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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Basic Math and The Rise of The Three Pointer

There is little doubt that the three point shot has been wholly embraced by the NBA, College and High School and it has re shaped the landscape of the game particularly powerfully over the past five to ten years. As an added bonus fans seem to absolutely love the three. Yet, one need only watch the balls consistently clanging off the rim in many games at many levels to sympathize some with the Old School purists who decry this unwanted chuckery. There are a few layers to this development, but there is some decent logic behind this barrage of threes that can best be understood by basic math.

At the most rudimentary level (that fits my math skills) if a team were to take only three pointers and could convert them at 35.2 % which is the mean for a NBA team in 2018-19 they would net 105 points for every 100 shots. If a team took no three pointers and could convert at 45.7 % which is the mean for teams in the NBA this would result in 92 points for every 100 shots. 105>92. Shoot the three!!

However, the Basic Math argument misses some key variables (it is basic after all). First of all, many teams can't convert 35% of their threes even in the NBA let alone college and high school where the percentages are typically lower even painfully so it seems at times.Secondly, this argument misses entirely the concept of taking shots that are the most likely to be made.

That is, who is shooting is likely a more relevant point for effective Field goal % as opposed to where the shots are originating. This idea re frames the argument. Coaches and basketball types who know and appreciate quality offense preach shot discipline focused on players getting and taking shots that they can convert the most consistently and having their best shooters shoot somewhat more often than everyone else. (Provided they are shots these better shooters can make.) In fact, the best offensive teams in the game at almost any level have this in common and it is basic too, they attempt to generate good shots as a product of their efforts on offense.

As with many things in life moderation and balance are central - yes fire away from the three point line, but do so with some discretion and not exclusively...

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