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The Sweet Spot in any offense

Welcome back to join me on my the quest for THE ultimate analytics cypher that has the biggest impact on winning games. Can analytics make you win games? I say YES!

In my previous article I showed how the effective field goal percentage eFG% (*) has the best correlation to winning. In this next step, I want to identify which specific shots seperate winning from losing teams. And understand why it is.

Identifying the Sweet Spot

Some teams win games because they’re shooting exceptionally well from 3, some will dominate the inside game and others still excell in the midrange game. But not only the value of a make is important. The exact location on the court has an impact on the spacing and thus the length of the close-outs for the defense.

We’re looking for the relation between the use of a certain type of shot and the eFG%. Because of the reasons mentioned above, the outcome for nearly all shot types is pretty random. Except for one shot location on the court. The CORNER THREE!

Below you see the relation between the eFG% and “C3M/FGA“, which is the number of corner threes made over the total number of field goals. In this case study I focused on the ’19-’20 Euroleague season:

eFG% = effective field goal percentage
C3M / FGA = number of corner threes made / all field goals

Interpretation

Let’s analyze that diagram step by step.

First of all, you recognize two blind spots: upper left and down right.
It basically means that no teams are shooting well without using the corner three often. Neither are there teams that are efficient from the corners, which combine for a low eFG%.

Secondly, the two red lines on the graph will facilitate our interpretation. Teams on the right side of the vertical treshold line score more than 3 corner threes for every 100 field goals. On the right side of the line, most teams end up with an eFG% above 55%, while on the left side most teams are below this mark.

The conclusion in 1 sentence? 👇

❗️ ❗️ BIG disclaimer: this ’19-’20 Euroleague season is a rather small sample size. In a later stage I will share results of bigger data sets.

The existence of this sweet spot transcends playing styles, pace, alignment (5-out, 4-out 1-in, …), roster balance and playbooks! Can you feel my excitement?!

And, of course, there are outliers (**).

Now what?

So what’s the solution now? Fill the corners and shoot as many threes as we can? Only select setplays for our playbook with an option for a corner shot? NO!

This is where analytical breakdowns end too often in my humble opinion. If this is where analtyics stops, it is critisised with reason by coaches as being useless. This analysis so far has been just an observation. Now we have to understand better what’s going and connect the dots with the X’s and O’s on the court.

Keep in mind that analytics is a TOOL. Nothing more, but for sure nothing less! Basketball is not mathematics. But combining things can give you a clear edge on your opponents.

Looking at the results above, Real Madrid is the team most succesfully exploiting the corner three. For my next article, I analyzed all of their 162 corner three attempts. Over and over again. They made 73 of them (45%).

What if I told you that I can exactly define the type of corner threes which they scored at 64%?

STAY TUNED! I will share all details in my next article.

(*) eFG% = effective field goal percentage, an adjusted field goal percentage that takes into account the fact that a three-pointer is worth an extra point
(**) With clearly the highest eFG% of the league, EFES doesn’t use the corner three a lot. Without going into too many details, EFES is the only team in the Euroleague to shoot +40% from three from both wing spots. At a very high volume. On the other hand, CSKA’s excellent use of the corner three is compensated by being one of the worst finishers in the paint.

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Recently I did a podcast with Chris Oliver of Basketball Immersion.