As NBA analytics has evolved, ascertaining who are the best players in the NBA has been infinitely easier. It’s not an exact science, and everyone will always have differing opinions, but defining who are the most efficient players in the NBA isn’t limited to field goal percentage.
True shooting percentage (TS%), effective field goal percentage (eFG%), points per possession efficiency (PPP) and shot location data can be utilized together to form a holistic, and considerably more reliable, view of any player’s respective offensive productivity.
Manu Ginobili was one of the most efficient players in the league last season which is remarkable given his usage rate and shot selection that skews to the perimeter more often than similarly efficient players.
He was the 16th most efficient player in the NBA on a per possession basis and the third most efficient shooter via true shooting percentage. He converted on 76.4% of his attempts at the rim, fifth among qualifying shooting guards. Ginobili was, in essence, a consummate embodiment of everything statisticians believe is conducive to success. He’s an anomaly because teams don’t generally pay for efficiency; they pay for points.
But how is a shooting guard that is asked to shoot his fair share of perimeter shots more effective than big man who aren’t asked to stray from past 10 feet?
It’s because Ginobili is an “extra-point player.” This essentially means that Ginobili excels in finding opportunities for the extra point. Players that excel at finding the extra point are effective because they attempt more 3-pointers and create free throw attempts rather than attempting 2-pointers. The payoff is bigger for these players because A) 3-pointers result in more points than 2-pointers and B) free throws are converted on a much higher rate than 2-pointers and also double as an effective medium that controls pace.
In an insightful piece for TrueHoop, Tom Haberstroh and Beckley Mason explained why Jrue Holiday needs to become an “extra-point player” next season to advance to the next level. I mention this piece because Ginobili ranked as the third best player in the league in terms of ExPT% (extra-point percentage).
More than half of Ginobili’s attempts last season qualified as extra-point attempts or about 9.7 attempts per game.
So while Ginobili may be entering the twilight of his career, it his clear that he can still be productive. As long as he continues to find minuscule advantages to score points, and not skew towards more inefficient means of scoring, he will be inherently valuable to any basketball team.
Ideally, that team will be the Spurs.