The Impact Of Foul Generation On 3pt Shooting Efficiency

Sunburn

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Take two players. We’ll call them player X and player Y. These two players shoot the exact same 3 point percentage. So, what if I told you player X’s three point attempts are worth significantly more points than player Y’s? How is this possible?


What is the most valuable shot attempt in basketball? A wide open dunk, right? You can’t beat an automatic two points, can you? Surprisingly, you can. The most valuable shot attempt is a 3 point field goal where a foul is called. On average, it scores more than 2 points per attempt. The exact value is player specific, and dependent upon the player’s free throw percentage. However, as long as a player shoots above 67% at the line, this rule holds. (For simplicity, I am treating instances of a foul on a made 3pt shot as neglibible).


In the NBA, a foul is called on a 3pt attempt approximately 1.7% of the time. However, some players have a greater rate at which they draw fouls on these shots. This is not by accident. A player can use techniques such as the sweep through, step-back, and dribble pull-up to increase the likelihood of a foul being called. These foul generation techniques can have a significant impact on the value of the shot attempt.


The most obvious case study for this is James Harden. I’ll use his 2018-2019 statistics. In this season, Harden shot 36.8% on 13.2 3pt attempts per game. The league average for 3pt shooting that year was 35.5%. So, Harden shot 1.3% above the league average for the season. However, Harden used foul generation techniques to get a whistle at a rate of approximately 11.5% on his 3pt attempts. This substantially increased the value of the attempts.


So how much value did this foul rate add? In 2018-2019, Harden attempted 1,028 3pt field goals. A foul rate of 11.5% comes out to approximately 118 times Harden was sent to the line for a 3 shot foul. At the free throw line, Harden shot 87.9% on the season. That produced approximately 311 additional points. Of Harden’s 1,028 attempted 3pt field goals, he made 378 of them. That comes out to 1,134 points. Tacking on the additional 311 points produced from foul generation gives 1,445 total points created from his 3 point attempts. This is the equivalent of him shooting 46.9% from 3.


Now someone might say, “Well hey, shouldn’t the trips to the line be counted as shot attempts”. Ok, say we call those 118 fouls additional 3pt shot attempts. So his total comes to 1,146 3pt field goal attempts for the 2018-2019 season. 1,445 points on 1,146 attempts is still the equivalent of 42.0% 3pt shooting.


While maybe not aesthetically pleasing, foul generation on 3pt attempts can be a devastating weapon. The increase in efficiency brings into question one of the most basic tenets of basketball, that an open shot is better than a guarded one. As teams keep moving towards ever greater shot efficiency, I would expect these techniques to continue to be developed among players.
 
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Mainstreet

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I'm a big believer in not fouling 3-point shooters.

Don't get up on them close enough to get a foul and keep the arms straight up.

Most of the fouls on 3 point shooter results in a lot of needless points.
 
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Ouchie-Z-Clown

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Take two players. We’ll call them player X and player Y. These two players shoot the exact same 3 point percentage. So, what if I told you player X’s three point attempts are worth significantly more points than player Y’s? How is this possible?


What is the most valuable shot attempt in basketball? A wide open dunk, right? You can’t beat an automatic two points, can you? Surprisingly, you can. The most valuable shot attempt is a 3 point field goal where a foul is called. On average, it scores more than 2 points per attempt. The exact value is player specific, and dependent upon the player’s free throw percentage. However, as long as a player shoots above 67% at the line, this rule holds. (For simplicity, I am treating instances of a foul on a made 3pt shot as neglibible).


In the NBA, a foul is called on a 3pt attempt approximately 1.7% of the time. However, some players have a greater rate at which they draw fouls on these shots. This is not by accident. A player can use techniques such as the sweep through, step-back, and dribble pull-up to increase the likelihood of a foul being called. These foul generation techniques can have a significant impact on the value of the shot attempt.


The most obvious case study for this is James Harden. I’ll use his 2018-2019 statistics. In this season, Harden shot 36.8% on 13.2 3pt attempts per game. The league average for 3pt shooting that year was 35.5%. So, Harden shot 1.3% above the league average for the season. However, Harden used foul generation techniques to get a whistle at a rate of approximately 11.5% on his 3pt attempts. This substantially increased the value of the attempts.


So how much value did this foul rate add? In 2018-2019, Harden attempted 1,028 3pt field goals. A foul rate of 11.5% comes out to approximately 118 times Harden was sent to the line for a 3 shot foul. At the free throw line, Harden shot 87.9% on the season. That produced approximately 311 additional points. Of Harden’s 1,028 attempted 3pt field goals, he made 378 of them. That comes out to 1,134 points. Tacking on the additional 311 points produced from foul generation gives 1,445 total points created from his 3 point attempts. This is the equivalent of him shooting 46.9% from 3.


Now someone might say, “Well hey, shouldn’t the trips to the line be counted as shot attempts”. Ok, say we call those 118 fouls additional 3pt shot attempts. So his total comes to 1,146 3pt field goal attempts for the 2018-2019 season. 1,445 points on 1,146 attempts is still the equivalent of 42.0% 3pt shooting.


While maybe not aesthetically pleasing, foul generation on 3pt attempts can be a devastating weapon. As teams keep moving towards ever greater shot efficiency, I would expect these techniques to continue to be developed among players.
Pretty convincing analysis. I wonder how much this is recognized by teams.
 
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