Debate: Which Shooting Performance is Better?

Today's post is designed to test your basketball IQ (yep, it's not only important for players — but fans!). Let the debate begin!

  • Scenario A: Player hits 7 FG on 12 FGA — all 2-PT — for a total of 14 points.
  • Scenario B: Player hits 6 FG on 12 FGA — four 2-PT FG and two 3-PT FG — for a total of 14 points.

Which one is "better" for the team? Why? State your case.

UPDATE: Spoilers in the comments! Don't read further, if you haven't made up your mind first...

25 thoughts on “Debate: Which Shooting Performance is Better?”

    1. Doc, thanks for playing!

      That's the obvious answer. But I will argue that it is wrong. There is a choice to be made here, and it actually does have something to do with FG%. (But maybe not the way you are thinking.)

      1. Trick question! My simple brain can only work so much! By going with EFG%, the percentage is still equal. So, I'm confused.

        If I were to argue for argument's sake, I will guess that Scenario A is better because that player was able to convert one more than Scenario B, effectively being more efficient with possessions, but the result is still the same at the end of the day.

        Does 3PA come into play at all?

  1. Since you get the ball back 0.27 times (or something) because of offensive rebounding scenario B should be the preferable maybe? The 0.27 new possessions seems more valuable than having a non-set defense the other 0.73 times when the D rebounds.

  2. I just assumed the standard empirical offensive rebounding rate (I actually think it is 0.26, not 0.27 and the number is probably closer to 0.30 when removing the rebounding rate from free throws). If this is not allowed then I have no answer. :) When the FG hits the opponent gets the ball 100 precent of the time but when we miss we get the ball back some of the time. The problem as I see it when we miss is that the opponents can choose to attack quickly so if we get 1 percent of the rebounds then my guess would be that A is better but if we use the the standard rates then I would say B, i.e the breakpoint is before 27 percent. But I'm just speculating!

    Sorry for the messy post, I hope you get my point.

    1. Ding ding! You got it, JJ. Scenario B creates one more opportunity for gaining possession to the offense. Since a possession is worth ~1 pt, and the probability of getting an offensive rebound is 30% (0.3), this "extra" missed field goal is actually worth ~0.3 pts to the offense. It may seem counterintuitive that missing more field goals is better, but that's how the math works.

      1. Haha, that's kind of ridiculous but makes sense. A missed FG is an opportunity to gain a possession and score (30% chance), but couldn't you say the missed FG is also .7 points for the opponent?

  3. I'm going to pretend to know what I'm talking about and since this is a debate, I will argue that Scenario A is better because you don't give the opponent the .7 chance of scoring. In Scenario A, the made FG eliminates the .7 chance of the defense taking that possession and scoring. I will argue that 70% is better than 30%.

    1. If you take 12 FGA, the defense gets (at least) 12 opportunities to score no matter what you do! The only way you improve your chance of scoring more is by gaining extra offensive rebounds which don't change the number of possessions.

        1. It's considered part of the same possession, but some people say it creates a new "play". Possessions are ended by FGA, TO, sometimes by FTA (when the player hits both), or defensive rebound. The estimate of 1 point per possession uses this definition.

        1. Think of it in terms of possessions and expected points. When your team scores a 2-pt FG, that's +1 compared to the average of 1 PPP. When you score a 3-pt, that's +2. An offensive rebound basically saves a possession from being -1 (which is what would've happened if the defense got the rebound) and sets it back to +1 (because you still have a chance to hit a shot). This analysis can be done for every play in basketball.

          Over Thanksgiving I went line by line through the play-by-play data for the Nuggets game, "accounting" for each possession this way. Once you do that, you really get a feel for these things.

  4. "This analysis can be done for every play in basketball."

    I take it this is similar to how Dean Oliver et al log their games. I only got that far in his book Basketball on Paper. I was telling myself I should try it but I'm not motivated enough. I figure getting proven wrong on your blog is good enough ;-)

    1. Yep, Oliver, Hollinger, Berri all do some form of "accounting" for marginal points. There are important differences between the systems, though. For example, according to Wins Produced, although the team would still benefit from Scenario B, the shooter would have the same value in both cases.

  5. So which teams are above average on 3 point attempts and offensive rebounding%? This season the list is just the Lakers, Warriors and Clippers. Spurs just miss on one. The list was longer in past years. I had ascribed the dual achievement to some teams in the past to smart coaching, management or consulting but now that some of those teams are missing I wonder a bit more how much they knew what they were doing. Maybe they'll improve by the end of the season. Maybe the actions of other teams have made it tougher to be above average on one or both.

  6. I forgot the Wolves.

    In general smsll sample noise could be interfering or maybe less smart teams are fixing their deficiency . The Warriors fixed offensive rebounding, the Wolves fixed 3 point shooting.

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