Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

How many times have you seen a dude dribbling the clock out at the end of a quarter, half or game before attacking and putting a shot up at the buzzer, hoping to squeak in a couple of extra points? Nine billion? 75 thousand? 16? Infinity? I don’t know the exact answer, but I know it’s a lot.

And while that might seem like the smart play — it keeps the ball away from the opponent, limits turnovers, makes you feel pretty special for being the designated shot taker and cetera — science says you’re leaving points on the table if you do such a thing. Here’s a brief, two-sentence explanation of science’s claim that shooting early in the clock is better, courtesy of Brian Skinner who is a researcher and not that Clipper who used to dye his goatee. From Wired:

[Skinner] discovered through an analysis of scoring situations that NBA players often wait too long to shoot and it could cost teams an average of 4.5 points per game. Rather than take the sure thing early in a possession, players wait it out, taking time off the clock and hoping to make another, possibly tougher, shot pay off.

That’s science and math talking, you guys. Those are two well-established fields of study, and if they say you should take good shots early in the shot clock, maybe you should.

But Kobe Bryant is like, “Nope.”

Yeah, whatever, Bryant responds. He told after a recent matchup with the New York Knicks that there are countless variables, and his decision to shoot — or not shoot, as the case may be — depends upon who’s on the floor, where they’re standing and how much time is left on the clock.

“If I can kick it to somebody, a lot of times I wind up getting a hockey assist, so it just depends on how much time I have left,” Bryant said. “If there’s a chance to pass and swing [to another player] for another opportunity, that’s fine. If there’s not, then I have to create space and get a shot up, understanding that there are two [players] on me and it’s going to be a great opportunity for us to get an offensive rebound.”

I was lead to believe that Kobe Bryant was a “scientific dawg,” but this sounds kind of like he is being the opposite of that. An artistic catt, I guess? Beats me, but that sentence sure sounds like Kobe saying he knows better than science when he should be taking a shot. Science has never played in the NBA. Science doesn’t have titles. Science wasn’t with Kobe shooting in the gym.

You would think that Kobe would trust science since he used it to get special blood put in his leg in order to combat aging, but I guess not. Still doesn’t quite trust it after not being able to fix his finger after all these years. He never forgets.


This is not The Academic Study Jones so I am not entirely sure how to introduce these relevant NBA study findings, other than to say that they are interesting. So here you go.

From a University of Chicago study, by way of the Freakonomics blog:

The results were clear. Effort increased dramatically only for people who believed they were slightly behind in the competition. What’s more, we found a similar effect when we analyzed real-world field data from 60,000 basketball games, including 18,000 NBA games. The relationship between the score and the likelihood of winning was fairly linear. For every two points a team was ahead, its chances of winning increased by about 7%—except for this major discontinuity right in the middle. Teams that were down by one point at halftime were more likely to win than teams that were ahead by one point at halftime. They won as much as 8% more often than they would have if the relationship had stayed linear.

If I’m reading this right — and I think I am — NBA teams should stop trying at the end of the first half if they are winning, just so they can be down by one going in to the half. That might sound very tricky, but NBA teams have complicated schemes for everything, so I am sure they will be able to figure this out. Anything to get an extra 8 percent chance of winning is worth it.

One worry is that when this study circulates around NBA locker rooms, which I am sure that it will, teams that are winning by a single point near the end of the half will just continually pass the ball to the other team in order to trick them in to taking that one-point lead that dooms them to defeat. This could go on for hours, just teams passing the ball back and forth, trying not to be the team leading going in to the half. Sure, it’d be hilarious the first 50 times, but after that it’d get old.

Leave it to a bunch of science geeks to use their special testing laboratories and supercomputers to deduce that what our dads always told us growing up (“Use the backboard, son”) is the best thing any player can do to be a better shooter.

From Wired:

After analyzing computer-generated 3-D simulations of more than 1 million basketball shots, a team led by NC State’s Larry Silverberg determined that, while it does vary, there are large, identifiable areas on the court where a bank shot can be up to 20 percent more successful than attempting a direct swish. [...]

What they uncovered was that areas on the wing — between the free-throw area and the outermost three-point line — contained pockets where a bank shot was much more likely to go in than with a direct shot.

Surprise, surprise — researchers love Tim Duncan. Fitting, considering they’re the ones who built him, programmed him and continue to update his bank shot software.

I’m kidding, of course. Science is great and Tim Duncan is not a robot. Plus, these dweebs are making it easy for you step your game up. All you have to do is make one simple change.

The NC State team also discovered that when they plotted the simulated shooter’ aim points, the resulting data created a V that could be used as a training device for teaching players where the most successful bank shots are aimed. [...]

But perhaps an even greater finding was that there existed, 3.326 inches behind the backboard, a vertical axis line that could be used to aid shooters in knowing where to aim their bank shots.

It’s actually quite simple: Envision the V on an actual backboard. Then visualize a vertical bar that sits 3.326 inches behind the backboard. Wherever you see the two cross, that’s where you aim for a high-percentage bank shot.

It’s that easy. All you have to do is picture an imaginary V on a backboard, then picture an imaginary line floating exactly 3.326 inches behind the backboard, then figure out where those two imaginary lines intersect, aim at that imaginary point and shoot a real basketball at it, making sure to keep the ball spinning at a speed of three revolutions per second. Just do that simple calculation in the time it takes for you to decide to shoot the ball, jump and take your shot.

If you do all that stuff in those few split-seconds you have when taking a jumper, you get a 20 percent increase in efficiency, just so long as you’re standing within 12 feet of the basket and not directly in front of the hoop. It’s almost too easy, and I’m starting to think that Tim Duncan really is a robot.