Charlotte Bobcats v New York Knicks

‘Hot Hand’ may exist after all, and data shows players like J.R. Smith believe in it


BOSTON — It doesn’t take an MIT graduate student to tell you that J.R. Smith is among the many players in the league who believe in the “Hot Hand” theory, which is essentially the notion that if you’ve made a few shots in a row, you’re shooting the next one — regardless of the quality of that shot — because of a belief that you’re now in some kind of zone.

Historical research has shown that this type of streak shooting simply doesn’t exist — think of it like a coin flip or a roulette wheel, where what happened on the previous toss or spin has no bearing on the outcome of the very next turn.

But new research presented at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference shows that the Hot Hand does indeed exist, and that there is a statistical likelihood of a player hitting his next shot after making a few in a row — once you adjust for things like difficulty, range, and the proximity of the nearest defender that hasn’t been possible to quantify until now.

The SportVU tracking cameras that have been installed in all 29 NBA arenas log all of this data, so when you put this information into a complex mathematical equation, what you get is a small statistical bump (a little more than one percent) in the likelihood of a player making his next shot after he’s hit three or four straight.

The most important factor here seems to be the “heat check,” where a player will launch increasingly difficult shots that have a very small percentage of going in once one of these shooting streaks has started. It could be a pull-up three in transition, or a wild turn-around jumper over a long defender, but these types of shots not only end a player’s current run of hot shooting, they’re also detrimental to his team’s overall success on a given possession.

The conclusion of the study found that players believe in the Hot Hand and act accordingly: When they believe they’re hot, they take shots from further away, defenders cover them more closely, they are more likely to take their team’s next shot, and they take shots that are more difficult than normal. The aforementioned J.R. Smith, for example, was found to take his team’s next shot more than 50 percent of the time when he’s made four of his last five.

Statistically, it was shown that players make a higher percentage of shots after hitting a few consecutively when adjusting for these factors. Teams could theoretically use this data to educate players by informing them that yes, when you feel like you’re hot, there’s something real associated with that — just don’t go forcing a horrendous shot the very next time you touch the ball because of it.

PBT Extra: How did Thunder, Pacers move up in PBT Power Rankings?

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As they do every Monday during the season, the PBT Power Rankings came out and while the top three remained the same there were some climbers.

Specifically, the Thunder at No. 4 and the Pacers at No. 5.

Why they are there is the latest PBT Extra topic with Jenna Corrado. The simple answer is they are both excellent teams. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Paul George are all playing like Top 10 players.

PBT Podcast: We’re back talking Kobe, 76ers, Warriors, Pistons, more

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The ProBasketballTalk NBA podcast is back.

Sure we’re a month into the season, but we’re going to get this podcast rolling again and you can expect us on each Monday and Thursday, with a variety of guests talking everything around the NBA.

Today NBC’s own Dan Feldman joins Kurt Helin to talk Kobe Bryant‘s retirement announcement, and what that means both for the Lakers going forward this season and beyond, but also what that could mean for Byron Scott’s future as the Lakers’ coach.

We also delve into the “showdown” between the Lakers and Sixers on Thursday, talk about the job Brett Brown is doing there as coach (a good one), we talk some Warriors, some Draymond Green, Pistons, Spurs and Pacers to round it all out.

Listen to the podcast below or you can listen and subscribe via iTunes.


Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins probable to play against Dallas Monday

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It’s this simple: The Sacramento Kings are 5-5 when DeMarcus Cousins plays this season, 1-7 when he sits. (And that win number is a big misleading, they looked like they would have beaten Charlotte with him, but when he left with back pain they lost, they could easily be 6-4 with him.)

So it’s good news that Cousins is expected to return to the Sacramento lineup Monday night. Well not good for Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks, but good for the Kings, as reported by James Ham at CSNBayArea,com.

This season Cousins is averaging 27.9 points and 11.2 rebounds a game, he has a true shooting percentage above the league average (56.3 percent for Cousins) and he has a PER of 27.1 which is sixth best in the league.

Combine him with the numbers Rajon Rondo has put up lately the Kings become much more dangerous. They’d be even scarier if everyone stayed healthy and George Karl would settle on a lineup.

PBT Extra: Kobe Bryant understands now is time to walk away

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It was expected Kobe Bryant would retire at the end of this season.

It was not expected Kobe would make that official on Nov. 29 — it’s caught the media at Staples Center Sunday (of which I was one) and the fans by surprise.

In this PBT Extra, I talk with Jenna Corrado about the mood inside Staples Center Sunday.

More importantly, I discuss the sense I got that Kobe understands it’s time to walk away, and he is at peace with that.