An In-Depth Look at the Knicks’ Shot Selection

Ian Levy of has developed an intuitive new statistic for the use of all, and today I will be using it to view a better and clearer picture of the New York Knicks’ shot selection, player by player. This statistic formulated by Levy is called Expected Points Per Shot, or XPPS. This is based on the league average points per shot from a specific area on the court, and when used alongside an individual’s Actual Points Per Shot, it can determine who is taking shots from the most effective areas, who isn’t and how efficient they are, or should be. Using this, we can see how statistics match-up to popular theories such as how good of a bad-shot taker J.R. Smith really is, or if Raymond Felton is settling too much from the perimeter. Let’s do it.

Now to best understand the following measures, it’s best to read the longer, more accurate description from the man himself, Ian Levy:

“I used statistics from and looked at every shot, made and missed, going back to the 2000-2001 season. The NBA groups those shots into five locations – Restricted Area, In The Paint (Non-RA), Mid-Range, Corner 3, Above The Break 3. By calculating the total number of points scored on shots from each location and dividing it by the number of attempts we arrive at an expected value for shots from each location. Here are those averages:

Restricted Area – 1.183
In The Paint (Non-RA) – 0.793
Mid-Range – 0.788
Corner 3 – 1.157
Above The Break 3 – 1.048

With those expected values we can calculate a player’s Expected Points Per Shot. We multiple their total attempts from each area by the expected value of shots from that area. We add that total to the totals from all other areas. We then divide that total by all of a player’s shot attempts, including the calculated trips to the free throw line. The result is Expected Points Per Shot.

It’s important to remember that this is a measure of the quality of a player’s shot selection. Players who take a lot of easy shots like layups or corner three-pointers will have a higher value. However, players under and over-perform league averages all the time. For that reason I compare Expected Points Per Shot to Actual Points Per Shot. Calculating the difference between the two lets us see who’s shooting accuracy is better or worse than we would expect.”

(To read his full piece on XPPS, and to find the statistics for other teams, click here)

Now to business. Here are the New York Knicks’ XPPS, listed from best to worst:

Tyson Chandler: 1.231

Amar’e Stoudemire: 1.109

Ronnie Brewer: 1.086

Chris Copeland: 1.078

Marcus Camby: 1.070

Jason Kidd: 1.062

Carmelo Anthony: 1.060

Pablo Prigioni: 1.054

Steve Novak: 1.050

James White: 1.032

Rasheed Wallace: 1.031

Raymond Felton: 1.010

J.R. Smith: 0.989

Kurt Thomas: 0.934

Now here are the Knicks’ APPS – XPPS, listed from best to worst:

Steve Novak: .181

Tyson Chandler: .157

Jason Kidd: .135

Kurt Thomas: .128

Carmelo Anthony: .101

Chris Copeland: .082

James White: .064

Pablo Prigioni: .028

J.R. Smith: .005

Rasheed Wallace: -.057

Amar’e Stoudemire: -.075

Raymond Felton: -.090

Ronnie Brewer: -.194

Marcus Camby: -.303

Now, what have we learned?

  • Ronnie Brewer’s offensive limitations are even worse than what we see from the eye-candy and shooting percentages, as his two primary shot locations, the corner three and restricted area own the highest points per shot according to the league average. Now, Brewer is much more than an average random cutter, but that corner three spot is a favorite for, well the entire NBA. To be fair to Brewer, his shooting percentage of 33.8% from the corners this season isn’t awful, but him having the second worst difference of XPPS to APPS truly magnifies his lack of offensive usefulness, but luckily Iman Shumpert is set to return to the rotation.
  • Chris Copeland is awesome. Alright so we already knew that, but having a positive difference with the fourth-highest XPPS on your squad is nothing to scoff at. Oh yeah, and he was signed due to his Vegas Summer League and Training Camp play. His skills have rounded into shape with Copeland being a 28-year old rookie, and they are meh at best, but his I.Q. when it comes to picking the right spots is clearly on display here.
  • J.R. Smith is not a great bad-shot taker, but simply just a bad-shot taker. Smith has the second worst XPPS on the entire team behind Kurt Thomas, and his APPS is just higher by .005, a noticeably minuscule amount. Had it been a decent amount higher, then the argument could be made. Plus, do note that all of this is based on shot location, shot difficulty is not factored in. (But how cool would it be if it could be?) If you’ve watched J.R. Smith on offense, you’ll know the majority of his attempts are either contested, fadeaways, off-balanced, or a disturbing combination of the three. It would be frustratingly difficult for anybody to change Smith’s ways on offense, and Knicks fans are growing accustomed to letting J.R. be J.R., but there is a solution here. Per Synergy Sports the majority of Smith’s shot attempts come when he is isolating, while his shooting percentages and overall play as a pick-and-roll ball handler and spot-up shooter are much more favorable for New York.
  • Amar’e Stoudemire has been taking the right shots. This is good, because there has not been much to applaud over with Stoudemire’s return. ‘Mare has the second-highest XPPS on the team, but his declining body and rusty fundamentals become blatantly obvious when looking at his APPS/XPPS difference, where he ranks fourth-worst on the Knicks. But his game, at least some of it, will return in time, and so long as he continues to take the same shots, Amar’e's offense could take a strong turn for the best.
  • Tyson Chandler is, well, you know. He deserves his own piece, not just for being the best defender in the league, but also for being the model of efficiency on offense. Chandler manages to hold the highest XPPS on the team and the second-highest APPS/XPPS difference. That’s nuts.
  • Raymond Felton is in the same league as J.R. Smith here, only worse. Felton not only has the third-worst XPPS on the team, but he also has a negative APPS/XPPS difference, one of five Knicks in the same category. This is unsettling, considering Felton is shooting worse than his expected points per shot which was already alarmingly low, and also he’s the Knicks starting point guard. Yikes. This is likely due to Felton’s jumper-happy mentality he grew into in his last few games before he went out with a finger injury. Early in the season, Ray would attack the basket with ferocity and confidence, but eventually this turned into pull-up jumpers from mid-range and unwarranted threes off pick-and-rolls where defenders would go under the screen on Felton. This badly needs to change in order for the Knicks to be successful come Playoffs time.

Thanks to Ian Levy for creating this awesome statistic and for letting anyone go ahead and use it.

Anything you can point out that I glanced over? Leave it in the comments section.

  • geoAZ

    Congrats again, this is only the second article I’ve read on this site and been highly impressed both times !! A basic observation, that cannot be rooted in statistics is the ability to “take” a shot, not only to make one. If you review the list of the “favorable” scorers, you have to get to ‘Melo before you find a player who can “take” the shots. In the case of players like Novak, you couldn’t win with 5 Novaks, they wouldn’t get shots off, the same is essentially true of the next 3 players. Additionally, there are times during games when Smith, for example, takes a shot, few if any of the Knicks “could” take, ie. late in the clock. In summary, well done, keep up the good work and Thanks for your effort !!

    • Jonah Kaner

      Thanks, geoAZ. I’m glad you’re enjoying the site’s content. A statistic that I’d love to see is one that takes into account time left on shot clock, which would play into what you’re saying.