Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bomb it or take it to the hole?

If offenses had a high degree of control over shot selection, you would expect to see roughly equal average points per 3-point attempt compared to average points per 2-point attempt. This is not in fact the case.

For example, in the graph below, San Antonio scores 1.20 points per 3 that they shoot, but only 1.07 per 2-point attempt (note that I attributed all free throw attempts to 2-point attempts, which slightly biases downward the points per 3-point attempt). In contrast, Denver only scores 0.96 points per 3 point attempt, but 1.13 points per 2-point attempt.

The size of each team's dot corresponds to 3-point attempts per game, which is barely correlated with 3-point shooting percentage.

What does this information do for a team? Should teams such as San Antonio, Orlando and Golden State shoot more 3s? It's not clear from this analysis. For San Antonio, any 3 with an expected value above 1.066 (their 2-point average) is worth shooting (which means it must have a 35.5% chance of making it), so the recommendation is clearly not just to bomb away until the two averages converge.

Denver and Los Angeles are further way from the line of equality. Denver shoots 20.8 3's per game, 8th highest in the league, while shooting only 32.1% for 0.96 points per 3. Given that their game inside the arc is so efficient, second only to Oklahoma City, one has to think they are bombing too much. Making the simplifying (AKA wrong) assumption that shooting percentages would not change if they shot fewer 3s and more 2s, if Denver stopped shooting 3s, they would score 3.6 more points per game, enough to add a few more wins. Something less drastic would likely benefit them greatly, without letting the defense collapse in the paint.

Al Harrington is the worst offender on the Nuggets, bombing 4.5 3's per game, connecting on only 30% of them (0.91 PP3), even though he shoots 54% inside the arc (1.08 PP2 ignoring FTA, which would increase his PP2).

And yes, Kobe is a big reason why the Lakers are at the bottom frontier, heaving up 5.1 3's per game, only converting 29.6% of them (0.89 PP3). Metta World Peace only shoots half as many, but makes only 25.2% (0.76 PP3). Take it to the hole, boys!

Finally, New York Knicks, I know a guy named Steve Novak. Not sure about his defense, but boy can he shoot 3's. He fires away at a rate of 28 3's attempted per 48 minutes, connected on 48.8% (1.46 PP3, compared to the team's 0.96 average). Somehow let him shoot more of your 3s? He seems to have no trouble taking or making them.

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