Bucks Diary

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Value of a Shot Attempt from each of the NBA's 14 "Hotspots"

A few weeks ago I did a post extolling Coach Scott Skiles "Umbrella" defense. By that I meant, his defensive emphasis on choking off three pointers and trying to minimize uncontested lay-ups. At the time I was just roughly speculating about the numerical value of such an approach, now I have the numbers to back me up.

I discovered a couple of days ago that the NBA keeps a nifty little stat page that tracks every team's shooting percentages from 14 different "Hotspots". While I would prefer the Association broke their numbers down to even tighter "hotspots", and also discriminated between contested and uncontested attempts, the hotspot information proved valuable nonetheless.

I used the information to calculate the Association-wide shooting percentage from each of the 14 hotspots. Now, before I show you my findings, I must warn you that you are about to witness kindergarten level art work... but it gets the point across nonetheless.

Okay, so you can see that, obviously the highest percentage shots are those in the lane and from around the free throw line. But what shots carry the highest value?

As you can see, the value per attempt of a corner "wing" 3 point shot is actually higher than the value of a point blank shot in the lane! Thus, teams that "overreact" to penetration, such as the last two editions of the Milwaukee Bucks did, pay a heavy penalty, because they leave their wing 3s wide open.

The correct strategy is to contest the interior, but only with your bigs. Have the wings stay put on 3 point shooters, even if it means allowing a penetrator.

Beyond that, the obvious strategy would be to force shots in "No Man's Land" as I call it... the area outside the lane but inside the three point area. Those shots carry by far the lowest point per attempt total on the floor.

I'm not certain why, but it seems as though the worst area to shoot from is the two "near wings" of No Man's Land... in other words Zones 2 and 4, the ones just removed from the lane. I have two theories about why these are the lowest value shots.

One is that perhaps shots from those zones are more apt to be contested, and thus their lower points per attempt are not really reflective of inherently more difficult shots. But then how do you account for the higher points per attempt you get from Zone 3 shots? Those ought to be just as contested as the shots taken in Zones 2 and 4.

I have an alternate theory based on my own experiences. Those are simply harder shots. Unless you are adept at using the glass, you have to take something off your release (or, in basketball vernacular, apply "touch" to your shot) and its not the easiest thing in the world to do.

But those are just two theories. By and large, the point of this post is that a modern defense must play a sort of "Umbrella Defense" or "Apple Defense"... a defense that is hard on the very exterior and at the core, but perhaps soft in between those points. Its just what the modern rules of NBA basketball dictate.


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