Three weeks ago I suggested the most realistic way for the Hawks to improve their offense is to shoot more 3s. Blog person Najeh responded in the comments:
“Threes are fine as long as they are a result of good ball movement and taken in rhythm. The problem with relying on them, just like the problem with relying on long 2 point jumpers, is that if you miss, you’re less likely to get the rebound than if you are taking attempts at the rim.”
That last part sounded right, and I went looking for the data to answer the question, but I couldn’t find any at the time. Now there are some relevant numbers compliments of a research paper submitted last weekend at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.
University of Southern California researchers Rajiv Maheswaran, Yu-Han Chang, Aaron Henehan and Samantha Danesis co-authored “Deconstructing the Rebound with Optical Tracking Data.” They used data from STATS’ SportsVu Optical Tracking system, which uses cameras in arenas to track the position of all 10 players and the ball, to analyze more than 11,000 missed field-goal attempts.
One aspect of the paper focuses on the effect of shot location on offensive rebound rates. The authors’ conclusion:
We see that the best location to attempt a field goal to maximize the chance of an offensive rebound is close to the basket. Shots attempted within 6 feet of the basket and missed are recovered at a 36% rate. From 6-10 feet, the rate becomes 28%. There is a significant change in the 10-22 foot range, where missed shots are only rebounded at a 21.5% rate. There is also an interesting transition at the three-point line where rebound rates outside 22 feet jump up to 25.5%. . . . We note that offensive rebound rates decrease as a function of shot distance with a sharp jump at the three-point line. This is very similar to effective field goal percentage as a function of shot distance. This result implies that mid-range shots are even worse than previously characterized due to their effects on offensive rebound rates. Strategically, teams have even more reason to eschew mid-range shots for shots closer to the basket or three-pointers.
So Najeh is correct that more offensive rebounds are collected from shots close to the basket. But it’s also true that a higher percentage offensive rebounds are collected off missed 3-pointers than shots from between 10 and 22 feet. I still believe that, after all this time, it’s not realistic to expect this group of Hawks players to suddenly become consistent slashers who attack the basket and score and/or draw fouls. The Hawks do have a good collection of 3-point shooters, however, and because missed 3s are more likely to result in offensive rebounds than 2s beyond 10 feet is yet another reason to keep shooting them.
Inevitably, hours after I wrote that first blog post, the Hawks went out and missed 20 of 27 3s against the Lakers to start a stretch in which they clanked them in four of five games. This drew the ire of some of my tweeps and blog people. (Thanks, by the way, for making me feel important by suggesting that I can somehow influence how the Hawks play. If that were actually the case the Hawks would be in big trouble.)
Still, I’m sticking with my theory the Hawks should shoot more 3s (as long as it’s the right guys shooting them, of course). Even considering their recent slump, 3s are a better option that mid-range and long 2s. Since and including the Lakers game, the Hawks have shot 68 of 204 on 3s for an effective field-goal percentage of 45.1. Over that same period, the Hawks shot 43.2 on 2s, including 31.3 percent from between 10 and 23 feet (67 of 214) and 53.3 percent at the rim.
The Hawks now rank tied for fifth in three-point percentage and 17th in attempts per game. Considering their personnel and style of play–and now the revelation that they have a better chance of rebounding their missed 3s than 2s beyond 10 feet–the Hawks probably should keep firing away from behind the arc.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat