Half-court heaves: A follow up on pre-season curiosity

It’s that time of the season where I’ll be following up on posts I made three to four months ago, most likely relating to predictions or curiosity about a player or team. For example, a few days ago I looked at Josh Smith’s shot selection that I was fine with in November but now fascinated by how badly it could regress. Today I’ll go even further with low-percentage shots, following up with pre-season curiosity about how players would approach buzzer-beating half-court shots in a time when efficiency is as important as ever.

With the way the heaves are counted in the stats, they create a unique conflict between a team and the player holding the ball during the final seconds of a quarter. Taking those shots with the clock winding down would obviously be efficient from a team’s standpoint. The opposition is never getting the ball back so it’s a chance for a free three points, points a team is rewarded with about 2.3 percent of the time (more on that soon). That percentage, however, has made some players hesitant to take those shots because of the harm to their individual shooting numbers.

Fast forward to now and this season’s heave total is actually on pace to match 2013’s, give or take a few attempts. Below is a season-by-season tally according to Basketball-Reference that dates back to when they first charted shots. Only attempts taken from 47 feet and beyond were accounted for, though I thought about 45 before staying literal with heaves beyond half court.

Since the league only needs five more made heaves to break the record set in 2010, I just might have to update (or not) whenever one goes in. Below are the eight players who have made shots so far.

Though my calculations might be off, to reach an effective field goal percentage of .500 we’d need one of the following two to happen:

  1. 1,562 of those 4,686 total heaves would have to go in. This is where Stephen Curry becomes useful.
  2. The actual 110 that went in would have to be worth about 42.5 points each. 2014’s “heater” took a sliver off their possible value. Coming into the season, they would’ve been worth closer to 43. Whatever. This is where Curry would become VERY useful. Jamal Crawford, too.

In the first post about the heaves, I wrote that the impact of those shots to a player’s shooting stats isn’t as big of a deal as they might think and both past and current all-stars like Jason Kidd, Ray Allen, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant all have taken over 30 career heaves from beyond half court (all the cool kids are doing it!). Unfortunately, that alone likely wouldn’t encourage more shots. A better chance would be implementing a rule that treats heaves like how baseball treats sacrifice bunts and flies. If the shots go in they’ll count and if they miss it’s absent from the stat sheet.

Regardless, now that the season’s over halfway done we can look at how heaves have affected three-point percentages so far. Below is a table featuring every player who has taken three or more shots from half court and beyond.

Most players’ three-point percentages change by less than one point and each team still has 30 or more games to go, so there’s plenty of time for the impact of heaves to look even smaller.

Lance Stephenson arguably has the most at stake, though, as he hangs around league-average three-point shooting while on an expiring contract. Reggie Jackson (who leads the league in heaves this season with seven) and Alec Burks are other players to watch, but a few missed buzzer-beaters shouldn’t matter for others. Guys like Andre Miller (the most notorious heaver with over 100 career attempts) and Tyreke Evans, for example, aren’t known for their range. Their percentage from 50 feet out is roughly the same from 25, well almost. Looking at the table, Tony Wroten‘s actually a close call.

Those who are the most negatively affected by heaves are probably sports bettors who have the under on a point total and fantasy basketball owners of players who take last-second shots. A fantasy team with Evans, Miller, and Burks might have to punt three-pointers and maybe even points, though the latter wouldn’t be the case if half-court heaves were worth over 40 points.

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2 thoughts on “Half-court heaves: A follow up on pre-season curiosity

  1. […] A follow up that post can be found here. […]

  2. […] (currently 331) are on pace to top 2013’s total of 361. It’s a positive sign since heaves rarely ever affect individual stats by a season’s end and never accounted for more than one percent of all attempted threes […]

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