The Risk of The 3-Point Shot

As more and more teams are increasing the number of threes they attempt based on some misplaced logical fallacy that this somehow leads to an efficient offense, we show below that it is in fact in a team’s opponent’s interest for a team to attempt as many three point shots as possible.

Looking at this season’s data, let us examine two things. The first thing is the number of points a team’s opponent is expected to score for every three-point shot the other team attempts. We discovered that remarkably, the number of points obeys a lognormal distribution:

\boxed{P(X) = \frac{2.86089 e^{-25.713 (\log (X)-1.3119)^2}}{X}}

This means that for every three point shot your team attempts, the opposing team is expected to score

\boxed{\int X P(X) dX = 1.87475\, -1.87475 \text{erf}(6.75099\, -5.0708 \log (X))}

which comes out to about 3.7495 points. So, for every 3PA by a team, the opponent is expected to score more than 3 points based on the most recent NBA data. Keeping that in mind, we see also by integrating P(x) above that there is a 99.99% probability that the opponent will score more than 2 points for every 3PA by a team, and a 93.693% probability that the opponent will score more than 3 points for every single 3PA by the other team.

This would suggest a significant breakdown of defensive emphasis in the “modern-day” NBA where evidently teams are just interested in playing shot-for-shot basketball, but in a very risky way that is not optimal.

The work so far covered just three-point attempts, but, what are the effects of missing a three-point shot? The number of opponent points per a three-point miss also remarkably obeys a lognormal distribution:

\boxed{P(X) = \frac{2.81227 e^{-24.8464 (\log (X)-1.7605)^2}}{X}}

Therefore, for every three-point shot your team misses, the opposing team is expected to score:

\boxed{\int X P(X) dX = 2.93707\, -2.93707 \text{erf}(8.87571\, -4.98461 \log (X))}

which comes out to about 5.87345 points. This identifies a remarkable risk to a team missing a three-point shot. This computation shows that one three-point shot miss corresponds to about 6 points for the opposing team! Looking at probabilities by integrating the density function above, one can show that there is a 99.9999% probability that the opposing team would score more than two points for every three-point miss, a 99.998% probability that the opposing team would score more than three points for every three-point miss, a 99.583% probability that the opposing team would score more than four points for every three-point miss, and so on.

What these calculations demonstrate is that gearing a team’s offense to focus on attempting three-point shots is remarkably risky, especially if a team misses a three-point shot. Given that the average number of three-point attempts is increasing over the last number of years, but the average number of makes has relatively stayed the same (See this older article here: https://relativitydigest.com/2016/05/26/the-three-point-shot-myth-continued/), teams are exposing themselves to greater and greater risk of losing games by adopting this style of play.

 

 

 

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