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Artest and Bibby: Worst 1-2 Punch in the League?

The fact that Ron Artest and Mike Bibby take the highest number of shots among all Kings is not a secret - most fans have made a big deal about this all season, especially with both players shooting horribly in 2006-07.

But just how bad is this top duo? I decided to look at each NBA team's top duo in field goal attempts per game in order to better judge our favorite gunners.

In nearly every case, the top two players in FGA/G are listed. I used special circumstances in the cases of Philadelphia and New Orleans. In Philly, Allen Iverson and Chris Webber are both gone, so Andre Miller and Willie Green were selected as the top gunners based on post-trade numbers (with Green shooting only slightly more per game than Andre Iguodala on the season). In New Orleans, both Peja Stojakovic and David West (technically the team's top gunners) have played in too few games to make sense of the numbers. Chris Paul and Desmond Mason, the two next gunners, were included in this study instead.

For Denver, Iverson and Carmelo Anthony were used though they have yet to play together. While their FGA/G numbers will certainly change, it's not difficult to imagine the aggregate might stay in the same neighborhood.

With those caveats in place, here's the data. Team and Players should be self-explanatory. FGM and FGA denote the combined FGMs and FGAs per game for the two players. FG% is the combined field goal percentage. Pts is the players' combined points per game, and PSA is the tandem's aggregate points per shot attempt, calculated using (points/field goal attempts). This last measure helps account for perimeter-oriented players and players who get to the line frequently. In short, it's a good measure with which to judge scoring efficiency.

The list is sorted according to PSA, from best to worst.

Team  Players           FGM   FGA   FG%   Pts   PSA
MEM   Miller/Gasol     13.6  25.7  .529  36.5  1.42
CHI   Gordon/Deng      14.4  29.1  .495    41  1.41
ORL   Nelson/Howard    11.4  21.9  .521  30.7  1.40
LAL   Bryant/Odom      15.3  32.4  .472  45.4  1.40
BOS   Pierce/Szczerbiak  14  31.4  .446  43.5  1.39
PHX   Marion/Nash      14.7  28.2  .521  38.9  1.38
DAL   Nowitzki/Howard  15.3    32  .478  43.8  1.37
SEA   Allen/Lewis      16.4  35.4  .463  47.7  1.35
SAS   Parker/Duncan    15.6  29.1  .536  39.1  1.34
WAS   Arenas/Butler    17.4    38  .458    51  1.34
DEN   Anthony/Iverson  21.7  45.1  .481  58.9  1.31
NJN   Carter/Jefferson 14.6  31.7  .461  41.3  1.30
TOR   Bosh/Ford        13.3  28.5  .467  37.1  1.30
MIA   Wade/O'Neal      15.1  32.3  .467  41.9  1.30
LAC   Brand/Cassell    13.1  26.4  .496  34.2  1.30
NYK   Crawford/Curry   13.1  27.8  .471    36  1.29
HOU   McGrady/Ming     17.5  37.2  .470  47.9  1.29
MIL   Redd/Williams    16.1    35  .460    45  1.29
UTA   Boozer/Williams  15.5  30.4  .510    39  1.28
MIN   Garnett/Davis    14.1  30.6  .461  38.5  1.26
POR   Randolph/Roy     13.1  29.4  .446  36.8  1.25
ATL   Johnson/Lue      14.4  31.1  .463  38.9  1.25
CLE   James/Hughes     15.1  33.4  .452  41.7  1.25
DET   Hamilton/Prince  14.3  31.1  .460  38.8  1.25
GSW   Davis/Ellis      14.1  31.5  .448  38.4  1.22
NOH   Paul/Mason       11.9  26.1  .456  31.8  1.22
IND   ONeal/Harrington 13.5  29.3  .461  35.1  1.20
SAC   Bibby/Artest     11.6  29.2  .397  34.3  1.17
PHI   Miller/Green     10.1  24.3  .416  24.7  1.02
CHA   Morrison/Felton  10.2  27.2  .375  27.6  1.01

Mike Bibby and Ron Artest make up the third-worst 1-2 punch in the league, ahead of only the vaunted tandems of Andre Miller/Willie Green and Adam Morrison/Raymond Felton. (By the way, Charlotte and Philadelphia have a combined record of 22-54, a robust winning percentage of .289. They are two of the worst four teams in the league.)

Teams can't be solely judged by their tandems - Boston and Memphis are horrible precisely because they have little behind their big twos, and Detroit and Utah rely on four or five big scorers in rather egalitarian systems where there is little difference in the number of shot attempts between Weapons #1 and #2, and Weapons #3 and #4.

This is where Sacramento suffers from the worst of both worlds. Outside of Bibby/Artest, only Kevin Martin shoots more than nine shots a game, which makes Bibby/Artest a very important 1-2 punch. But Bibby/Artest sucks as a 1-2 punch. The problem is defined.

What are some solutions to this?

  1. Obviously, the first way to attack the problem is to take shots from the unproductive shooters and give them to more productive shooters. Only Francisco Garcia and Maurice Taylor have shot a worse percentage than both Bibby and Artest this season, so one would not think this solution would be hard to accomplish. (However, it's probably a lot more difficult than us fans can rationalize, so the benefit of the doubt goes to the coaching staff here.)
  2. Trade the unproductive shooters for more productive shooters. This is easier said than done, unless Isiah Thomas or Billy King is on the other end of the line. Also, the fact that Isiah and Billy have traded away many of their productive shooters makes this doubly difficult.
  3. Trade the unproductive shooters for salary cap relief, young players, or draft picks, and elevate your current productive but underutilized shooters to bigger roles in the offense. My vote is here.
  4. Continue to let your unproductive shooters blast your team into Bolivian, get a high draft pick, and consider options 1-3 in the future. (This appears to be the path Sacramento is on.)
Why doesn't Bibby/Artest work? Well, Artest has been an above league-average offensive player exactly once in six full seasons. (That was 2003 - he had a offensive rating of 105, while the league average was 104.) Bibby's just had an awful year - his career three-point percentage (.373) is 75th all-time, and he was well above-average on offense last season despite being the #1 option on a team of questionable talent.

There's plenty of blame to go around for the Kings' slide from decency. It's clear, however, which two players bear the brunt of responsibility on the offensive side of the ball.