Thursday, September 18, 2008

Who Will Benefit From The Longer 3 Pt. Line

The guys over at Rush The Court did some very interesting statistical analysis on who would benefit the most and who would be hurt the most with the change to the deeper three point line during the upcoming season (20'9" from 19'9"). Their hypothesis:

Teams that have a large differential in their home/away three-point shooting percentages are likely to have fewer “pure” shooters and therefore will be most negatively impacted by the one-foot longer three-point line next season.
Their assumptions:
  • We’re assuming that all team three-point percentages should decrease with the longer distance.
  • Teams with "pure" shooters should have high relative three-point percentages no matter where they shoot the ball - home or away.
  • There will be a natural dropoff in most team three-point percentages on the road because of adverse conditions, but good shooting teams will remain good shooting teams. Teams with questionable shooters will show a marked decrease between their home and road three-point percentages.
  • We admit, given the turnover of players from season to season, that the predictive value of analyzing 07-08 data on the 08-09 season is tenuous at best.
By their calculations, Temple, Ole Miss and BYU will be hurt the most, while IUPUI, Baylor, and Michigan State will be hurt the least (it's good stuff, check it out).

My opinion differs (although, to be perfectly honest, I think that the move is short enough that there won't be a tremendous effect since 20'9" is still in the range of most players at the D1 level, and thus must be defended accordingly).

As much as I love statistics, I think that they are only useful to a point. For example, as we touched on yesterday, the debate between Luke Harangody and Tyler Hansbrough. You can look at PPG, RPG, FG%, pts/shot, team possessions per game, number of touches they get, how much the team uses the player. The list goes on and on (check out KenPom for any statistical need). But when it comes down to it, the only real way to determine who is better is to ask yourself "who would I rather have on my team?". Think about it like this: you are the captain picking teams for a pick-up game. Do you take Hansbrough or Harangody?

Statistics are great for analyzation, for arguments, and for discussion, but at some point, a decision has to be made based on what the guy can do on the court. It's as simple as that.

The same thing goes for the discussion about the three-point line. First of all, I disagree a bit with the assumptions. Personally, I think the difference in shooting percentages for home-vs.-away is based much more in the mental make-up of the player than in the ability of the shooter (especially when you deal with the hostile crowds on college campuses). The rim height never changes, but the conditions do, and it is the guys that can handle the taunts and the chants that will make shots on the road. Call it having mental toughness, call it having moxie, call it having balls, whatever, the ability of the shooter doesn't change.

I don't have any statistical data to back it up (if someone does I would love to see it), but in this day and age I am willing to bet that a majority of the three's that are taken are already shot from beyond the new three-point line. Unless you are spotting up, so much of where you get a shot off from comes from things the shooter can't control, like the angle of the screen you are coming off, how good the screen was, the timing between the passer and the shooter, etc. At that level, with how athletic players are and how well they are coached and prepared for each game, when you are open you have a split second to get the shot off. The shooter is much more worried about getting a good look at the rim than where exactly he is on the floor. And the best shooters, well they will fire from 28 feet, so the line moving back won't effect them too much.

Who will be helped by the three point line moving back

I think that teams that have a good low post scorer surrounded by good shooters will benefit the most. Think Notre Dame (not to harp on Harangody, but they are fresh in my mind). When Harangody has the ball on the block 1-on-1 against a defender, more often than not he is going to score, either by getting a basket or drawing a foul and going to the line (many times both). So as a defense, to combat that, you need to slough off of guys on the perimeter and help, or send someone to double, and that extra foot will make it that much harder to get back out to the shooters. Guys like Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney are going to be able to knock down open three's even if it is from a foot farther back, especially if they have more time.

Some other teams that could benefit: Arizona State, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Gonzaga to name a few.

Who will be hurt by the three point line moving back

I think that teams that are perimeter oriented with an offense based on penetration will be hurt the most. Think Memphis. Coach Cal's offensive system is one where he spreads the court and isolates his players, allowing them to try and beat their man 1-on-1. If they can, they go all the way to the rim. If they can't, they try to draw a helper and then kick the ball out to the open man, allowing him a chance to go 1-on-1 against a defender closing out, and so on (its called the Dribble-Drive Motion, and it is more complicated than that, but you get the gist). Anyway, with the deeper three point line and sub-par shooters, it will allow defenders to slough a little farther off their man, both on the ball and off the ball. This will make it harder to beat your defender, harder to draw a helper, and allow the helper to close out shorter when he returns to his man (he can close out shorter because a deep two is better than allowing penetration, and if it is a sub par shooter, than you are less worried about the deeper three).

Other teams with similar styles that could be hurt: Louisville, UConn, Baylor.

All that said, the least complicated way to give an answer is to say that the teams with better shooters will benefit and the teams with poorer shooters will be hurt. If you can shoot, you can still hit a three from 20'9". If you can't shoot, than it will be that much harder for you to beat your man.


Andy McKenzie said...

Great analysis. However, it is blasphemy for you to say that statistics are only useful to a point! I would actually expect that perimeter oriented teams would be better off because the floor is spaced more, but I suppose that if they can't shoot the deep three that it will indeed hurt them. BIAH is prolific these days, quite a habit indeed.

Rob Dauster said...

Moving the line back will spread the floor, but if you can't hit the deeper three, then the defense doesn't have to respect the shot.

The more I think about it, the more I start to believe that moving the line back will be the most beneficial to post players (because the floor will be more spread, giving them more room to operate).

greyCat said...

Nice work. Luke Winn over at SI wrote an in depth analysis on this back in June, and basically made your point (lousy 3 point shooting teams will not be helped). He also worked with Andy McKenzie's idea a little bit -- except his point was that by spreading the floor teams that can hit the mid-range jumper will do better. Teams that guard the 3 point line very closely should do pretty well, especially against teams that rely on the 3. Check out his article at How the new three point line will affect the game.

Also consider the effect on the U18 team in Argentina this past summer. The line was only 6 inches deeper, but every team in the field (except Argentina) had a terrible shooting percentage from the 3. I believe the USA team just abandoned the idea of shooting from back there in the latter rounds of the the tournament.

Villanova by the Numbers