What is True Shooting? And why should you use it?

Tyler Herro, Miami Heat. (Photo by Bryan Cereijo/Getty Images)
Tyler Herro, Miami Heat. (Photo by Bryan Cereijo/Getty Images) /

If you have been following the website for a long time (or just my work in general), you may have noticed my decision to cite True Shooting when talking about scoring efficiency rather than the more traditional field goal percentage.

And you may be wondering, why is it that I do that? Is it just to feel smart?

I can assure you that feeling smart is not the reason. To understand my decision to use it, first, you need to know what True Shooting is. Here is NBA Stuffer’s definition of the metric:

"“True shooting percentage, aka TS%, is a metric that factors a player’s or a team’s performance at the free-throw line and considers the efficiency of all types of shots. This NBA statistic helps us compare players with varying responsibilities and shooting abilites on the floor. A higher True Shooting Percentage generally indicates a more efficient scorer, while a lower percentage indicates a less efficient scorer, while other aspects such as shot selection and offensive role should also be taken into account when evaluating a player’s overall performance.”"

Unlike raw field goal percentage (which only accounts for twos and threes and doesn’t consider that threes are worth more than twos), True Shooting considers all types of shots when evaluating a player/team’s scoring efficiency.

So, how do you use it to determine how efficient of a scorer someone is?

The key is to compare a team/player’s True Shooting percentage to the rest of the league (this data is easily available at free websites like Basketball Reference).

For instance, last season, the league average in True Shooting was 58.1%. Meanwhile, our superstar Zion Williamson posted a True Shooting  percentage of 65.2%. That means he had a relative (meaning relative to the league) True Shooting percentage of +7.1%.

You need to compare players relative to the era they are playing in because the game has gotten more efficient over time.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is considered one of the greatest and most efficient scorers of all-time. However, if you look at his raw career True Shooting percentage of 59.3%, you’d think he’s hardly above average in terms of scoring efficiency. But you need to think about the era he was playing in. During his playing career, the league average for True Shooting was 52%. That means that his relative True Shooting percentage was +7.3% (not too different than Williamson’s).

To summarize, True Shooting is an easy and holistic way to evaluate a player’s scoring efficiency. Just remember to compare the player relative to their era!

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