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Mathematical Model Suggests When to Shoot in Basketball

Last Updated: January 28, 2012.

Players should take their time, but not too long, study contends.

SATURDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- National Basketball Association players who have a tendency to hesitate too long before making shots may be missing scoring opportunities, according to a new mathematical model created by experts from the University of Minnesota.

The findings were published online this week in PLoS ONE.

"Strategic decisions in basketball have long been made based on the intuition of the coach or players, but as advanced quantitative analyses are increasingly applied to the game it is becoming clear that many of the conventional, intuitive ideas for basketball strategy are misguided or suboptimal," study author Brian Skinner, of the University of Minnesota, said in a journal news release.

According to the model, when there's lots of time left on the shot clock, "only higher quality shots should be taken," Skinner said. "This cutoff for shot quality decreases as the time remaining decreases."

But players shouldn't take this too far and be too hesitant to shoot early in a possession. If they do, the model revealed, they could be missing chances to score.

The authors pointed out that their model is limited since it assumes that opportunities to score occur at random.

More information

The American Mathematical Society provides more information on math in sports.

SOURCE: University of Minnesota, news release, Jan. 25, 2012

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