Friday, January 4, 2013

Defending the Free Throw

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about foul shooting and luck. The discussion has been about the luck the shooter has during a foul shot. This is very controversial, because we as humans like to believe we are in full control  over everything. However, I don't think anyone would dispute the luck involved in foul shooting for the "defense". Using the word defense for a FREE throw by definition doesn't make sense. The defense simply watches while the opposition shoots.

St. Mary's is 11-3 this year, most recently with a comeback win over Harvard at home. They have shot the ball extremely well this season (4th in eFG%), but have also let their opponent's shoot well. The Gaels are 326th in defensive 3P% and 320th in defensive FT%. There has been much talk about opponent's 3P% being misleading and a lottery, but the same obviously goes for FT%. 

The following are graph of St. Mary's 13 D1 games this season. The graphs plots their opponent's 3P% and FT% in the game against St. Mary's relative to their season averages (average % - St. Mary's game %). Basically, if a data point is above the x-axis that means the Gaels were lucky in their game and if a data point is below the x-axis that means the Gaels were unlucky.

St. Mary's luck (or lack thereof) has very likely just been due to random variation. I would bet that their defense will improve by the end of the season simply from regression to the mean. Still, I came up with three ideas (I'm sure there are more) that would possibly affect opponent's FT%:

1) Tempo/Fatigue - It's possible a team could play at a level of speed or physicality high enough to influence their opponent's ability to shoot. 

2) Location/Game Environment - Crowd, travel, familiarity, etc. could all lead to bad shooting.

3) Player Being Fouled - Guards generally shoot better than big guys. If a defense had guards who were foul-prone, it's safe to say teams would shoot better from the line.

Next Up: Teams expected to gain from unlucky shooting

No comments:

Post a Comment