NBA 2K16: The Contested Shot Conundrum (Part 1)
Submitted on: 01/21/2016 by Chase Becotte
“The NBA is a make or miss league,” said every NBA head coach ever. The drive-and-kick-pick-and-roll world that we now live in is what the NBA is about in 2016. To beat a lot of the best defenses, you have to get them moving side to side, run multiple side pick-and-roll actions, and just hope that rapid ball movement can get you a semi-open look.
In a lot of cases, you’re hoping the ball moves quicker than the defense, or you’re hoping there’s just a single breakdown in the help rotations. Other times you’re hoping the gravity of a great shooter like a Redick or the general greatness of someone like a Curry can bend the defense to give you an easy backdoor cut for a screener or skip pass to an open shooter on the opposite wing.
Oh, and obviously the open corner 3 is still a magical paradise of efficiency.
The point is, even when you do all of these things, it still comes down to making or missing the shot. In many cases, this still means making a semi-contested shot.
The explosion of information made available to the public via SportVU on NBA.com’s stats page has been a nice little toy to mess with for NBA fans these last couple years. While we don’t have every piece of data, we (the public) do have enough to make some general observations. As a video game player and NBA fan, this means I have an extra data set as well: NBA 2K16.
With that in mind, after the jump I’ll be talking about contested and uncontested shots from behind the 3-point line. It’s been a major talking point these last couple years when it comes to NBA 2K. Whether it was the “green release” patch four from last year that made jumpers too easy, or just the general discussion around the frequency with which contested shots do or do not go in the basket, people have a lot of strong opinions on this topic. I have an opinion on this topic as well. However, in the first part of this series, I simply want to outline the data and give you all a chance to provide feedback.
So after the jump, I’ll detail some of the data points I’m working off of to put this article together, and let the numbers mostly speak for themselves from there. Then when I release part two, I’ll dig more into my thoughts on the topic contested shots and discuss it from the perspective of a NBA 2K16 player.
Before diving into a discussion about contested jumpers and open jumpers, I have to define the data. On NBA.com, the shots are split up into 0-2 feet of space from closest defender, 2-4 feet from closest defender, 4-6 feet from closest defender, and 6-plus feet from closest defender. I will show the NBA 2K equivalent of these defender ranges via GIFs. I will also define the data I’m using, which will be a mixture of 2015-2016 team stats, 2012-2013 team stats, and 2015-2016 individual stats. I’ll use 2012-2013 team stats (at the end of this article) because that’s a full year of data, and of course I’m using the other two '15-16 data sets because they are the most current (though obviously the sample sizes are smaller for those).
From a NBA 2K16 perspective, my data is based on personal play sessions in online environments. I am basing it on Play Now Online ranked games, as well as Custom Matches where the difficulty setting is either at the All-Star or Hall of Fame level. Obviously my data is not as scientific, but without access to metrics the NBA 2K16 developers presumably possess, it’s the best I can do.
0-2 Feet - Very Tight
(One more note as we get into this: All measurements are based on distance from closest defender’s body. So it’s 0-2 feet between the defender’s body and the ball handler’s body. SportVU is not tracking limbs like arms and so on when doing these measurements.)
This type of defense more or less means you are not getting a 3-point shot off in the NBA. So far this season, NBA teams average just .5 shots per game from behind the 3-point line while coping with this type of defense.
The “very tight” 3-point shot type results in a made bucket 23 percent of the time so far this season.
Steph Curry, the most tightly guarded player in the NBA, shoots this type of shot .5 times per game (the most in the NBA this season) and makes it 30 percent of the time (he is normally a 45 percent 3-point shooter). This type of shot accounts for 2.6 percent of his 3-point attempts. Simply put, unless all else fails, even Steph is not shooting this shot with so little space.
From a NBA 2K16 perspective, the fadeaway shot animation that occurs with these shot types is a good indication that it has taken place. Also if the defender physically has an arm on you, that’s another good sign it’s occurred. This shot does not go in more than 10 percent of the time in the online settings I’ve experienced.
Question for the community: How often do you think this shot goes in right now?
NBA = Made shot 23 percent of the time
NBA 2K16 = Made shot roughly 10 percent of the time
2-4 Feet - Tight
(Reminder: Again, take note that 2-4 feet means from body of defender to body of ball handler. The arms are not taken into account, so this is still a very well defended shot when you account for the defender having his hands up to contest.)
The “tightly” contested 3-point shot is taken on average about four times per game by each NBA squad. The Lakers take this shot close to eight times a game (a team with Nick Young, Kobe Bryant and Lou Williams will do that to you), while the Grizzlies take this type of shot under two times per game.
The “tight” 3-point shot type results in a made bucket 29 percent of the time so far this season.
James Harden takes this shot 3.1 times per game and makes it 38 percent of the time. He leads the league in 3-point attempts per game while being defended like this. This shot type accounts for 16 percent of his 3-point attempts this season, and right now he shoots five percent better on these shot types than he does from 3-point land overall (33 percent).
Couple other players:
-Damian Lillard takes this type of shot two times per game, and his shooting percentage drops from 38 percent down to 29 percent.
-Steph Curry takes this shot nearly three times per game, and his shooting percentage drops from 45 percent down to 40 percent.
-Paul George takes this shot two times per game, and his shooting percentage drops from 38 percent to 24 percent.
From a NBA 2K16 perspective, I could argue this shot type occurs more than four times per game for each team. In a Play Now Online game with five-minute quarters, I’m certainly usually going to take over four of these per game, so extrapolate that over 12-minute quarters and it’s well over double that amount.
