Inside the Numbers: Examining the Timberwolves Shooting Rates

(photo credit: Jim Faklis)

Wolves fans are lucky to have a phenomenal broadcast team both on the radio and the television. Whether it’s Al Horton on WCCO 830 or Dave Benz and Jim Petersen on FOX Sports North, Minnesota has a broadcast team that knows the game of basketball.

Specifically, Petersen can break down the X’s and O’s as well as anyone, as well as provide fans with insight into many meaningful statistics and game plan strategies.

During many of his games, he will talk about the different shooting rates, such as field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage or even true shooting percentage.

Although he often explains how these stats are calculated it can be hard to understand without seeing the numbers. 

If you are a basketball fan, then you are probably familiar with field goal (FG) percentage. If not, then here it is:

Where “2PM” is 2-pointers made and “3PM” is 3-pointers made, and FGA is field goals attempted.

This statistic includes 2s and 3s, but ignores free throws. 

If you’re a player who takes shots further from the hoop you’re hoping to be close to 45 percent or better. If you’re a player in the paint, you’re hoping to be close to 55 percent or better.

On the Wolves, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Karl Anthony Towns leads the rotation in field goal percentage at 53.7 percent.


The limitations of this statistic are that it doesn’t take into account free throws or the difficulty of a shot as you get further from the hoop. This brings us to effective field goal percentage.

Effective Field Goal (eFG) percentage weighs 2-point shots differently than 3-point shots. The formula is computed as follows:

The 1.5 was put into the formula as a way to balance the shooting percentage of players who take more 3s, as they are harder to hit since they are further away from the hoop.

As an example, let’s say player A and B both shoot 2 of 4, but player A made all 2s and player B made all 3s. Although they both shot 50 percent from the field, player B scored two more points than player A. Player B was more effective, thus had an eFG% of 75 percent while player A had an eFG% of 50 percent.

A “good” eFG% in the NBA would be anything around 55 percent or better. On the Wolves, Nemanja Bjelica leads the team with a 59.9 effective field goal percentage while Teague and Wiggins bring in the rear at 47.3 percent and 48.5 percent, respectively.


From a shooting perspective, a limitation of this shooting rate is that it doesn’t include free throws, which leads to our last shooting rate.

In its simplest form, true shooting (TS) percentage takes your points scored and divides it by the number of shots taken including free throws. That said, it’s a little more complicated than that:

Where “FTM” is free throws made.

Years of research shows that about 44 percent of all free throws that take up a possession including two-shot and three-shot free throws, which is where the .44 multiplier comes from.

A “good” true shooting percentage would be 60 percent or better, and Karl Anthony Towns is the Wolves leader at 63.3 percent. This is another category where Wiggins (51 percent) and Teague (52.3 percent) bring up the rear for the team.

From an offensive perspective, a quick correlation computation shows that true shooting percentage is a slightly better indicator of winning games than the other two shooting rates. With that, let’s take a closer look at true shooting percentage as it pertains to the Wolves:

  • Overall, the Wolves sit seventh in NBA in true shooting percentage behind teams like Golden State, Houston, Cleveland, and Toronto.
  • The Wolves shoot about 7 percentage points better when they win compared to when they lose.
  • The first quarter is the Wolves worst quarter from a true shooting perspective, while the second quarter is their best.

The NBA is starting to see a shift in how the game is played. The most drastic teams — Golden State and Houston — are shooting mostly 3s and layups partly because of these metric stats.

As usual, we find the Timberwolves are at the bottom of the league in 3-pointers.

They can’t keep up in games where their opponent is hitting 3s, think Houston and Portland as recent examples, but all is not lost. 

The data shows that Bjelica is one of the best true shooters on the team. Especially in games where we are struggling on the offensive end, Bjelica could be a spark that gets us back into things. 

For years, the Wolves have been looking for a true 3-point threat. Bjelica is the answer. The next step is to get him on the court more. 

Listen to Wolves Wired!

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