Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Shit Shot Theory*

In a 2010 article lambasting NBA easybeats the Washington Wizards for a particularly horrendous night’s shooting, the Courtside Analyst coined the rather splendid phrase ‘the Shit Shot Percentage’. ‘The Shit Shot Percentage’ was used to denote those shots taken from just inside the three-point line at a range of 16 to 23 feet from the rim; too far away to have a high expected percentage of going in, but too close in to gain an extra point if they do. As the Courtside Analyst puts it:
“These are the absolute lowest value shots and should be avoided. Besides being stupid, they are also a sign of (a) weakness — you lack the strength to go to the hoop, or (b) laziness – you are settling for an available “bad” shot instead of working to get a good shot. Shit shots are available all night long. That’s because they don’t return very well on the investment.”     

The article then goes on to claim that NBA teams take a ‘shit shot’ 20 per cent of the time, or on one in every five possessions.  The ‘Shit Shot Theory’ has been used to explain the difference in the field goal shooting percentages of the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony and the Miami Heat’s LeBron James. Using shooting statistics from the 2009-2010 season, Andres Alvarez at The Wages of Wins Journal showed that while Carmelo is a better mid-range shooter than LeBron, the latter is a much more effective scorer because a higher proportion of his shots are close to the rim.

Now I think I have a nice-looking jump shot, perfected through spending years of my childhood daydreamily shooting away at the (now-long departed) hoop in my parent’s backyard. It’s not a jump shot to make you swoon or anything, but it has the one hand to the side and the flick of the wrist and everything. And my teammates would say there are definitely spots on the court which are my spots to shoot from. I’ve marked these spots on the diagram below:

I don’t really shoot three-pointers nowadays because I have to heave the ball to even make the distance, and that makes my shot all wonky. I remember one night at basketball training when I was about 13 or 14 I was training apart from the other kids for some reason and I took shot after shot from halfcourt, and - no joke, I swear it’s true! - I was getting something like 7 out of every 10 in. There was a parent of another kid on the sidelines who I think was watching me, and after every swish I would turn around and look at him to see if he had seen it, and then trying to seem all nonchalant I would dribble back to halfcourt and drain another Hail Mary. Anyway, apparently I had more muscles in my arms at 13 than 33. I can’t make those anymore. And I don’t tend to drive to the hoop, because I have no muscles and I’m slow and uncoordinated and someone would flatten me.
With that in mind, let’s overlay the above diagram with the ‘Shit Shot Range’, shall we?

Yes, that’s right - all of my favourite spots are in the Shit Shot Range. This is why, despite my nice-looking textbook jump shot, my actual field goal percentage is quite low. If Melo and Bron can only make 40 per cent of their shots from that range, then you can imagine that I don’t make a particularly high percentage of shots from that range either. 
I don’t naturally tend to look to shoot anyway – to the point where my teammates have shouted ‘SHOOT! SHOOT!’ when I get the ball – but after working out the implications of the Shit Shot Theory for my offensive usefulness I’ve been even more reluctant to hoist up attempts. Which is a good thing, in terms of winning basketball games, as deflating as this realisation is to my self-worth. And my years spent tarting up my jump shot haven’t been a total waste – after all, there’s always H-O-R-S-E.   

*Actually, it’s not technically a theory, but calling it one makes the title of this post reminiscent of that Sheldon Cooper show.

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