Photo by Bassel Mudarris
Sports / Basketball

The NBA’s Schadenfreude Prospects

NBA players are soooo good. They are so very, very good. Absurdly good, even. We all know this! Youtube channels posting nightly highlight videos get a half-million subscribers. This one video of a Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk got 430,000 views in ten days! Yup, the NBA is chock full of phenomenal talents, and we love to see them at their best. Right?


It turns out that we also like to see NBA players at their worst. Lowlight videos? Yes please. Weekly “Shaqtin’ A Fool” segments on TNT? You bet. Want to know who got picked first in the All-Star draft? We don’t care, just tell us who got picked last! Again, it’s not that we don’t know how good NBA players are. If anything, we relish their failures exactly because they are normally so excellent. Whatever the reason, there is something about watching a player go, say, 0-for-10 from the field that puts smiles on our faces.

Well, if horrible shooting makes us happy, then we should identify those players most likely to bring us future joy! These are the ‘schadenfreude prospects’—let’s call them shoddies, for short. To be precise, these are the players most likely to take at least ten shots in a basketball game and make exactly none of them.


Why 0-for-10+? Because I said so, that’s why. Or maybe because it’s a round number? Anyway, 0/10 just feels so much worse than 0/9, and this whole thing is about feeling and because I said so, so just drop it already.

Since the 2014-15 season, there have been 20 players to shoot 0/10 or worse from the field. Here they are:

Brandon Jennings Josh Jackson Jerian Grant Kristaps Porzingis Dion Waiters
Rodney Hood Stanley Johnson Robert Covington Patrick McCaw Aaron Gordon
JR Smith Justin Anderson Kyle Korver Brandon Knight Greivis Vasquez
Brian Roberts Jason Richardson Norris Cole Trey Burke Jeremy Lin

The list includes such luminaries as Trey Burke, Jerian Grant, and Norris Cole. Okay. We all know that NBA players are good, but these guys definitely fall into the “less-good” camp. It’s not so surprising to see them here. But wait, Kyle Korver? Aaron Gordon? Kristaps Porzingis was named an All-Star this year, and he had a game where he shot 0/11!

So it seems that both good players and bad players can have terrible shooting performances. If we are going to predict the next player to go 0/10, we’ll have to find something besides player skill that connects the guys on this list. My hypothesis is that shot location is as important as shot-making ability. Notice that the list contains a large number of jump-shot aficionados. Korver and JR Smith and Robert Covington, for instance, do very little besides shooting threes. Even the guys who we don’t think of as three-point specialists, like Burke and Grant, aren’t the type of players who can get all the way to the rim to score. They rely on on lots of floaters and midrange twos. It makes sense that this would the be sort of player to go 0/10; players shoot far worse on jump shots than on shots at the rim, so a player who relies on outside shooting would be more likely to go through an epic cold streak.

Of course, efficiency still matters—if you are bad at making shots then you are more likely to miss them all. You also have to take a moderately high number of shots to make this list. You can’t go 0/10 without taking ten shots!

This leaves us with three components that increase the probability of a 0/10 night: lots of jump shots, poor efficiency, and a good number of field goal attempts. We also have a group of 20 players who already accomplished the unfortunate feat. Now, to produce a list of schoddies, we want to find the NBA players who are as similar as possible to the group of 20 in the three areas we identified. Our schadenfreude prospects should shoot the same proportion of jumpers, have equally bad efficiency, and jack up a comparable amount of shots to past 0/10ers.

How do we find comparable players? Luckily for us, offers shot location data for every player in the league. The site can tell us what percentage of Rodney Hood’s points came on mid-rangers and three-pointers, what percentage came in the paint, and what he ate for breakfast last Tuesday. A little work, and voila: we have a spreadsheet with the shooting tendencies for each 0/10 alumnus. It was easy enough to add efficiency (true-shooting percentage) and shots per game. I also added the percentage of each player’s successful shots that came off of a teammate’s assist. As noted earlier, most of the players who have shot 0/10 are not skilled ball-handlers or playmakers. Most are catch-and-shoot gunners, who rely on others to create their opportunities. This stat was another way, along with three-point attempt rate, to quantify “gunner-ness.”

Finally, it is time to use the data to find comparable players. For every measure, I found the point that split the list 75-25 into two segments. For example, three quarters of the list scored fewer than 38% of their points in the paint (the league median is a little around 41%). Three quarters scored more than 13% of their points from the midrange (the median is about 11%). These results confirm our suspicions—the 20, as a group, tended to take more jump shots and fewer shots in the paint than the average player. The vast majority also had below average efficiency, and nearly all took more than seven shots per game. In the end, my criteria were:

  • Fewer than 38% of points scored in the paint
  • More than 13% of points scored in the midrange
  • Under 17% of points scored from the free-throw line (a proxy for attempts at the rim)
  • Over 37% of shots from three-point range
  • Over 44% of made field goals were assisted
  • Below average true-shooting percentage
  • More than seven shots per game

I used these figures as parameters to search through the entire league. Players with above average true-shooting? Gone. Players who scored more than 38% of their points in the paint? Gone. After applying each one of the filters, I had narrowed the NBA down to the players most similar to the group of 0/10ers: the schoddies.


I ended with five names. Actually, when I originally ran the numbers I ended with six names. BUT one of those names was Nicolas Batum and, on February 11, that very same Nicolas Batum shot 0/10 from the field! I had to remove his name from the list of shoddies, of course; the whole idea of this article is to predict the next player to brick ten or more shots. On the one hand, this kinda sucked—if I had gotten my act together and written this article sooner I could have actually published a successful prediction. On the other hand, this is still proof that my method is brilliant and infallible! Woohooooo!

The names that remain, listed in no particular order:

  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
  • Justin Holiday
  • Buddy Hield
  • Garrett Temple
  • Carmelo Anthony

We have exactly the kind of players we would expect on a list like this: shameless chuckers who aren’t nearly as good as they think they are. Yeah, this is a real primo group right here: lots of potential for misadventures. All right, let’s close on a video of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope attempting to throw himself an alley-oop off the backboard. This should go well.

Ha! What a chump.