Monthly Archives: January 2012

Cherry Picking Math Example


This example will use an average time for an offensive possession, of which I could gather from 82games.com, is around 15 seconds. We will assign to Team B. That leaves around three seconds, factoring the human element to the scorer’s table, for Team A’s cherry picking possession.

Combined, one full posession for each team takes 18 seconds to complete. On average, each team will have 3.3 possessions per minute under this cycle. In a 48 minute game, that’s 158.4 posessions per game for each team.

60 seconds per minute / 18 seconds per cycle = 3.3
3.3 x 48 minutes in a game = 158.4 possessions

If we’re assuming that Team A makes 100% of their layups at 2 points each, that gives them 316.8 PPG.

158.4 x 2 = 316.8

Calculations for Team B are a little less exact, and assumptions have to be made on scoring habits and percentages. Indeed, this will be the weakness in the argument for both sides later on in the game. For this part of the example, our assumptions will be:

•Team B will shoot one three pointer each minute, and execute at 60%.
•Team B will shoot 2.3 two point shots each minute, and execute at 75%.
•Team A will defend with a 2 + 2 zone and will understand the offensive strategy against them in a 5-on-4 situation. Defense will rely on natural shooting percentages, slightly contested shots, and the occasional well-contested shot percentages.

There’s obvious arguments to be made against these assumptions. The numbers could be too high, too low, etc. Even still, at this rate, Team B will end up taking 48 three pointers and scoring 86.4 points off them. Further, they will take 110.4 two pointers and score 165.6 points, giving them a total of 252 points per game.

Three Point Shots
0.303 (1/3.3) x 158.4 = 48 (possessions ending in 3PT shot)
48 x 3 (PTS) = 144
144 x .60 (FG%) = 86.4

Two Point Shots
.697 (2.3/3.3) x 158.4 = 110.4 (possessions ending in 2PT shot)
110.4 x 2 (PTS) = 220.8
220.8 x 0.75 (FG%) = 165.6

Total
86.4 + 165.6 = 252 points per game

This is just an example. We could use any reasonable variation of average TOP, percentages and shot selection. Using numbers like a 12 second possession for Team B vs. a 5 second average for Team A with the numbers above gives us a similar result, with Team B scoring 270 PPG and Team A scoring 338 PPG. The exercise is meant to show a mathematical inequity in theory, not in practice.