is essentially the same table with the same filters. A fun exercise is to sort each distance by column and see which players have been the best or most prolific.
Just as with teams, we can also create shot charts for players. Let’s use A’ja Wilson as an example since she’s at the top of the list. Go to her player page and season splits, and just as we did with the Lynx, click on the 12.3 FGA she’s averaging on the season.
This chart tells us that Wilson takes most of her shots in the paint and in the restricted area (not surprising) and that she’s actually shooting above league average from midrange this season; Wilson has made 46.6 percent of her shots from midrange, which is significantly better than the league average mark of 35.7 percent.
Here’s Wilson’s extended color scale shot zone chart:
Opponent shot distances
Finally, we can look up how teams defend shots by distance and zone. It’s conveniently located right underneath “shooting” for team stats:
What jumps out about this table? How about the Sun allowing opponents to shoot 65.2 percent from 1-5 feet? The Sky’s interior defense, on the other hand, has allowed just 53.0 percent shooting from that range, but it’s letting opponents take more shots from there than anyone else in the WNBA.
Is there any other number that stands out to you? Have a question about how to look up a specific player or team shot location? Let us know in the comments!
All statistics, screen shots, and charts referenced in this piece courtesy of WNBA.com.