The PBA started making play-by-play data and shot charts a regular part of their releases beginning this season (2014-2015). With it came the ability to analyze PBA teams beyond mere box score tallies. It’s a wealth of information that allows us to look at teams more in-depth. The thing that intrigues me the most (beyond line-up-based analysis) is the ability to analyze a team’s shot selections.

Disclaimer: The PBA’s shot chart (and play-by-play) isn’t exactly pristine and I will be working hard with a group of dedicated people to make all of that data workable, usable and, most importantly, correct. But from my initial analysis, the data they’ve sent out is anywhere between 80 ~ 90% correct, which is good enough for at least some exploratory data analysis. (Side Note: most of the errors are from corner 3s, which are usually flagged as shoulder 3s in their system. I mean, c’mon!)

Central to any analysis on a team’s shot selection is understanding the importance of spacing. In an article published almost 8 months ago, I detailed how important corner threes are to the offense. The most important takeaway is that getting good shots inside the paint is still the most efficient shot in basketball. But all teams will know this (DOH!) and will try to prevent teams from getting easy shots near the basket by packing the paint, which means pulling defenders away from the paint is the most important thing to generating an effective offense.

Now, there are tons of ways a coach can do so. The Triangle Offense puts a premium on player movement and basketball IQ because when done correctly, it doesn’t require a slew of three-point shooters to be effective at pulling defenders away from the paint. The same can be said with the Flex Offense made popular by Jerry Sloan in Utah, where effective screening is important.

Make no mistake – three-point shooting makes creating an effective offense that much easier. In the NBA, the importance can be seen clearly once you consider the fact that the league average three-point shooting rests right around 36 percent, which if converted to a per possession basis sits above the league average point per possession (which falls around 107). That number fluctuates on a season-per-season basis but the benefits of three-point shooting are almost always felt league wide.

In the PBA, that idea is harder to grasp. Over the past three seasons, the league average point per possession is 0.99 or 99 points per 100 possessions. Meanwhile, the three-point shooting has hovered right around 30% — which translates to 90 points per 100 possessions. That means, three-point shooting, taken out of context and in isolation, is a less efficient point-producing activity than what is average. This is in stark contrast to free throw shooting – another widely accepted efficient avenue for scoring points. PBA teams average around 68% from the stripe, a number which when converted into a per possession basis (assuming one possession = two free throws) comes out to around 1.35 – or 35 points per 100 possessions more than average. All of this inquiry begs the question – is three-point shooting really important in the PBA?

Let’s Talk Basketball: Is 3-point shooting a necessity in the PBA? | HumbleBola

On a league wise basis, there seems to be some support to this. League average efficiency moved positively as the three-point shooting rose and fall along with it.

Let’s Talk Basketball: Is 3-point shooting a necessity in the PBA? | HumbleBola Let’s Talk Basketball: Is 3-point shooting a necessity in the PBA? | HumbleBola

Looking closer into a per-team basis and comparing %3P and 3P% to the points per possession, we’ll see that there’s a linear relationship between these two and a team’s offensive efficiency. That’s great! It means although the league average three-point percentage isn’t exactly aligned with the idea that it’s efficient, it means it still has an effect.

Of course, three-point shooters are important not just because of their ability to make shots worth three points but also because of their gravity. The best three-point shooters force defenders to stick close to them, whether they’re standing or they’re moving. THAT is a real three-point threat. This is why people are enamoured with spread offenses – five guys who can shoot from deep, leaving nobody in the interior.

First of all, let’s get something out of the way – I personally don’t think 5-out sets are healthy. There are only so many spots from 3-point range you can camp out on (2 corners, 2 shoulders, middle). If all of them are occupied, then the driving lanes will be clogged because the nail (that central figure when closing out on ball screens above the break and is that dot literally in the middle of the free throw line) becomes an easier place to cover. This also allows defenders to play “zone” well (much more than in a 4-1 spread set), especially on the weakside (making ball screens that much harder to do). Also effectively eliminates offensive rebounding. It can work but I’m not a fan, personally.

With that out of the way, I decided to look at all the line-ups available and look at the efficiency of that lineup compared to the number of three-point shooters they have. The idea is that the more shooters are out there, the better the team should be offensively (purely from the perspective of offensive efficiencies).

The caveat: The lineups are mostly from the 2014-2015 season.

Another caveat: Because of the PBA’s import system (imports that only play for like 10 to 14 games), I’ve decided to practically remove them from the equation.

