Earlier Post Moved to Front Page
Let me present an extreme example.
There are 5 players on a team, and you can only score two points for a made basket.
4 of the players are "bad", skills-wise, at shooting. Because they are so bad at shooting, they limit their field goal attempts. This is good. They only take good and easy shots, usually lay-ups or put-backs. Let's say they only take 3 shots a game, and they make 2 shots a game for the aforementioned reasons. So they shoot 66% on their FG percentage, a very efficient shooting percentage, for 2 makes * 2 points * 4 players = 16 points.
1 player is "good" skills-wise, at shooting. Because he is good at shooting, the coach asks him to take as many of the shots as he can, even if they are difficult, as long as there is no opportunity for a lay-up or put-back by his teammates. For this reason he takes 80 shots a game, and makes only 32 of them, making him a 40% shooter. Not very efficient, but he scores 32*2= 64 points.
Those bad shooters, if they were to take the same number of shots as the "volume shooter" as a group, would take 20 shots a piece, for a total of 80 FGA. Now, here's the assumption, and I realize it's a big one: they are not good shooters, so they would only make 6 out of those 20 looks (6 total makes * 2 points * 4 players = 48 points). On the other side, the good shooter can do just as well or better as the bad shooters if he takes the same 3 shots apiece (12 total) that they were taking. Let's say he makes 8 of those 12 shots, the same as the bad shooting group as a whole. That's (8 makes * 2 points = 16 points).
After the jump: Which scenario is better for team?
What's the optimal strategy?
Lets count up the two scenarios: In the first, with the bad shooters taking only 3 shots, and the good shooter taking 80 shots, the team scored 16+64= 80 points. In the second, with the volumes reversed, the team scored only 16+48=64 points. So the optimal strategy is the first one, which makes sense: have your bad shooters take the least shots (and limit them to good ones) and your good shooters take the most. Because of defenses and the 24-second shot clock, very often there is not an easy shot, like a lay-up or put-back. So who should take those more difficult shots that have to be taken? The best shooters, skill-wise, on your team.
What does this mean for stats?
For metrics that prize shooting efficiency, and weigh it heavily in their rankings, those 66% "bad shooters" are looking mighty good, and our superstar is getting downgraded heavily. He's being punished for doing what's best for his team, relative to his teammates.
Let's say our heroic volume shooter is tired of shooting such a low percentage, and he's tired of all the people saying he's such a terrible shooter because he shoots 40% and his teammates shoot 66%. So he tells everyone he's going to cut back on his shots, take only three really good shots, and make the other players take all the rest of the team's shots. His shooting percentage goes up, his player rating goes up in all those fancy models built on shooting efficiency, but he's hurting his team by taking fewer shots, because overall they are now scoring fewer points because of his selfishness.
Note: This is obviously a very thinly veiled defense of Kobe's volume shooting, but I don't claim that the case above is the exact case with the Lakers. I present this merely to show that it is very possible to raise your FG% and hurt your team in the process. It's not such a crazy concept after all. Thank you for your support.
Updated to reflect same number of total shots in both scenarios, thanks to express34texas