Random Stat: Streak Shooting
Q: Who has the best / most improved FG %age after a previous make? After a previous miss?
A: Ah, the "hot hand" theory rises again. There was a paper written a number of years ago, which I must confess to not having read, that looked at the idea of does streak shooting exist.
Fans, players and coaches alike love to speak of a game where a player "couldn't miss" or was "in a zone" and often throw out the cliched "the hoop looked like a hula hoop" kind of comment. Logically though you might assume the opposite is true -- that when a player has just made a basket, he might be more comfortable jacking up a shot, and frequently perhaps an ill advised one, whereas a player who has been cold from the field might pass up tough shots and wait for the easier high percentage opportunity.
Let's stop the theorizing though and head to the actual data!
League Wide Streak Shooting (05-06 season to April 10th)
We're talking a lot of shots here on a league wide basis so it's pretty clear that on the whole players shoot a better field goal percentage following a missed shot then a made one. Ah, but since the players on a "make streak" get to the line more often and commit slightly fewer turnovers, it turns out that there is almost no difference at all on a "per possession" basis.
In other words when you consider the full complexity of the issue -- a player who just made a basket will probably be played tighter defensively thereby getting more free throws and lower FG% -- the idea that "overconfidence abounds" or "cautiousness reigns" seems dubious.
One note we should point out is that the first shot of a game for a player is the "0" streak, and since the star players only shoot a fraction of their shots in this state, it's not a surprise that the league as a whole doesn't do great at the get-go since you're also including a high proportion of shots from reserves.
Now we didn't adjust for quality of defense which might be deemed to have an effect (you make more shots against poor defensive teams, miss more against good defensive teams, therefore you are more often on a good streak against bad defenses and vice versa) but what we really want to know is are there any specific players who are genuine "microwaves" and vice versa the unconscionable players who keep shooting even when they are missing time and again.
Yet even the above looks are a bit unsatisfying since it's hard to really think one made or missed shot is a streak. If we push the streak requirement further, we admittedly slice the sample size considerably on a one season look, but here's that take:
After 3+ Misses
So Richard Hamilton makes the next shot count when he's suffering through an in game "slump" with three straight misses. If you use points per possession instead of straight field goal shooting, then it's MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki who emerges as the "most unstoppable" after missing three in a row.
Since making three in a row is pretty rare even for the great ones (Kobe's gone on a 3+ streak 169 times, LeBron 166 times) we'll reduce it to 2+ makes in a row:
After 2+ Makes
It's an oddity that we have all these point guards at the bottom, but given Shaq has a great field goal percentage under almost any circumstance, along with lousy free throws, he doesn't warrant streak status. Instead, reverting again to the points per possession measure after hitting two plus buckets in a row, our vote for best Vinnie Johnson imitation goes to Josh Childress, followed by Jameer Nelson and Kyle Korver.
For more on "Hot Hands" and streaks see Alan Reifman's site dedicated to the subject at http://www.hs.ttu.edu/hdfs3390/hothand.htm.
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