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Friday Fun with Numbers: Shoot More Threes?

 

I’ve already written about how the C’s maintained their high level of offense from 2008 through last season even though they attempted more than 200 fewer three-pointers. Contrary to conventional wisdom, taking three-pointers is generally a good thing for win totals. The long ball may let you down during a single game your team absolutely has to win, but over the full 82, it’s generally good to be in the upper half of the league in three-point attempts, as John Hollinger and others have shown. Even when the threes aren’t falling, the mere threat of them can open up the lane for penetration and inside shots.

So, yeah: Welcome, Sheed!

To review: The C’s actually improved a tick on offense last year by a) improving their overall shooting accuracy; b) shooting more corner three-pointers; c) making a higher percentage of their three-pointers than all but 11 single-season teams since 1980, when the league copied the ABA and introduced the triple.

You can expect that three-point percentage to go down this season. Law of averages and all. But you can also expect the team’s three-point attempts to go up, thanks mostly to the acquisition of Rasheed Wallace and the four threes per game he’s going to jack.

Math geniuses and computer programmers are still figuring out how strongly three-point attempts correlate with winning. But the early returns suggest the correlation is strong and getting stronger.

Here’s my totally unscientific and elementary contribution: I looked at team shot distributions to find out the records of teams that took a lot or a little of three type of shots: three-pointers, two-point jumpers and inside shots. For each of those shot types, I calculated the total winning percentages of the 10 teams that attempted that highest number of that particular shot type and did the same for the 10 teams that attempted the fewest. All data from this page on 82games.

Here are the results:

THREE-POINT ATTEMPTS:

Ten that took the most: 474-376 (.557 winning %)

Ten that took the fewest*: 365-455 (.445 winning %)

*This group included the C’s, who ranked 21st in the NBA in three-point attempts.

TWO-POINT JUMP SHOTS:

Ten that took the most: 355-465 (.432 winning %)

Ten that took the least: 421-399 (.513 winning %)

INSIDE SHOTS:

Ten that took the most: 447-373 (.545 winning %)

Ten that took the least: 434-386 (.529 winning %)

Again, this is meant to be a fun post. It is not meant to be the sort of through study that would satisfy the 7th grade science teacher who taught me the scientific method in 1990 while I fruitlessly checked out girls. It’s a small sample size (one season), it doesn’t look at free throws, it’s not adjusted for pace and it doesn’t break down the three shot types into more specific (and thus more meaningful) shot categories.

But still: Isn’t it striking that the number of inside shot attempts had basically no impact on a team’s winning percentage, at least compared with how a team distributes its jumpers between twos and threes?If I repeated this same (rudimentary) exercise going back until 1990 or earlier, I bet I’d find this is a new-ish phenomenon—the product of a modern NBA in which coaches understand the three and use it instead of disdaining it as a trick that diverts a team from a “winning” pound-the-ball-inside strategy. Having more big guys who can shoot the three also helps.

It’s just a hunch. But in any case: Yet another reason to welcome Sheed to the club and to give Scal a chance to play 10 minutes a game.

  • Jason

    When you say "took the most shots" does it include all attempts, even those that weren't official FGA because of a foul? If a team takes 10 inside shots and gets fouled on 5, that's great and leads to winning (I would guess), but if in your breakdown they are only credited with 5 inside shots, then I think your .545 vs .529 winning %age comparison is skewed. If you put back in the wiped out attempts, the list of teams with the least and most inside shots changes and so to will the winning $age spread between the top and bottom.

    Obviously, you could make the same adjustments to the other two categories, but I'm guessing things won't change much there since fouling on jump shots is so rare.

    Honestly, the proper way to do this analysis is a multi-variable regression where you can then get the weight of each variable as it pertains to winning. If you get the proper data, you should be able to run one (and understand the results) in Excel with very little research (if you've never run one before).

  • Jason

    Anyway, speaking of Sheed's 3s, they are a double-edged sword to me. He's percentage is acceptable, but not great, so it's not like I want him taking a lot. Four a game isn't a lot and some games he'll shoot 10. I'm not sure that's a winning formula.

    Yes he spreads the floor, which has benefits. But he still seems to shoot just a few too many. He shoots them early when it's not necessary. He shoots them contested when it's not necessary. With just a tad more selectivity and patience, (kind of like how Scal only shoots when wide-open, but not that extreme), he could probably avoid at least one ill-advised 3 a game. That's 82 low percentage 3s off the ledger. If he did that, his efficiency could skyrocket.

  • Jason

    Sorry, but still not sure what "raw" means. Is that all attempts (including fouled attempts) or just official attempts. I think the "all" data is out there somewhere, so you could re-run your comparison the same as before, but just with better data. You don't have to do the regression.

  • http://CelticsHub.com Zach Lowe

    @Jason–nope, it’s just raw attempts. As I say in there, no sophistication at all. I have never done a multi-variable regression, though I know what they are. I honestly lack the expertise/training to do that, but I’m confident I could learn.

  • Pingback: Today’s Celtics Links 10/17 « Flceltsfan’s Weblog

  • http://www.crosscountryrunningshoeslab.com Nathaniel Wood

    my sister is a computer programmer and she earns lots of buxx from it`’,

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