NBA and scoring
- There has been a lot of speculation as to whether and how NBA scoring
should be increased. With regards to the first question, I don't
think and increase in scoring or 100 point games is the solution.
The question really is how to make the game entertaining and
watchable. I, myself, like a tough intense defensive battle more
than the old run and gun western conference games that the old
Nuggets and others used to run.
However, I will concede that a balance needs to be struck between the
two types of play. It is clear that offensive sets run in the NBA
sometimes can be less than stellar at times. There are excessive
isolations of players for long periods of the shot clock. This can
kind of grind the flow of games to a halt.
How did this happen? This appears to be the brain child of coaches
in the early 90s who put the premium on the value of each offensive
possession. Coaches like Riley and Van Gundy have decided that a
jump shot can theoretically be gotten at almost anytime and therefore
you must work the clock and see if you can get closer to the rim and
therefore increase the percentage chance of scoring. This is not
speculation, I live in NYC and I have heard both Riley and Van Gundy
espouse this very theory on numerous occasions. This is also a
reasonable strategy on the coaches parts, if you slow down the game
and limit the possessions it will become less likely that the game
will get out of control.
Of course, this strategy presupposes that you do not have the horses
to run or chuck away from the outside. This is a smart move to
employ if you have Ewing or Olajuwon or an inept offensive squad like
the old Phills, Mills, Hill Cavs. However, it seems less effective
when you have guys who can run or consistently hit from the outside.
Still, coaches like Van Gundy, prefer a slow-down game because it
cuts down margin for error--rarely allowing the other team to get out
and run. In this regard, zone defenses would only make the problem
worse because instead of isolating in the post, the teams would be
patient on the perimeter instead--which is not an improvement.
Two questions come to mind in recognizing this offensive trend (no
pun intended)and trying to correct it: 1) when is this strategy most
efficient (ie how does your personne change whether this slow down is
the best way to run a team) and 2) assuming this strategy is most
effective or that coaches refuse to change, what can be done to make
the game a tad more free flowing?
With regards to the first question, I do not really know. Obivously,
a slow down isolation style has its merits. However, one would think
that the strategy need not be employed so often. Can't the Knicks
get out and run more on selective chances? They do run but coaches
need to think a bit more flexibly what to employ offensively.
With regards to the second question, there are some ideas out there.
Obviously, enforcing the already enacted 5-second back down rule
could help but I've never seen the rule called. There are other
solutions, a most radical solution that I've not entirely thought out
the ramifications of would be to encourage running by perhaps giving
a team an extra point if it scores within six seconds or so of when
the shot clock starts. This is obviously a bit odd and could swing
the pendulum too far towards run and gun but it definitely
A less radical solution to this issue could be to lower the shot
clock to say 20 seconds. This would not change the strategy but it
would at least make it less tedious. (On a side note, a longer clock
would be a disaster because it assumes offenses cannot set up. the
problem, as I already said, is not setting up but the offense that is
employed. A longer clock would only further encourage this grind out
offense). Hope this made sense.
--- In APBR_analysis@y..., harlanzo@y... wrote:
Harlanzo suggested a few changes to "make the game entertaining and
watchable." One at a time...
> Obviously, enforcing the already enacted 5-second back down rule
> could help but I've never seen the rule called.
I've seen it enforced, but not since early in the season. I
haven't seen it violated much either. It's a good rule that has made
something of a difference. It fixed only one egregious problem
though. There is still a lot of waiting around for the perfect shot,
while actually jeopardizing the team's chances by waiting so long.
(How to quantify this?)
> the ramifications of would be to encourage running by perhaps
> a team an extra point if it scores within six seconds or so of when
> the shot clock starts.
Never going to happen. Too gimmicky. Refs have a hard enough time
with the clock as it is.
> A less radical solution to this issue could be to lower the shot
> clock to say 20 seconds. This would not change the strategy but it
> would at least make it less tedious.
This one could stand some analysis. The average possession (defining
possession as the time between when one team has the ball and when
the other has it) is now about 16 seconds long. It was about 14
seconds in the early 80's. I think this would make a possession more
frantic at the end, but doesn't avoid the philosophy you talked about
-- that you can always get a jump shot -- it just now comes at 20
seconds, not 24 seconds. I'm not convinced this will work, though it
clearly speeds up the pace. Can Bob Chaikin simulate this??? (He's
a group member with a simulation program.)
Another possibility is allowing the zone, which the league is
thinking about seriously. I worked up some notes on this for another
group. I'll see if I can get them back.
