Contributed by Xinyuan Wu.

In the NBA, a top player makes around a thousand shots during the entire regular season. A question worth asking is: What information can we get by looking at these shots? As a basketball fan for more than 10 years, I am particularly interested in discovering facts that can not be directly seen on live TV. When I was surfing on web last week, I found a data set called NBA shot-log from Kaggle. This data summarizes every shot made by each player during the games in the 14/15 regular season along with a variety of features. I decided to perform an exploratory visualization with this data. Now Let's dive into the shot-log, and see what interesting information we can discover in terms of game style and shooting performance among NBA players. I focused this analysis on Stephen Curry, James Harden, Lebron James and Russell Westbrook, who are ranked 1-4 in the MVP ballot in 2014-to-2015 season and undoubtedly superstars in the league.

Data cleaning, feature creating and graph processing were performed using R. The package used for generating graphs is ggplot2. The R code for data cleaning and feature creation can be found here.

Figure 1. Shot density plot with respect to shot distance. The graph above demonstrates the distribution of the shot attempts by each player versus shot distance. All four players have a local maximum centered at around 5 feet and 25 feet, corresponding to lay-up region and three-point region. Curry has the shot density leaning towards three-point zone while James shot more shots at the paint zone, indicating different play style between two players. It can also be seen that Westbrook uses two-point jumper frequently, as suggested by the peak at around 17 feet.

The above violin plot summarizes the the shot accuracy for each player throughout the season. Based on the visual inspection of this plot, Curry and James have relatively stable shot accuracy compared to Harden and Westbrook (as suggested by a wider shape).

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