John Hollinger wrote:Chucker. Gunner. Ball hog. Shot-seeker. Whatever term you want to use, there's a certain type of player out there that everyone is familiar with: Somebody who takes a lot of shots and makes, well, not a lot of them.
There's a fine line between this type of player and genuine superstars. Nobody begrudges LeBron James or Kobe Bryant using a quarter of his team's possessions, because they use those possessions so effectively. It's when you get to the players who shoot indiscriminately, especially low-percentage shots early in the clock, that fans (and coaches) get upset.
With that in mind, it's time to introduce a new annual award here at Hollinger HQ: The All-Gunner Team. We've combined visual, subjective observation with a comb through the stats for which players shoot most often with least effect.
Before we start, a few caveats: First of all, I didn't pick on players who are having unusually poor shooting seasons taking the shots they normally take (Rodney Stuckey and Kirk Hinrich, for instance) -- that's not the idea here. Second, I cut some slack for players on bad offensive teams. Stuckey and Richard Hamilton have ridiculously high usage rates, for instance, but that's in part because they play with three non-scorers around them most of the time -- somebody has to shoot the thing.
While many of the names should be obvious, a few have escaped attention this season. Without further ado, here are 15 players we'd like to see show a whole lot more discretion offensively:
Michael Beasley, Heat
Beasley still packs some amazing offensive potential, but the results just haven't been there this season. The shots are, however.
He averages 13.4 shots per game in only 29.8 minutes per game, but has a true shooting percentage of just 50.1 -- even with Dwyane Wade commanding most of the opponent's attention -- and assists on just 7.2 percent of his possessions, putting him in the bottom third of power forwards. Beasley has by far the highest usage rate (23.3) of any frontcourt player with a TS% under 51.
Andres Nocioni, Kings
The classic case of a jaded veteran on a bad team; you can practically hear him screaming "get me out of here" every time he catches and shoots a contested 22-footer in the first seven seconds of the shot clock. Known as "Red Bull" for his superior effort level in Chicago, his color is more blue these days -- check out all those cold zones on his NBA.com shot chart. Nocioni shoots 46 percent or less from every spot except the left corner and 39.6 percent overall. Does "El Rey Azul" work for anyone?
Kris Humphries, Nets
When a team trades you for Eduardo Najera and feels good about it, you know there might be a problem.
Humphries is a good athlete who can rebound, yet has never adjusted his worldview of his role in an offense to match the reality of his life as a 10th man in the NBA. Humphries has a TS% of just 48.9 but has matched Nocioni hoist for hoist; only five power forwards have a worse assist ratio.
Larry Hughes, Bobcats
Cleveland's superb beat writer Brian Windhorst had a trademark phrase for Hughes called "all roads lead to 40 percent." He only wishes he could shoot that well these days -- he still takes the same questionable shots he did as a Cav but is converting at just 34.5 percent.
He has the worst TS% of any player with at least 800 minutes and a usage rate over 19.
Al Harrington, Knicks
Just call him Seven Milliseconds or Less -- Harrington is shooting off the catch unless there's a darned good reason not to. Like if he's on his own side of half court, for instance, or if he's trapped under something heavy. Otherwise, it's time to hit the boards.
While Harrington's decent percentages make him one of the more innocuous gunners, his tunnel vision (7.8 assist ratio) is shocking. Only two players with a usage rate higher than 24 have a worse assist ratio, and those two (Amare Stoudemire and Chris Kaman) are interior players; Harrington is doing this from the perimeter.
Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks
Everyone likes Ilyasova because he's tough, he rebounds and he's been a pleasant surprise in his return from Europe. Nonetheless, if we had a special category called Bad Jacks Late in Close Games, Ilyasova would be pushing for the league lead. While he's slightly less brazen than his brethren on this list in other situations, he offers most of the same traits -- a high usage rate, a low assist ratio and a below-average TS% for his position.
Tyreke Evans, Kings
Evans plays point guard much of the time and thus has a decent assist ratio, but that masks his major weakness as a playmaker: He thinks sequentially. As in, "First, I'll look for my shot; only when I am cut off, I'll look to see what's going on around me." As a result he might be one of the most frustrating teammates in the league.
He's one of a handful of players with a TS% under 53 and a usage rate above 25, but the visual is what really puts him over the top -- the idea of involving people just for the sake of their participation in the offense seems completely foreign to him. Too many times he's passing only as a last resort.
