Introducing the Socially Distant NBA All-Stars

Dropping buckets six feet away

What NBA players are most acclimated to operating six feet apart from anyone else? Today, we answer that pressing question.’s advanced stats database utilizes their player tracking data to map everything from dribbles taken to how many other people fought for a rebound. We’re interested today in understanding their shot-tracking data, looking specifically for the players with the highest rate of shots taken with defenders at least six feet away. I filtered to any player with at least ten games played and fifty shots taken.

For these five players, social distancing isn’t a new experience powered by Animal Crossing and disintegrating whatever neurons you have left on Twitter, but an apt depiction for life on the court.

These pioneers socially distanced long before COVID hit.

Center: Mike Muscala, Oklahoma City Thunder64.8% of shots socially distant

Mike Muscala leads all eligible players in social distancing, with nearly 65% of his field goal attempts this season happening with defenders at least six feet away. His shot chart from Cleaning the Glass looks like the haunted smile of a clown with terrible oral hygiene.

Muscala often found himself open thanks to the work of the triumvirate of OKC point guards in Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schröder. Among the tracked events on, the three guards assisted 47 of Muscala’s buckets; Chris Paul hit the big man for eighteen assists, with fifteen of them coming beyond the arc.

You can spend an hour or so watching all 89 of Mike Muscala’s tracked three point attempts here, but all you need is the first attempt from a Thunder/Jazz game back in October. Muscala sets a pick for Chris Paul and pops out to the top of the three point arc. CP3 hits Muscala with a behind-the-back pass, opening enough space to make the CDC approve.

The governor of Oklahoma should print this out to help enforce his guidelines.

Guard: Royce O’Neale, Utah Jazz60.1% of shots socially distant

Royce O’Neale, who I always read as Royce Da 5’9”, takes one of our two backcourt positions on the CDC All-Stars. We’ll call O’Neale a guard here as Cleaning the Glass has him playing a majority of his time at SG.

O’Neale joins Muscala as the only other eligible player with over 60% of their shots taken with a defender six or more feet away.

He’s shooting 41.6% from three when wide-open for the season, but, most interestingly, he shows an innate ability to predict the future. O’Neale consistently got more distant over the months of the season, peaking at 80% of his March field goal attempts happening with a six-foot minimum gap.

You could call it coincidence, but I prefer diligence.

If our executive branch had the same foresight as Royce, we might not be in this quarantined hellscape.

Forward: P.J. Tucker, Houston Rockets57.2% of shots socially distant

We should be able to put the entire non-James Harden and Russell Westbrook Houston Rockets on this list.

P.J. Tucker, the indefatigable Rocket who powered the recent small-ball revolution, joins Mike Muscala as the bigs on our Socially Distant squad. Over half of Tucker’s shots come without a defender in sight, with the vast majority of these open looks coming behind the three point line.

Here’s an example of Tucker nestled safely into the corner, fully compliant with any and all distancing requirements.

According to Cleaning the Glass, corner threes made up 53% of Tucker’s shots this season, good for the top percentile in the entire league. No other player in the league comes close to this rate, with Marvin Williams the only other guy even above 40%.

He’s the poster child for staying home and staying safe.

Forward: Maxi Kleber, Dallas Mavericks54% of shots socially distant

Maxi Kleber, glue guy extraordinaire and Triple Dirks member for the Dallas Mavericks, rounds out the front court. Kleber took 245 wide-open shots for the Mavs this year, per, and hit 39.6% of them. He’s an interesting case in spacing, location, and defensive alignments; Kleber shoots worse when wide-open than he does when tightly covered (57% combined on shots with defenders between 0 and 4 feet).

His discrepancy stems from shot placement. Of his wide-open looks, 98% of them happen beyond the arc; he’s more open for a more difficult shot, and often covered tighter when rolling to the rim or shooting closer to the basket.

A fun fact about Kleber: according to Cleaning the Glass, 100% of Kleber’s made three pointers were assisted, owing to the spectacular playmaking of Dallas’ wunderkind, Luka Doncic. Luka assisted Kleber 67 times, per, and they often looked like this:

Kleber gets the types of open three-pointers that you always rush in NBA 2K and brick for no good reason.

Guard: Ryan Arcidiacono, Chicago Bulls49.1% of shots socially distant

Finally, we have Ryan Arcidiacono, a rotation guard for the Chicago Bulls.

Arcidiacono hit 39% of his threes this season, and, per Cleaning the Glass, Bulls teammates assist roughly 88% of Arcidiacono’s made threes—good for the 59th percentile among wings. He’s often left open on these threes, with the NBA classifying 72% of his three-point attempts as wide open.

Despite what the data might say here, I only remember Arcidiacono mainly as the Villanova point guard who tortured my poor Georgetown Hoyas for what seemed like eight years of college ball. His usage plummeted once he got to the NBA, but he’s still able to dust off the on-ball orchestrating when needed.

I watched a ton of his three-point attempts, and he often succeeded in finding pockets of space by stringing multiple passes together with another attacking guard, or running through off-ball screens from his bigs.

I enjoyed this one example the most, as Arcidiacono succeeds in producing a wide-open look by attacking a retreating big in pick-and-rolls, but still misses.

My disdain for Villanova will never die.

Arcidiacono uses a pick from his big to trap his defender, and when Dallas’ big man Boban Marjanović backpedals, Arcidiacono spots up for the wide-open trey. I still think Boban’s arms are long enough to contest here.

While unlikely to be approved by medical experts, throwing your teammate into a pile of bystanders can also be a solid preventative measure.

Honorable Mentions

-Marc Gasol finds himself alone for 56.3% of his shots this season, but our center position was already taken by Mr. Muscala. He also spent the majority of the year isolated on my fantasy team’s bench.

-Someone check on Delly, please. Matthew Dellavedova shoots 22% on wide-open field goals this year, worst among eligible players.

-In terms of who thrives when distancing, J.J. Redick tops the group at 57.5% overall and a scorching 58.8% from beyond the arcThanks for reading! If you like, please share with a friend, subscribe for more harmlessly fun content, and keep washing your hands and signing off social media networks.

I hope that you and yours are healthy, staying safe, and finding whatever small moments of joy you can.

Thrive in solitude like our man Mike Muscala.