Just Take The Shot

Submitted by Brian on January 12th, 2018 at 1:21 PM


this shot was just tooken [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

I've been poking around Hoop Math a bit and saw something that jumped out at me: Michigan's late clock offense (ie: shots that go up with 5 or fewer seconds on the clock). There's a lot of it, and it's awful. This is a significant departure from previous seasons and is probably where the various problems with Michigan's offense collect and express themselves. Here's a chart:

2018 21 54 42
2017 26 56 50
2016 22 53 49
2015 15 48 49
2014 13 53 47
2013 11 52 50
2012 12 52 43

(NT: non-transition.)

The only Hoop Math Era team with a late EFG anywhere near as bad as this year's team was the frosh Burke team in 2012, and that offense had significantly fewer shots fall into the Bin Of Crap Late Offense. This year's team is humping up a fifth of their shots in a 0.84 PPP bin.

Everything else is fine. (Almost.) Michigan doesn't turn the ball over, they are hitting 56% from two, and their meh team three point shooting is heavily influenced by a bunch of these terrible late shots. They're hitting 28% on 96 late threes, down from 35% last year. Threes in the first 25 seconds of the clock are dropping at a 40% rate. If Michigan was converting late clock opportunities at the rate they have over the past five years, the only thing separating them from their usual lethal offense would be free throw shooting.

Unfortunately, I don't think there's a simple Give The Ball To Player X answer to this. No Michigan player has been at all efficient late except Jordan Poole, who's just taking threes other people set up. MAAR: 46% on 45 FGA. Wagner: 42% on 39 FGA. Matthews: 36% on 39 FGA. The closest player to efficiency has been Zavier Simpson, of all people, who's at 48% and has a huge number of his shots (40%!) in the crappy late clock bin.


if this was late in the clock it was a good shot [Bryan Fuller]

Michigan just isn't as good at creating good shots as they usually are, and unlike last year they don't have a guy like Walton who can rise up for a good-idea contested three, or a guy like Hardaway who can get a decent look at a long two whenever he wants. Even the "have Matthews thunder at the rim because he's a great athlete" approach is seriously compromised by his free throw shooting.

Unfortunately this feels like an "it is what it is" situation. Michigan should be more open to taking decent-but-not-great shots earlier in the shot clock, because chances are that is going to be the best look they get. Other than that, they just have to live with too many offensive possessions that bog down into nothing at all.

The good news is that this should be a blip, not a trend: Jordan Poole is an unassisted 3 point shooter who figures to inherit most of MAAR's minutes next year and the next recruiting class has a couple of unapologetic in-your-face-Charlie-Murphy shooters in David DeJulius and Adrian Nunez. Also you have to figure that continued development of the point guards—and everyone else—should get Michigan better, earlier shots.

For now, Michigan should take anything that comes their way. Pull-up threes against Purdue switches? Yes. A good look at a long two with 15 seconds on the clock? Sure. A semi-contested three? Okay. Whatever it takes to get the ball up before the doom of the world kicks in 25 seconds into the shot clock.



January 12th, 2018 at 1:32 PM ^

Seems to be a lot of dribbling of late in the half court; some of that may attributable to defenses denying the first pass to allow M to get into their main set.

Two man game hasn’t been a problem but with switching it is neutralized.

But this is really good stat mining. Shoot first open shot!


January 12th, 2018 at 1:37 PM ^

Good find and post. Makes sense when like you said we don't have a Burke, Hardaway, Stauskas, Levert, or Walton type (at least yet). Maybe they just need a goto play rather than player. Let Rahk or Simpson work with a high ball screen from Wagner, e.g.

Whole Milk

January 12th, 2018 at 1:39 PM ^

I'm curious how these stats look for other teams around the country. I can't imagine most teams are very effective during the final seconds of a shot clock, seeing as how it will always be better to attempt a bad shot than get a violation.

It also seems very bad this year compared to previous years, but I would imagine past years numbers are very good in comparison to other teams. We have seemingly always had a guy who could be relied on to hit a tough shot: Burke, Hardaway, Stauskas, Walton, and Caris all showed an uncanny ability to be the guy. This years team doesn't really seem to have that, but I'm not sure that necessarily means they are poor in this stat compared to other teams around the country. I certainly could be wrong, but a 42 EFG in late clock situations doesn't strike me as being alarmingly bad. 


January 12th, 2018 at 2:49 PM ^

Good analysis but I don't think I agree with the takeaway. 

"For now, Michigan should take anything that comes their way. Pull-up threes against Purdue switches? Yes. A good look at a long two with 15 seconds on the clock? Sure. A semi-contested three? Okay. Whatever it takes to get the ball up before the doom of the world kicks in 25 seconds into the shot clock."

Especially the long two with 15 second left on the shot clock part, but on the whole this seems like a bad idea to me. You're essentially saying we're bad with under 5 second left on the shot clock, so to fix that just avoid getting to 5 or less second on the shot clock. But for the most part, the reason the clock gets so low is because we haven't been able to get a good shot in the first 25 seconds of the shot clock. Being bad in the last 5 seconds seems like a symptom of what can be an overall stagnant offense and not the virus itself.

Avoiding taking shots in the last 5 seconds mitigates the issue in the sense that the percentage of those possesions will decrease. But it also means that the shooting percentage of last 5 second shots will drop even more since the only time we take shots then will be when we couldn't even find an okay one in the first 25 seconds. It also means that the effeciency of the offense in the first 25 seconds, and effeciency of the offense as a whole will drop. That seems like robbing Peter to pay Paul to me.

