Corner Stats – Playing time

Corner Stats – Playing time

In the new Corner Stats, let's analyze the playing time and how it influence the Pace.

Welcome back to Corner Stats! This new article comes out from the comments under the previous ones: an Italian user asked me if it was possible to understand how the teams take advantage of the time available on one side and how to try to “steal” from the opponents on the other. Interesting analysis, but only possible in the NBA where some useful data are available. Let’s find out which ones.

On the NBA site, the attempted shots (and allowed) are available with different meters of comparison: we can visualize them according to the distance from the basket, position and also to the time of the shot clock. The subdivision is made in the following way:

  • 24-22 seconds remaining: start of action (the attempted shots after an offensive rebound fall in this range and also those rare shots made in the last seconds of the periods by own half court);
  • 22-18 seconds remaining: shots taken very early (usually after an offensive rebound);
  • 18-15 seconds remaining: shots taken early;
  • 15-7 seconds remaining: the most common shots taken;
  • 7-4 seconds remaining: late shots;
  • 4-0 seconds remaining: very late shots;

Therefore, this subdivision allows to analyze the shots distribution within 24″; obviously this division is also available for opponents. Thanks to these data we can analyze how the time is used by the various teams. We have to keep in mind that in this analysis lost balls are not considered (this type of division is not available for turnovers) and there will be, as already mentioned, an influence of shots taken immediately after an offensive rebound. For the lost balls, we can accept the fact that they have a time distribution similar to the shots: a team that shots more in a precise time range will lose the largest amount of balls in the same range. Rebounds instead affect more the first two time ranges (24-22 and 22-18): those ranges, as we will see, they are very similar for all the teams, so we can say that the rebounds affect equally all teams and, therefore, do not generate differences among the teams.

So let’s start with a graph showing the shots distribution of each team:

As you can see, in most cases the teams shot in the range between 15″ and 7″; there are teams that attempt more shots in the first part of the action and others that shot more towards the conclusion of the same. The next step is to convey all these data into a single number: to make it, a weighted average based on the attempted shots can help us. The average time of each shooting range is taken (22″ for the first, 20″ for the second, 16.5″ for the third, 11″ for the fourth, 5.5″ for the fifth and 2″ for the last) and it is weighed on the shots attempted by each team.
By doing this operation both on the shots taken and on those allowed, the average shooting time of the offensive and defensive actions are obtained. Considering that the lost balls will have similar distribution and that the rebounds affect all teams in the same way, we can state that the average shooting time coincides with the average playing time. I report the results in the following chart:

Let’s focus on the layout on the X-axis: on the left, we find teams like Golden State or the Pelicans, which we know are high Pace lovers. As we move to the right we find slower teams like San Antonio or Miami. In fact, crossing the average shooting time with the Pace of the various teams, the chart distribution confirms that the calculated values reflect the wishes of the teams:

The curve is practically a straight line that goes from the upper left corner to the opposite one. But there are some particular cases like Brooklyn and OKC. Let’s take them as a further point of analysis: the Nets have a medium-low average shooting time, but they have averaged a high Pace; instead, the Thunder shot early enough in the action (almost like the fastest teams like GS), but have a Pace close to the league average. In order to find a reason behind these, we have to go back to the previous chart and focus in this case on the Y-axis: the position of OKC tells us that their defense forced their opponents to late shots, while for Brooklyn they were early ones. In general, most of the teams remain around the average of the shooting time allowed: this implies that defensive efficiency is not greatly influenced by the shooting time allowed. Forcing opponents to shoot in the last seconds is synonymous of good defense, but the missed shots affect much more than the allowed shooting time.

However, this allowed time influences sometimes the Pace, such as the aforementioned Thunder or Nets:

Intersecting Pace with the allowed shooting time, the distribution of the teams is focused around the league average, and only the particular cases such as Thunders and the Nets deviate from it: they are particular teams that on the offensive side impose a specific Pace, while on the other they allow another one because of their defensive settings.

In conclusion, it can be said that Pace is more influenced by offensive shooting time; the defensive shooting time is usually in the 15″ – 7″ range, which does not affect the Pace. As we have seen, there are particular cases but are limited to a few numbers.

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