Disclaimer: I had designs of writing in depth about shot charts, shooting percentages, shooting volume, and contested vs. uncontested shots. Then I stumbled upon this article by Brian Martin on NBA.com, who does a great job of breaking down all the above. So if you're particularly interested in those topics, please give that article a look first. I will mainly be taking this opportunity to dive into other aspects of this shootout.
Five rack positions, with two corner positions, two wing positions, and one at the center. Five balls per rack. That's a total of 25 shots, and eight contestants will each have 60 seconds to (hopefully) launch all 25. The last ball of each rack is a 'money ball', worth two points instead of the usual one. In addition, contestants will pick one rack to be filled with money balls, at their discretion. A perfect score would be 34. There's a qualifying round, a final round (with the top two qualifiers), and tiebreakers, if necessary. All rounds share the same format.
BEEN HERE, DONE THAT
Stephen Curry has competed in this contest three times already (2010, 2013, 2014). I doubt the contest is boring for him, but don't expect him to have any nerves going into it. Instead, he's probably frustrated that he only made it to the final round once, in 2010, and probably plans on 'locking in'.
Kyrie Irving is next on the experience ladder, with two previous appearances (2013, 2014). He also won it all in 2013, and looks to reclaim the title, after a gap year.
Marco Belinelli is the last on the ladder, in the sense that the rest of the participants are off the ladder (rookies!). Belinelli is bowling a perfect 300, since he won it all the one year he participated (2014). He looks to continue his run, by winning it all two times in a row (and being only the second to do so alongside Jason Kapono).
RECENT SHOOTING FORM
Looking at season statistics is a great way of finding a player's hotspots and tendencies, but shooters can get hot or cold over the course of a quarter (ahem, Klay), a game, a week, a month, etc. Here I take a look at how the eight contestants have been shooting from deep in their last 5 games, and their last game.
|Last 5||Last Game|
Again, for more depth in shooting statistics please see Martin's article. Perhaps the most noteworthy is his examination of catch-and-shoot 3s and uncontested 3s. Korver leads both categories handily (by 7.8% and 10.6%...). Redick is 3rd and 2nd, respectively, and Klay is 2nd and 4th on those lists.
You'll often hear announcers and coaches talking about players not having their legs underneath them, especially on the end of back-to-backs. Tired shooters often find the front of the rim, or overcompensate and brick off the back iron. Kyrie Irving played the most recently, but is also at least three years younger than the rest of the field. All other competitors will have had two days rest. Since the beginning of February, here are the number of games played, total minutes, shots attempted, and age for each participant:
*J.J. Redick missed 3 games due to a bad back. He played a combined 68 minutes in the last two Clippers' games.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN RACKS AND BALL NUMBERS
Every five shots, the player is on the move, and probably moving quickly considering the time limit. This changes the nature of the first shot for all but the first corner position. As a result, the first shot from racks 2-5 more closely resembles game situations where the player rolls off a pick, as opposed to more of a catch-and-shoot scenario.
Some players may rush their 5th shot as a result of concentrating on getting to the next position. Then again, this is the money ball, so probably not.
There could be some nerves right out of the gates, and look for players who shoot more clutch shots to excel on the final rack, as the time ticks down.
THE MONEY BALL
This adds an interesting strategic element. Probably safe to assume that players will be aware of their shot charts, or at least their hot spots, and try to load up accordingly. What is the optimal placement for each player?
(Percentages from Martin's shot charts)
Belinelli will likely have his money rack waiting for him in the right corner (47%).
Curry's been especially lethal from the corners (52.9% and 55.0%), so we could see his money rack in either corner. He's probably not too concerned with finishing on time, considering the speed of his release.
Likewise for Harden (54.5% and 57.9%). Expect money balls in one of the corners.
Irving is the only participant who's the most accurate from the center (48.8%), so will be interesting to see if he is the only one to put his money there.
Korver has been shooting a surgical 67.5% from the right corner. Look for him to load up the final rack.
Matthews should favor the first rack (45.6%), and get his money balls out of the way early.
J.J.'s favorite spot is the right corner (52.6%) though don't be surprised if he decides on the right wing (46.7%)
Klay will probably join J.J. somewhere on the right side (51.3% corner, 47.0% wing).
With Adam Silver and David Stern both recently voicing optimism for the legalization of sports betting, this category seems especially apropos. As of Thursday night: