My favourite academics are the ones who dare to tackle projects that many people think are pointless. Like Kirk Goldsberry, an assistant professor of geography at Michigan State University, who has mapped five years of NBA scoring.
Writing on his website, Goldsberry explains:
In the quest to better understand the "average" NBA shooter I have begun making composite shooting charts for each position in the league. My eventual goal is to establish a spatially informed baseline and to map every shooter in the league against an average shooter. These charts are not good for that task, but they're interesting nonetheless. Here are composite shooting charts for each of the 5 conventional basketball positions. I combined the shooting data for every player in positional groups. There are some bizarre trends including some fascinating asymmetries.
The image above shows the point scoring per field goal attempt, from 2006 to 2011. Red means most points and blue means fewest; the size of the squares indicates how many shots were attempted from each spot. This mass of data averages out about right, especially the orange rim around the three-point line and the red spot in the key.
But if you're really interested, you should read Goldsberry's original paper which is freely available (PDF). When he starts to break it down by player, there are some really interesting trends to be observed — which I'm sure could prove pretty useful in training. [Kirk Goldsberry via Flowing Data]