Shane Battier: I Call Bull

There's a pretty interesting truehoop article today, with an interview from Shane Battier:

"Even the heave is a plus-play. But unfortunately we're not judged on the plus-plays. We're judged on (shooting) percentages. I think they should take the heave out of the stat book. It's common sense." 

Sorry, Shane, but I'm going to call bull**** here. There are a couple of things I think sound suspicious:

  • Shooting percentage doesn't actually get you paid. Just ask Michael Beasley, or conversely, Brandon Rush. Points per Game gets you paid. Rebounding or 3-point shooting might get you a "roleplayer" job, but if you want to cash the big checks, scoring total points is what really matters. In fact, most of the players that fans consider "elite" have a thouroughly average FG%
  • If players cared this much about shooting percentages, they wouldn't take bad shots within the flow of the offense. Yet many players do, and very frequently.

Why do so many players shoot fadeaway jumbers with two (or three...or four) guys guarding them? Often earlier in the shot clock then necessary? Because IT'S FUN and because YOU LOOK LIKE A HERO when you make them. And of course, because points per game gets you paid.

If players cared that much about shooting percentages they wouldn't do this.

Let's consider some simple math:

  • the league average eFG% on "shit shots" (shots from 16-23 feet) is 38%
  • the league average eFG% on all other shots (meaning it is adjusted for threes) is 50.8%
  • let's imagine two average-level players. Player A shoots 10 shots but never takes "shit shots". Player B shoots 5 shit shots and 5 normal shots
  • Over those ten shots, Player A's efG% is 50.8, player B's is 44.4%
  • Now imagine Player C, who shoots 5 non-shit shots, and heaves one full court shot, and let's give him 2% eFG on that shot. Player C's eFG% is 42.6%. Although if players are "practicing this all the time," as Battier claims, maybe the eFG% on this shot is more like 5%?

In other words, shooting 5 shit shots has nearly the same effect on your eFG% as one full court heave. Now let's consider that it's fairly unlikely that a player will have an opportunity to do more than one heave every 2-3 games (it requires your team getting the ball with only a couple of seconds left, AND you being the player that's inbounded to. Even if each thing on its own is not that infrequent, the parley of those two conditions is very infrequent).

Now, here's a list of guys that average more than 5 "shit shots" per 40 minutes (according to Hoopdata). It's an interesting mix of both "star" and "role" players.

Luke Zeller, Grant Hill, Perry Jones, Tyrus Thomas, Kent Bazemore, Charles Jenkins, Jason Smith, Richard Hamilton, LaMarcus Aldridge, James Anderson, John Wall, Luis Scola, Jeff Pendergraph, Josh Selby, Darrell Arthur, Travis Outlaw, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Murphy, Khris Middleton, Dante Cunningham, Al Jefferson, Brian Roberts, Beno Udrih, Cory Higgins, Monta Ellis, Jeremy Tyler, Jon Leuer, Tim Duncan, J.R. Smith, Bradley Beal, Gerald Henderson, Samardo Samuels, Andrea Bargnani, Ben Gordon, Dominic McGuire, Marreese Speights, Mike Scott, Andrew Nicholson, Dirk Nowitzki, Earl Barron, DeMarcus Cousins, Miles Plumlee, Spencer Hawes, Chris Kaman, Michael Beasley, Serge Ibaka, DeMar DeRozan, Kobe Bryant, Quincy Miller, Stephen Curry, Chris Bosh, Earl Clark, Raymond Felton, Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Carmelo Anthony, Glen Davis, Jordan Crawford, Kevin Seraphin, Tony Parker, Brandon Bass, and Shannon Brown.

That's a lot of players that could increase their eFG% by a few points by simply taking one or two fewer shit shots. They could increase it even more by replacing those shots with an extra shot at the rim instead. That certainly seems like a better strategy than simply refusing to heave hail mary shots, doesn't it?