Stats Analysis: ASU Assists and Shot Charts

The Bootleg's Basketball Stats Analyst Cameron Tana offers the faithful a comprehensive look at the types of shots Arizona State takes, and usually makes, along with how they distribute their assists. See what Stanford's defense can do, or not do, to help themselves if they want to defeat the Sun Devils in Tempe.

For the second straight week, Stanford plays a team ranked in the top five nationally in effective field goal percentage by Arizona State gets to its 56% mark in a different manner than UCLA, relying much more on shooting three-pointers as 45% of its field goal attempts are behind the arc, good for 14th in the country. ASU is similar to the UCLA in its high shooting percentage from within the arc as it shoots 57.5% from within the arc, second in the country. Excellent passing leads to both the three-point attempts and high two-point percentage as ASU is fourth in the country in percentage of assisted field goals at 67%.

As documented last week, Stanford is best in the country at preventing three-point attempts, but if the Cardinal allow two-pointers that ASU is used to shooting, the Sun Devils could have a shooting day like the two teams' first meeting. The Sun Devils shot a season low 13 three-pointers, but still had an effective field goal percentage (three pointers given 50% extra credit) of 64%.

The two-pointers that ASU is used to shooting are a high percentage of layups and dunks. According to shot chart data from, over 55% of ASU's two-pointers are from layups and dunks. ASU does a good job of finishing as it makes nearly 69% of those layups and dunks. There is the typical drop-off in effectiveness when ASU shoots two-point jumpers, but that percentage is still a good 41%.

ASU's distribution of offensive possessions is remarkably simple. James Harden controls play, accounting for nearly a third of possessions according to Jeff Pendergraph ranks third nationally in offensive efficiency because he mostly shoots layups and dunks. Then, they are surrounded by several players who shoot more threes than twos. The following table shows the individual breakdowns and effective field goal percentages. Note that shot chart data do not match official statistics exactly.

Even though he is highly skilled in the mid-range area, it is still highly advantageous to force Harden into two-point jumpers. His percentage is actually still decent in this area because he is creating his own shot for these attempts; play-by-play data show that perhaps as low as 15% of his two-point jumper makes are assisted. Pendergraph is an excellent finisher, but he also has nice touch from elsewhere within the arc. The Stanford defense should want to limit his shots as much as possible. Defenses will want to close out on Derek Glasser and Rihards Kuksiks as it is better to give up a layup attempt to them than three-point shots. Preventing Jamelle McMillan from shooting threes is also a good idea as long as it does not lead to him getting to the rim. Ty Abbott should be dared to shoot the three and he will oblige.

As noted above, ASU has a high percentage of assists on made field goals. This is mostly driven by Harden, but also by Glasser. Assist information is provided by play-by-play sheets on However, the data provided tend to undercount the total number of assists in each game, but hopefully a player's assists and assisted field goals relative to teammates' statistics are not biased by these inaccuracies. Six games where fewer than 60% of official assists are recorded in the play-by-play sheet have been removed from the data used for the following table. The table shows the percentage of each player's field goals that were assisted and the percentage of teammates' shots that the player assisted.

Glasser's numbers underscore the importance of the lower efficiency of his two-point shots. Defenses would rather him take a two-point shot, even a contested layup, rather than kick it out for a three or dishing it to Pendergraph for an inside shot. It's harder to come up with a strategy for Harden. How does a defense force him into two point jump shots without leaving a three-point shooter open or giving Pendergraph an advantage inside? The player guarding Abbott could come off him when he is beyond the arc. Other than that, Stanford may have to ask Harden's defender to do his best to force him into two-point jump shots without help. We will see if Stanford can solve the quandary posed by Harden and his teammates on Thursday night.

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