I began this exercise by identifying the players that can be identified, universally, as “spacer.” These are my qualifiers: (1) he takes 3.5 three-point shots per 36 minutes (minimum 600 total minutes played over the past three years) and (2) he makes at least 29.5% of his shots. The list, unsurprisingly, is quite small:

Player 3PTM 3PTA 3PT%

Paul Lee

2.8 7.2 39.1%

Marcio Lassiter

2.4 6.3 37.9%

Jimmy Alapag

2.6 7 37.2%

Allein Maliksi

1.6 4.3 37.1%

Jayson Castro

1.9 5.1 37%

Ranidel De Ocampo

2 5.5 36.8%

Mick Pennisi

2.8 7.7 36.1%

Jvee Casio

2.2 6 35.8%

KG Canaleta

2.8 8 34.7%

Mac Baracael

2.1 6.2 34.5%

Jonathan Uyloan

1.8 5.3 34.5%

Mark Borboran

1.4 4 34.3%

Jeff Chan

2.2 6.5 34.2%

Larry Fonacier

1.6 4.6 34%

Mike Cortez

1.5 4.5 33.8%

Joseph Yeo

1.9 5.6 33.8%

Stanley Pringle

1.5 4.4 33.7%

Ryan Reyes

1.5 4.5 33.5%

Cyrus Baguio

1.2 3.6 33.4%

Ronjay Buenafe

2.7 8.3 33.1%

Aldrech Ramos

1.3 4 33.1%

Dondon Hontiveros

2 6.2 32.9%

Jeric Fortuna

2.1 6.4 32.7%

John Wilson

1.8 5.7 32.5%

JR Quinahan

1.5 4.7 32.4%

Alex Cabagnot

1.6 4.9 32.4%

Josh Urbiztondo

2.5 7.8 32.3%

RJ Jazul

2.1 6.6 32.2%

Rudy Lingganay

1.3 3.9 32%

Sunday Salvacion

3.1 9.6 31.9%

Ronald Tubid

2.1 6.6 31.9%

Gary David

1.9 5.8 31.9%

Jay Washington

1.6 5 31.5%

Mark Macapagal

2.6 8.2 31.3%

Emman Monfort

1.6 5 31.1%

LA Tenorio

1.5 5 30.8%

Wynne Arboleda

1.3 4.3 30.5%

Willie Miller

1.7 5.5 30.5%

TY Tang

1.5 4.8 30.2%

James Yap

1.4 4.8 30%

Dennis Miranda

1.1 3.6 30%

Arizona Reid

1.6 5.5 29.9%

RR Garcia

1.7 5.7 29.6%

Forty-three players qualified. Most of the players on the list are correct (going by their reputation): Lee, Lassiter, Alapag, Maliksi, Castro, De Ocampo, Pennisi and Casio. Then there are some that make people scratch their heads (probably Arboleda and Cortez). I’m not here to talk about “gravity” score. Obviously, well-blanketed shooters like Paul Lee should be held in higher regard compared to someone like Arboleda. But outside Sports VU data (which is impossible), that’s impossible. This exercise is a useful proxy for all this.

Next, over the last three conferences, I isolated all the lineups in the league that played more than 20 minutes together. There were 106 lineups that came up. Then I computed the offensive efficiency of each lineup and summarized it for the number of credible 3PT shooters it had on the court.

The numbers are, surprisingly, not surprising.

# of shooters Points Scored per 100 Points Allowed per 100


111.8 101.3


103.4 99.0

When three or more shooters share the court, lineups score 111.8 points per 100. Meanwhile, when lineups feature at most two shooters, they score 103.4 points per 100. That’s an 8.4 point difference. Of course, those smaller teams are also “worse” defensively (2.2 points per 100 worse) but that’s a small give for the huge take you’re getting.

The point is…

Three-point shooting is still an important skill in the PBA. In fact, I think because of the rarity of good shooters (about 15% of the total population of players), I’d argue it’s more important. In fact, because teams are allowed to get imports who can dominate physically inside, shooters are placed in an even brighter spotlight. Lineups featuring at least three shooters have an eFG of 51.3% — significantly better than the league average eFG of 46%. That’s also a far cry from what lineups featuring two shooters or fewer score (47.9%). Size and length have a place defensively (that’s a study for another time), especially in a puny league such as ours. But shooting, especially three-point shooting, holds an even stronger place from an offensive standpoint.