Journal of Basketball Studies
- harlan -
needless to say your email was both a breath of fresh air and a pleasure to
read. i've known what you have surmised for quite some time now (most of this
past decade), but only thru the benefit of statistical analysis. kudos on
dechipering it - you have hit the nail right on the head....
like you it is also my humble opinion (backed by some convincing numbers)
that the sole reason for the consistently decreasing scoring since the mid
1980s is coaches trying to keep their jobs by saying "...sure we lost, but we
held them to 87 points...". no coach can lose consistently with a high
scoring team in this league and keep his job, but many have lost consistently
but remained employed with a slug-like offense (check the record on this
one). and i have first hand knowledge of this being a life long clevelander
and having suffered thru the "...phills, mills, hill cavs..." of mike
i remember it all really starting with bill musselman and the expansion
t-wolves in the early 1990s. it quickly became a fad and has continued to
this day. i watch tapes of games from the 1980s and then watch games of today
and wonder why i even bother watching the league as it is now (and as it has
been for the last 5-6 years). and watching tapes of games from the 1960s and
1970s convinces me that the game was much better to watch as a fan back then,
even without the 3 pt shot (which i thoroughly enjoy - loved the ABA)....
i've attached a spreadsheet to this email that shows you the yearly numbers
since 1977-78 (when they first started keeping all the stats they keep today
- including the trio of TO, BS, and ST). forgeting the league's lousy
shooting of the past three complete seasons, from 1983-84 to 1996-97, the
league effective FG% has been stable - wavering from just below 49% to 50%,
absolutely consistent over a 16 year period. so shooting isn't the reason
scoring went down. over that same period the number of points scored per team
ball possession has also been stable, wavering between 1.05 to 1.07 pts/poss
over that same time period. so "better defense" isn't the reason either for
scoring going down, because the defense has remained the same. but scoring
decreased steadily from a high of 110 pts/48min game (8485) to 96 pts/48min
game (9697). why?...
because team possessions per game have steadily dropped from 103 per game per
team (about 14 seconds per team possession) to close to 91 per game per team
(close to 16 seconds per team possession) from the mid 80s to the mid 90s.
that's a whopping 13% decrease in the pace of an average game over a 16 year
period. as anyone who has played the game of basketball at a competitive
level can tell you, coaches and coaches only dictate the pace of a game.
players almost always want to run, its the coaches that slow down the game....
remember, all of the above doesn't even consider the league's lousy shooting
of the past three seasons - effective FG% of between just under 47% to just
under 48% compared to the consistent 49% to 50% effective FG% of 8384 to
i believe i have the proper suggestions for "correcting" this trend, and they
are indeed quite simple. first and foremost is the premise that it should
never be advantageous to commit a foul - not ever. the first thing the league
should do is to bring back the bonus free throws (last used in the very early
1980s) when a team is in the penalty, the 3 to make 2 and 2 to make 1 (when
the bucket is made). that right there will open up the lane. people today
will say that the extra free throws will slow up the game, but the 1970s
next any foul where its obvious the defender was not going for the ball is an
automatic ejection, even simply grabbing the player with the ball from behind
on a breakaway. anytime a defender commits a foul on the player with the ball
without going for the ball (in the judgement of the official) should be akin
to 1st degree murder. a hard foul where its obvious the defender was going
for the ball but also added a hip (or two) for exclamation should be treated
like they treat a flagrant foul today. but an automatic ejection for nailing
the man with the ball but with no attempt at going for the ball will
certainly open the offense back up. and both of these scenarios should result
in free throws AND possesion of the ball. if those were put into effect you'd
rarely see them ever happen (except in blowout games)...
also any foul is a shooting foul in the last two minutes (not sure yet if i
like this) will keep it "clean" when clean is most needed - at game's end.....
what not to do?...
one - if the league allows zone defenses, they might as well give fans
magazines and newspapers as they enter the arenas. if they allow zones no
one, i repeat, no one will re-up their season tickets....
two - forget the present zone defense rules. they only encourage one-on-one
or two-on-two basketball with 6-8 guys standing above the key. that's a whole
lot of fun to watch - nothing i like better than watching 7' 7" shawn bradley
playing above the key on offense. if they simply called defensive 3 seconds
(which is in the rule book - i know i used to ref) like they now call
offensive 3 seconds, and i mean call it often, that will solve that
lastly, what i'd love to see but will never happen (TV commercial time) is
each team limited to one timeout per half...
institute these changes and in just a few years (2-3) you'd be back to having
games with total ball possessions per team per game in the high 90s to low
100s, even if you do not change the shot clock from 24 to 20 seconds...
p.s. - dean, my software does use team possessions as a game clock...
- --- In APBR_analysis@y..., bchaikin@a... wrote:
> i've attached a spreadsheet to this email that shows you the yearlynumbers
> since 1977-78 (when they first started keeping all the stats theykeep today
> - including the trio of TO, BS, and ST).What's your take on why it gets slower in the playoffs? I've noticed
> absolutely consistent over a 16 year period. so shooting isn't thereason
> scoring went down.Pace is the biggest reason. Definitely. And it is coaches slowing
the game down.
