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To Three or Not to Three: That is the Question

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To Three or Not to Three: That is the Question

When Joe B. Hall was the basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, they used to say that he could never run a security firm because he wouldn't let his guards shoot! I know some coaches like that now. Hall had some effective big men and wanted to go inside. Having an inside attack is important to any offense, and the ability to put pressure on the defense by getting to the free throw line is necessary. Bobby Knight always stressed making more free throws than the opponent shoots. If you're shooting all perimeter shots without getting fouled, you're missing out on great opportunities. Shooting from the perimeter is widely thought of as a lower percentage shot, but behind the three-point arc, it's also worth more.

Being efficient with your shots is very important. A great way of measuring the concept of shooting efficiency that is used by many NBA teams and was popularized by Mike Dunleavey, a former NBA player and now a coach, is called Effective Field-Goal Percentage (eFG%). It adjusts for the added value of three-pointers. For example, if a team takes twelve two-point shots and makes fifty percent (six shots), they will get twelve points. If another team takes twelve three-point shots, they will only need to make four shots (thirty-three percent) to get the same twelve points. So, by counting them as 1.5 field goals, this system makes it more fair to three-point shooters than field-goal percentage does. [eFG% = (FGM + .5 x 3PM)/FGA]

Players need to find their range. Some shooters simply have not developed their shot to the point where a three-point shot is suggested. If a player has to alter his shooting form to get enough power into the shot at that distance, it certainly is too far to shoot from there.

Players also need to assess their proficiency. Start from close to the basket and shoot several shots. Chart how many are made and missed. Move back a couple of steps and shoot the same number of shots. Continue doing this until the player reaches a point where he cannot shoot without changing his shooting mechanics. Do this over several shooting sessions and the player will see at what point his shooting percentage begins to drop substantially. That should be his shooting range.

You always want good shooters to take open shots. There is a huge difference in shooting percentage (generally over a 40% difference) between wide-open shots and heavily-contested shots.

I suppose that the answer is available strictly in numbers. Evaluate the percentages and IF you have a good Effective Field Goal Percentage and if you are still making enough trips to the free throw line, then start shooting!



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