The Shooting List
Bob Hansen, James Donaldson, Raja Bell, Vlade Divac, and Andris Biedrins. Is this group of five people:
A. An Eastern European Beatles cover band
B. The Five Historical CEOs of Staples
C. The five NBA players with the highest playoff effective field goal percentages ever
If you guessed C, then you're a smarter man than me. I couldn't pick any of these five out of a police lineup, let alone figure that they would be the top five for a playoff record. (Well, maybe I'd guess Vlade, but the height is kind of a dead giveaway.)
Each of these players attempted at least 20 field goals in their respective playoff runs, and each of them made those field goals with alarming regularity. Hansen made 27 of his 37 total field goal attempts in Utah's four 1986 playoff games en route to averaging 16 points per game. Donaldson made 36 of 48 field goals during Dallas's 1986 run. And sweet-shooting Raja Bell was Phoenix's secret weapon in 2008, making 13 of 20 three-point attempts in five games against the Spurs.
These guys might not have had the star power, but their sweet shooting helped their respective teams reach new heights of offensive efficiency.
But that sweet shooting has been topped by a contender. And it's not Stephen Curry or LeBron or Marc Gasol - it's Miami Heat backup point guard Norris Cole.
You were expecting... Leonardo DiCaprio? Yes, at a current .769 eFG% in 39 total field goal attempts (including 10 of 13 from deep), Cole has catapulted his way into the top spot in all-time playoff shooting. That playoff eFG% through seven games sits miles above his .462 regular season eFG% and far beyond Udonis Haslem's second-best .600 eFG% on the Miami team.
The Key to Sustainability
Remember that list of five names up there? Each one of them had one thing in common: their team was knocked out in the first or second round. None of them finished the playoffs with more than 10 games played.
The more games one plays, the more likely a percentage is return to the mean. Outliers occur when the sample size is small. And with Norris Cole's Heat poised to make a deep run into the playoffs, the chances of him being able to sustain this type of hot shooting is small.
Just how small? Think "Less than one percent" small. This type of shooting just can't last, especially from deep.
For his career, Cole holds a .322 three-point percentage over 174 regular-season attempts. That doesn't jive well with his 10 for 13 current long-distance shooting, the main reason his playoff eFG% is so high. Say Cole attempts 20 more three-pointers during this playoff run. If his current percentage was played out, Cole would be expected to make 15 of those shots. But given his .322 career shooting, how likely would be to actually make 15 of those 20 shots? The odds sit at 0.011 percent.
I wouldn't be trusting Norris Cole any time soon with LeBron's shooting load. It's just a cool statistical improbability that Cole has shot this well thus far these playoffs. But it does show that help can come from anywhere, and sometimes, it takes not only stars but statistically improbable performances from players such as Cole to perform as well as Miami has done during their first seven games.