UNC Basketball: How Nate Britt has Improved Offensively


Before the 2014-15 North Carolina Basketball season started, one of the biggest stories was the news that Nate Britt would be switching his shooting hand, from his left to his right hand. This wasn’t an unprecedented move, but at the time, many were questioning whether the change would work. The reason for the change was Britt’s struggles on the offensive end last season. He averaged just 5.1 points per game and was mostly a non-factor on offense.

On the heels of a 17 point performance against Syracuse on Monday night to help the Tar Heels bust the Orange’s vaunted zone and defeat coach Jim Boeheim, I think it is fair to say that this experiment has worked and that Britt has developed into a true threat this season on the offensive end.

The 17 point performance was certainly an exclamation mark for Britt, but he has been better from behind the arc all season long. Look at Britt’s three-point numbers, from this season compared to last.

Britt 2013-14: 3 of 12, 25% from three
Britt 2014-15: 17 of 45, 37.8% from three

Britt is shooting better from deep and is much more comfortable with that shot, already taking around four times as many threes as he did last season.

These shot charts, from ShotAnalytics.com, illustrate the change and give us a better sense of how Britt has changed as an offensive player.

From ShotAnalytics.com

Here is Britt’s shot chart from his freshman season. Notice all the blue and all the usage from the “mid-range area” — right around the free throw line. Britt also has just a few dots from beyond the arc and didn’t really accumulate enough shots to extrapolate from which side of the three-point arc he is a better shooter.

Lots of long-range twos, which Britt was forced to take because defenses were leaving him open last season, and lots of blue from all over the shot chart are two signs of a very inefficient basketball player.

Now look at Nate Britt’s shot chart from the 2014-15 season.

From shotanalytics.com

There are about half as many shots logged on this season’s chart as last seasons, (around 90 to 160), so there is less volume in general on the shot chart for that reason.

But, a few things are still clear from this year’s shot chart. One, Britt has cut a lot of the midrange jumpers out of his game. That is probably a good call for two reasons — Britt wasn’t great at shooting them last season, and they are an inefficient shot in general.

Britt hasn’t gotten better at finishing around the rim. Both shot charts have a blue spot around the basket, which isn’t the best. This is an area that Nate Britt can improve upon going forward.

The biggest change, though, is all the red from long range, especially from the left side of the court. He also is shooting a good percentage from the top of the key and from the right corner.

The picture that this shot chart presents is a much more efficient player than Britt in his freshman season. Kenpom.com’s offensive rating statistic agrees with the conclusion gleaned from the shot charts.

Nate Britt 2013-14: 88.6 offensive rating (very bad)
Nate Britt 2014-15: 111.9 offensive rating (much better)

For comparison, Brice Johnson’s offensive rating this year is 110.1, and Joel James’s offensive rating is 99.6. A pretty big improvement, no?

More from North Carolina Tar Heels

Over the second half of the season, I’d like to see Britt keep shooting more and more threes. I have a feeling coming off this most recent game that Britt will be much more confident against Louisville and Virginia and continue to be aggressive on the offensive end.

North Carolina knew going into the season that they needed Nate Britt to step up and play well this season if they wanted to carry out some of the goals they set out to reach at the beginning of the season, like going to a Final Four or winning an ACC Championship.  That meant Britt had to go home after the offseason and put in a lot of work on his three-point shot and on the offensive end to go with already good defense and passing.

Nate Britt has done his job and has improved remarkably from this season to last. Now it is time for the rest of his teammates to step up and play better themselves as the season enters the home stretch.