Question for the community: I’m interested to hear how often you folks think this shot goes in, and also how often you take this shot in a game. If the NBA shot average on this shot type is 29 percent, I’m putting it at just about 17 percent in a game of NBA 2K16 based on my findings.
NBA = Made shot 29 percent of the time
NBA 2K16 = Made shot 17 percent of the time (roughly 1 in 6 tries)
4-6 Feet - Open
The “open” 3-point shot is the most common 3-point shot type in the NBA this season. On average, a NBA team takes 10 of these shots per game. The Rockets lead the league in this shot type, averaging 12.5 attempts per game. The Bucks take the fewest number of these shots at 6.6 per game. The Bucks number is a little surprising as there is little spacing on the team, so I would think that would invite “open” 3-point shots. Then again, due to a lack of shooters maybe that means defenses either focus on Middleton, or the Bucks players simply won’t shoot even open 3-pointers unless they have to.
The “open” 3-point shot is converted 34 percent of the time this season.
For as much defensive focus as there is on Steph Curry, he still leads the league in “open” 3-point shots at 4.6 per game; he converts on 46 percent of these "open" shots. This also accounts for just about 25 percent of his 3-point attempts on the season.
Couple other players:
-Damian Lillard takes 4.1 of these shots per game and converts on 39 percent of them. His 3-point percentage overall is 38 percent.
-Paul George takes 3.4 of these per game and converts on 44 percent of them. His 3-point percentage overall is 38 percent.
-J.J. Redick takes 2.4 of these per game and converts on 54 percent of them. His 3-point percentage overall is 50 percent(!).
-Omri Casspi takes 1.3 of these per game and converts on 49 percent of them. His 3-point percentage overall is 47 percent. I also bring up someone like Casspi to highlight that he will not take a 3-point shot unless it considered “open” or “wide open” via SportVU. This is just an example of a role player knowing when he should or should not be shooting.
In my personal experience, I would say this shot type is the second-most common 3-point shot behind the “tight” coverage. However, I don’t believe there are 20 3-point attempts of this kind in a regular NBA 2K16 game. In part, this may be because people change their Points of Emphasis to “Limit Perimeter” more often, or because they change individual assignments and ignore team-defense concepts. In other words, many NBA 2K online games feel more like playoff games where coaches are making more individual tweaks to coverage than they would during the regular season.
Question for the community: As usual, I’m interested to hear how often you folks think this shot goes in, and also how often you take this shot in a game. If the NBA shot average on this shot type is 34 percent, I’m putting it at just about 30 percent in a game of NBA 2K16 based on my findings.
NBA = Made shot 34 percent of the time
NBA 2K16 = Made shot 30 percent of the time
6-Plus Feet - Wide Open
(Not including a GIF here as this one explains itself)
NBA teams take the “wide open” 3-point shot type nine times per game this year. It is the second-most common 3-pointer. The Hawks take nearly 16 of these shots per game, which makes sense based on their ball movement and spacing. Again, the Bucks are at the bottom of this list as they take just five of these attempts per game.
The “wide open” 3-point shot is being converted 38 percent of the time this season.
Kevin Love leads the league in “wide open” 3-point shots per game at 3.1. He converts on 37 percent of these 3-point shots. His 3-point percentage overall is 36 percent. These “wide open” shots also account for 24 percent of his 3-point opportunities.
Couple other players:
-Evan Fournier takes 2.9 of these per game and converts on 46 percent. His 3-point percentage overall is 38 percent.
-Gordon Hayward takes 2.1 of these per game and converts on 47 percent. His 3-point percentage overall is 37 percent.
-Kent Bazemore takes 2.7 of these per game and converts on 40 percent. His 3-point percentage overall is 42 percent.
I would not say folks are getting 18 “wide open” 3-point shots off per game when factoring in both squads; I would put the number closer to 14. In part, this is based on how a team defends the point of attack in the pick and roll. If you’re getting into the teeth of the defense, then corner and wing 3-point shots can be had in bunches (assuming the other team hasn’t set the defense to still “deny” corner 3s even when the inside has been compromised. In addition, there are fewer passes per possession in a NBA 2K16 game than there is in, say, a regular Hawks possession in real life so raw ball movement leading to open shots is a little less common.
Question for the community: As usual, I’m interested to hear how often you folks think this shot goes in, and also how often you take this shot in a game. If the NBA shot average on this shot type is 38 percent, I’m putting it at just about 35 percent in a game of NBA 2K16 based on my findings.
NBA = Made shot 38 percent of the time
NBA 2K16 = made shot 35 percent of the time
So there’s the data, hope you guys enjoyed reading through this and hope this generates some discussion and feedback.
One more thing I want to note comes via Nylon Calculus and one of their looks back at the 2013-2014 numbers in the NBA. After looking at all 3-point shot attempts, they pointed out that roughly every two feet of space was worth 5 percent more 3-point field-goal percentage. For example, going from 0-2 feet to 2-4 feet of space from closest defender was worth 5 percent more makes.
This mostly coincides with the same data I just went through above based on the current season. In other words, thinking about the "five percent rule" is a good way to sum up the quality of looks and chance they will go in on average.
In addition, I want to be clear that there are still a ton of variables that are not accounted for here. I'm not splitting this up based on catch-and-shoot 3s vs. off the dribble 3s or catch-and-hold 3s. I'm not taking into account NBA 2K badges. I'm not taking into account how different myPark can be from Online Ranked. As I said, I was focused on Online Play Now and Online games based on All-Star or Hall of Fame difficulty.
Regardless, I hope this is a helpful launching off point for further discussion on the contested vs. uncontested shot topic.
In Part 2 of this feature, I’ll dig more into the video game aspects of this topic. I’ll also talk about the separation between video games and real life, and how that impacts this discussion as well.