Trevor Ariza, Rockets
Ariza is the league leader in a type of shot I call the "Contract Justifier" -- at least once a game, especially early in the season, he takes a ridiculous one-on-one heave for absolutely no reason ... except, one wonders, to justify his full midlevel deal and newfound "star" status with the Rockets.
The irony is that this has had the exact opposite effect: Ariza's TS% is a brutal 47.5, the fourth-worst of any player with a usage rate above 20.0, and as a result his PER is well south of the mark he posted as a role player in Los Angeles.
Monta Ellis, Warriors
The unquestioned captain of our all-gunner team, Ellis plays like the "2" on the shot clock isn't there and is seemingly oblivious to the fact most of his teammates are better shooters. If not all of them, actually ... Ellis actually has the worst TS% of any Warriors rotation payer, including the three D-League call-ups, yet is far and away the team leader in usage rate.
He has the highest usage rate of any guard with a negative pure point rating, and the seventh-highest of any player in the league ... yet Golden State has the league's 21st-best offense when he's on the court and the second-best when he's not.
Rasheed Wallace, Celtics
The Sports Guy's new favorite player is theoretically unselfish, except for the part about him being infected by the ghost of Antoine Walker and jacking up every 3 he can possibly get his hands on. Only Baron Davis has taken so many 3s to so little effect, and Davis has played nearly 50 percent more minutes.
What makes Wallace even more maddening is that there are plenty of shots you want him to take and he won't take them -- getting him to post up has proved frustratingly difficult ever since Mike Dunleavy was ripping out his few remaining hairs trying to get him to do it in Portland.
(Side note: Since Dunleavy's name has been disparaged for his performance with the Clips, I want to remind everyone that he coached a team with Isaiah Rider, Rasheed Wallace, Stacey Augmon and Bonzi Wells to the Western Conference finals in 1999, beating a Utah team with John Stockton and Karl Malone in the process. Just saying.)
Gilbert Arenas, Wizards
No, it's not that kind of all-gunner team, but Arenas still belongs. Actually he rivals Ellis for the captain's spot. Arenas ranks third in the league in usage rate despite a TS% below the league norm at 51.1 percent; he seemed particularly fond of quick 3s off the dribble, attempting nearly six triples a game but hitting only 34.8 percent from long range.
Arenas' 7.2 assists per game were a new career high, but that's damning with faint praise -- he should have been sharing it more given his reduced effectiveness as a scorer.
Al Jefferson, Timberwolves
I realize it's the Wolves and somebody has to shoot on this gawdawful team, so I'd be willing to overlook the combination of subpar TS% (52.4) and high usage rate (22.5). But c'mon big fella, would it kill you to pass out of a double-team once in a while?
Jefferson is the unofficial league leader in post-ups that begin with him thinking "Let me just see if I can split this double before I try to kick it out" and end with him trapped by two men against the baseline. He's making progress of a sort -- his abysmal assist ratio (8.9) is a new career high -- but it's going much, much slower than hoped.
T.J. Ford, Pacers
Ford's numbers are deceiving because his assist ratio (24.1) is halfway decent, but the long-running complaint about him is that he'll pound the ball until he either scores or can make a pass that produces an assist -- there's no interest in moving the ball for movement's sake. Instead of "All for one and one for all," it's more like "All for one as long as that one is me."
In a related story, he's lost his starting job each of the past two seasons and has been relegated to third-string while the Pacers play their best ball of the season.
J.R. Smith, Nuggets
The league leader in "wow" shots. As in, "Wow, I can't believe he just took that shot." Or, "Wow, I can't believe he just pulled up from there." Or, "Wow, they're leaving him in the game after that?" Smith's shot selection was merely a curiosity in past seasons, but given the fact (A) it isn't getting any better, and (B) he's actually upped his gunning considerably, it's a far greater issue than in previous seasons.
Smith is the only player besides Monta Ellis with a usage rate above 24 and a negative pure point rating. In fact he's on pace for both a career-high usage rate and a career-low TS% -- never a good combination. The biggest reason is that he's taking six 3-pointers a game while making just 33.1 percent.
Jannero Pargo, Bulls
People don't lump Pargo into conversations like this because he's a deep reserve, and because he's generally a good dude. But when it comes to jacking indiscriminately he has few peers, despite a jumper that's somewhere south of deadly.
Pargo's TS% is a shockingly bad 43.4, the seventh-worst mark in basketball this season, but he's still firing away. Only one other player in the TS% bottom 25 (Bobby Brown) fires this indiscriminately, and Brown hardly plays; Pargo is a rotation player for a playoff contender. Let's hope he tones it down a little with the long J's off the dribble.