> are indeed quite simple. first and foremost is the premise that itshould
> never be advantageous to commit a foul - not ever. the first thingthe league
> should do is to bring back the bonus free throws (last used in thevery early
> 1980s) when a team is in the penalty, the 3 to make 2 and 2 to make1 (when
> the bucket is made). that right there will open up the lane. peopletoday
> will say that the extra free throws will slow up the game, but the1970s
> disproves that....This is probably a very good suggestion. One thing Bob overlooks a
little in his statement that "shooting isn't the problem" is that big
men are shooting worse in the '90's. No one guy is shooting 65%
anymore like they did in the '80's. And this is because of the hard
fouling. Bringing back the 3/2 should help that. I hesitate only a
little with Bob's suggestions about obvious hard fouls, that
hesitation due only to ref's indecision on a lot of stuff already.
But I agree completely with the spirit of it.
> what not to do?...
> one - if the league allows zone defenses, they might as well give
> magazines and newspapers as they enter the arenas. if they allowzones no
> one, i repeat, no one will re-up their season tickets....Not sure I agree. I tend to believe that the zone is a less
effective defense than a man in many ways. Allowing it does
strengthen the defense by giving it another option, but getting away
from the stifling man would also be good for offenses. But I have
seen little evidence that a zone even slows down the game. Since a
zone (some zones) tries to take away the middle, it should become a
coach's theory to take earlier shots in an offense. Further, you can
hide weak defending good shooting perimeter players in a zone -- not
sure if this is the problem, as Bob says. You can hide good
offensive big men in foul trouble, then.
> two - forget the present zone defense rules. they only encourage
> or two-on-two basketball with 6-8 guys standing above the key.that's a whole
> lot of fun to watch - nothing i like better than watching 7' 7"shawn bradley
> playing above the key on offense. if they simply called defensive 3seconds
> (which is in the rule book - i know i used to ref) like they nowcall
> offensive 3 seconds, and i mean call it often, that will solve thattime) is
> lastly, what i'd love to see but will never happen (TV commercial
> each team limited to one timeout per half...to having
> institute these changes and in just a few years (2-3) you'd be back
> games with total ball possessions per team per game in the high 90sto low
> 100s, even if you do not change the shot clock from 24 to 20seconds...
The defensive 3-s rules:
Rule 12, Section II, part c: Defenders may be in a position within
the "inside" lane for a tight 2.9 seconds. They must re-establish a
position with both feet out of the "inside" lane, to be legally clear
of the area.
Rule 12, Section II, part d: A defender may be positioned within the
"inside" lane with no time limitations, if an offensive player is
positioned within the 3' "posted-up" area.
Has anyone counted to see how often it gets violated now?
> p.s. - dean, my software does use team possessions as a game
Does this mean you couldn't simulate a 20-s clock? Your software has
some great potential. You might want to give a primer here on what
Journal of Basketball Studies
- Dean Oliver wrote:
> --- In APBR_analysis@y..., harlanzo@y... wrote:The data's not available I suspect, but shooting percentage by time left on
> Harlanzo suggested a few changes to "make the game entertaining and
> watchable." One at a time...
> > Obviously, enforcing the already enacted 5-second back down rule
> > could help but I've never seen the rule called.
> I've seen it enforced, but not since early in the season. I
> haven't seen it violated much either. It's a good rule that has made
> something of a difference. It fixed only one egregious problem
> though. There is still a lot of waiting around for the perfect shot,
> while actually jeopardizing the team's chances by waiting so long.
> (How to quantify this?)
the clock might be instructive. 14-24 are probably pretty good, because
these are fast break or open shot situations for the most part, but it mighe
be interesting to see <4, 5-8 and 9-12 (or other granularites) to see if
waiting longer is beneficial.
Gary Collard | Office: garyc@..., 469-357-8485
i2 | Mobile: 214-924-3263
SCP QA Team | Fax: 469-357-8613
| Home: collardg@..., 972-790-1166
Co-Moderator, Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)
- --- In APBR_analysis@y..., Gary Collard <garyc@i...> wrote:
> The data's not available I suspect, but shooting percentage by timeleft on
> the clock might be instructive. 14-24 are probably pretty good,because
> these are fast break or open shot situations for the most part, butit mighe
> be interesting to see <4, 5-8 and 9-12 (or other granularites) tosee if
> waiting longer is beneficial.I've never seen these data (maybe Harvey Pollack has it?). I'm going
to a HS game tonight and I'll track this during the game. Can't
really do it on a televised game.
Journal of Basketball Studies