Basketball is a game of points. That is an inevitable fact. Whoever gets the higher point total, wins. Not the one with the most rebounds, most charges or most *insert other obscured tallied action in the game*. No. In the end, it’s always going to be about points.
But basketball isn’t an infinite game. It’s a 48-minute game and the amount of points you can score in those 48 minutes is limited. This is why the study on the “efficiency” of scoring is so important: how quality reacts with quantity, what types of shots are best, how and when best to shoot a ball and where are the most effective spots at generating points. All of this have been integral to the advancement of “analytics” beyond counting and tallying some random set of events in a game. To this end, shot charts — and their derivatives — have become a mainstream point of analysis.
The NBA has long had these. Luckily for us, with the introduction of FIBA-developed programs in PBA coverage, this — FINALLY — is now available.
The heat map on the left paints a pretty simple picture — inside the paint is where the real score is (DUH). Teams are making 71.4 percent of their shots from within 3 feet. That’s a BIG number considering the average PBA game coasts around 94~98 points per 100 possession. Other than that, it’s the cold, barren numbness of bricks. There are a few spots here and there — specifically the free throw line and along the baseline (normally the spot where bigs camp out), but by and large, this is a cold looking heat map. The three-point line also paints some hope (especially in the middle area, where the league average is 32.3 percent).
Another thing you’ll notice is how, unlike the NBA shot charts, the bulk of the scoring seems to happen in the 3 to 5 feet range. There could be some encoding differences between here. But color me puzzled as to why this is the case. It may be because the PBA is a more “physical” league and/or players are smaller than their NBA counterparts so they have to rely more on floaters, hooks and short jumpers.
One thing that troubles me — and I mean TROUBLES me — is the sheer lack of corner three attempts. In 25 games this season, There have only been 11 corner threes taken. A laughably miniscule per game average of ~0.5 corner threes per game. Teams are a scorching 6 of 11 (54.5 percent) from there.
A week ago, Seth Partnow talked about corner threes in the NBA in detail. In his post, he detailed how corner threes are better shots not because they’re shorter (not much difference between same distanced twos to same distanced corner threes) but because they’re more open shots. It’s obvious that open shots are better shots. But corner threes are open particularly because it’s so far away from where the action usually is in a basketball court — at center. And when I mean center, I mean middle. there’s a reason why the baseline yields open shots as well. This is because the game changes pace horizontally — when the ball changes side, it’s from one baseline to baseline instead of sideline to sideline. That means the weight of the defense is focused on the middle, a small rectangle we like to call the “painted area” (that’s no longer true semantically but you know, whatevs).
To further prove this point, here is the shot chart for the PBA season so far.
Not as informative as we’d like but nonetheless, it tells us that 26 percent of the shots (1009 shots over 3874 shots so far this season) come from an area where teams shoot just 34.3 percent — or basically a PPS (point per shot) of .686. The results of the Study done by Austin Clemens and Seth Partnow also apply in the PBA.
As you can see, there’s an almost linear relationship between field goal percentage (X-axis) and distance (Y-axis). It goes without saying that part should have been obvious. Notice how there are supposedly two lines charting FG and eFG (that which accounts the extra point gained on 3-point shots). Notice how they diverge at around 22-24 feet node — which is just about the length of the corner three. Take note as well of the almost equal distance between the FG and eFG line from 24 feet and beyond — i.e. about half of the Y-axis of FG (which is easily explained by the formula of eFG). But at the point of diversion (22~24 feet), you can see that it’s not clearly half of the Y-axis of what it’s supposed to be. This is the point where corner threes and long two point shots mix up.
The point in all of this is this: with how important scoring is in a basketball game, the lack of reliance on the corner shot — irregardless of whether the corner three-point shot is not a shorter line — as alluded to by my colleague Mr. Favian Pua, is puzzling.
One last note: Although the sample size is small (#SmallSampleSizeTheater), corner shots in the PBA are made at a 54.5 percent rate. For long twos of similar distance, teams are shooting at a blistering efficiency of 2 of 13 — for a whopping 15.3 percent. Even without considering the extra point that a three gives you, 54.5 > 15.3. Even comparing it to long twos beyond 21 feet (12 of 53 or 22.6 percent) doesn’t yield better results. Adding that extra point up just makes the difference all the more apparent: PBA teams are not utilizing the corner three as much as they should.