CHRIS MOORE — Pro sports sacrifice fun for efficiency
Published 12:04 am Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Two weeks ago, the Golden State Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight seasons, cementing the legacy of the team’s best player Stephen Curry. The definite Hall of Famer and his team forever changed the way the game is played from a strategic standpoint.
The rise of the Warriors coincides with the age of advanced analytics. It doesn’t take a scientist to show that a three pointer is worth more than two. But teams realized that the midrange shot was way more inefficient. Math tells you to either shoot at the rim, where the chances of making it or being fouled are pretty high, or take the shot from further away that is worth 50 percent more. Here is an example of how the math can play out. Let’s say one team only shoots threes and one team only shoots twos. The team that only shoots threes only has to make them at a 40 percent rate while the two-pointer team would have to make their shots at a 60 percent clip.
That is what the NBA realized. In 2002, NBA teams took about 15 threes a game. This past season, teams averaged 35. Shot charts from 2010 show a wide distribution of shots from the three-point line, elbows and paint. Recent shot charts, which show where players are shooting from, show the mid-range shot has gone almost extinct due to its lack of efficiency.
The game has become more boring for this. All teams play the same style. You used to have teams with identities and those teams had specialties. In an era where we have more talent the NBA has ever seen, every team has opted to look like their opponent. I still enjoy watching it, but it is not like it was.
The NBA isn’t the only sport that has undergone drastic changes in the name of advanced data. Ask any MLB fan if the teams play like they did a decade ago. As recently as the 90s and early 2000s, guys where known for stealing bases and small ball was king. Hitting coaches taught players to just get the ball in play and get as many on base as possible. Now, data has told teams that it is more efficient to just swing for the fences during every at-bat. Once again, team identities are sacrificed for efficiency.
This has been slower in the NFL, but it has shown up in some spots with coaches willing to go against the fear of being ridiculed. I am actually in favor of some of what the data shows for NFL teams. I think more teams should go for it on fourth down and I think more teams should go for two after a touchdown. Then again, maybe I just think that until every team is playing like each other.
Chris Moore is the sports editor for Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.