Oftentimes you will hear coaches, players………….and parents question what is a good shot or what is a bad shot. In golf, players often say “it’s a scorecard not a postcard”, meaning that the only thing that matters is the result. In basketball it is much more complicated than that. The question starts with the individual, but always ends with the team.
First off I think we can remove some of the emotion from the question by changing the question to “is this a smart shot?” For example a long two point shot oftentimes is less likely to be made (higher risk) than a three point shot (more reward), and therefore discouraged. A more specific way to measure this for individual players is to look at the equation of “predicted point per shot” (PPPS). This equation takes in to account a player’s shooting percentage from a particular spot on the floor and the points awarded for a made shot. For example if a player shot 50% from the strong side high post the PPPS would be = .5 x 2 = 1.0. If that same player shot 39% from the top of the key the PPPS would be = .39 x 3 = 1.17. Generally PPPS over 1 is good. The key here is understanding the individual. Earlier I said a long two is less likely to be made than a three. What? Why, it is closer? Ask yourself, how many players do you see routinely practicing 18 foot jump shots? Over the course of one season how many threes does your team shoot in practice versus 18 foot jump shots. To make this equation even more specific you can measure shooting percentage from specific areas of the floor based on how the player got the shot ---- ie off the dribble, from a perimeter pass, from an inside out pass, etc. Our team spends a lot of time practicing finishing moves, low post moves, high post moves, free throws and threes from inside out. So generally speaking we have a high PPPS when we get shots from the block, shots from elbow to elbow and threes from a paint kick. The Houston Rockets are one the highest powered offensive teams this year in the NBA. Look at a recent shot chart:
Marc Gasol recently was quoted as saying “statistics are ruining the quality of basketball”. To some extent I agree. I agree that when stats are used for individual validation and accolades (points per game, shots per game, touches per game, minutes per game, and more), that oftentimes the result is negative for the team. Thus PPPS should not be used in isolation but to help the team in their strategy and situational decisions. There are the obvious situations of time and score, but it is much more complicated than that. What is the game plan? How does it affect tempo? Has the defense rotated or switched, thus putting your teammates in better rebounding position? Have you exploited match ups for fouls or defensive stress? These are the things that only those in the huddle will know, and if the coach is doing his or her job and the players are playing for each other, and they will all know.
Play smart. Play for your team. Two simple ways to be more successful and make the game more enjoyable……….. for everyone.