The argument here is we're taking bad shots in the last 5 seconds of the shot clock. So lets start taking shots with 15 seconds left to avoid those bad shots and take slightly better shots. But you're ignoring all the possesions where good shots are taken with 15-5 seconds left on the cock. Inherently this method will make the offense less effecient as a whole.

Right now the 5 seconds or less shots are so bad because we haven't been able to find good offense before those last 5 seconds. Giving the offense 10-15 less seconds to run a set and find a good shot (which you would be doing if you said take a slightly less bad shot with 15 seconds left once it becomes available) is not the right plan. All this does is means we're now guaranteed to be taking bad shots with < 5 seconds on the shot, while also taken more bad shots before that. I'd much rather see the offense run all the way through the shot clock if necessary, take as much of the clock as you need to try and find a good shot, improve the offense as a whole by continuing to run the same offense and letting the players improve at it, and contain bad shots to the last 5 seconds.


January 12th, 2018 at 4:27 PM ^

going to change anything.

Taking worse shots (long twos) earlier in the shot clock will bring down our efficiency in the first 25 seconds of the shot clock.  So you're correct that you'd reduce the number of bad late clock possessions but the decreased efficiency earlier in the clock might be even worse overall for the offense (and it might be better, it just depends on how much worse your early shot efficiency gets and how much you reduce your share of late shots).

I imagine Beilein will stay the course, chalk this up to small sample, keep good shot discipline and expect this number to go up with the emergence of Poole (can rise up for shots just about anywhere), Z (can get into the paint) and Livers (gets more rise on his jumper than Duncan but also can shot fake and drive it).  It would probably go against every fiber of his being to encourage a long two with 15 seconds left when there is still a chance of getting a better shot in those 15 seconds.

Great find on the data, though.  Very interesting, and definitely supports the eye test that we don't really have a go-to assassin right now.  Speaking of which, that was the case after Caris went down in 2016.  I'm surprised to see we were so good that year in late clock possessions.  Would be curious to see a pre-Caris injury and post-Caris injury split.

Kilgore Trout

January 12th, 2018 at 4:12 PM ^

I'm not sure I've totally digested your argument, but I think it's fine that taking more early shot clock shots reduces your efficiency in the last 5 seconds if the volumes work out in a positive way.

Let's take 100 possessions. Say you score 1.2 points per possession when you shoot in the first 25 seconds and 0.8 points per possession in the last 5 seconds. In this example, say 80% of your possessions result in shots in the first 25 seconds and 20% are in the last 5 seconds. In this scenario you score 1.2*0.8 + 0.8*0.2 = 1.12 points per possession.

Now say you start shooting more frequently in the first 25 seconds, but don't get quite as good of a shot. Say you get 1.15 points per possession on 95% of your possessions. Now the 5% of the time you're shooting in the last 5 seconds you get a little more chucking and your ppp goes down to 0.75. In this scencario you score 1.15*0.95 + 0.75*0.05 = 1.13 points per possession.

Now these numbers are totally cherry picked to make my point, but it is possible that this philosophy could result in better overall offense.  


January 12th, 2018 at 6:52 PM ^

It sounds like you got the crux of my point pretty well. And you're right, mathematically it does work out that the strategy could lead to a more efficient offense. It all depends on the numbers.

I guess my point is my gut tells me the math will work out so it's not as efficient. I don't have the numbers to back that up so I could be wrong. But even from what you showed, in the scenario where late clock shocks are basically minimized and efficiency only drops by .05 in each case, overall efficiency still basically breaks even. That means that in almost any other case overall efficiency should drop.


January 12th, 2018 at 8:45 PM ^

The effect of instituting something like Brian proposed is just like shortening the shot clock.  Basically, you are told as a player to get a shot off before 10 seconds are left.  I think that would just make this offense more putrid: we saw what happened when the shotclock decreased from 35 to 30.


January 12th, 2018 at 2:37 PM ^

The stats in that chart are confusing.  While they support the argument of "shoot the first decent shot you get" the fact that they are taking fewer of those shots this year than the last two supports an overall better offense.  Even with Walton at his alpha-dog best last year we took a ton of these shots.  This actually gives me some promise that we're getting better at running offense despite the new faces this year.  

Something else I think contributes to this is that I've been frustrated by our guards inability to feed the post.  When there's a switch and Wagner gets a short guy on him he needs to get the ball to either score with his good post moves or force a double and free up an open guy.  

Sadly, I think this MSU game will make this chart even worse given their stout defense, tall front-line, and overall match-up advantages.


January 12th, 2018 at 2:58 PM ^

In the interest of hope, I'm curious if Beilein teams are better at late clock EFG in the 2nd half of seasons.

Ball/player movement seems to get always crisper as a given season goes along; perhaps that plus some shooting of the dang ball can get them to middling in late clock situations.


January 12th, 2018 at 3:24 PM ^

Simpson and Livers pass up some wide open looks from deep with 10-15 seconds left on the clock.  Those youngins need to trust their shot and take it when it's open.


January 12th, 2018 at 3:27 PM ^

My ranking of players I trust with late shot clock opportunities by creating thier own look:

1. Rahk - He can get into the paint against almost anyone (excluding mainly Purdue and likely MSU). He has a good mid-range and can hit 3's.

2. Matthews - Probably the best at creating his own shot, and is a natural play maker. 

3. Poole - Kid is a straight gunner, and I'd be OK with him taking a contested shot.

4. Livers - Has the size and rise on his shot to shoot over defenders, can get into the paint, and is decent/good with dribbling.

5. Wagner - Dangerous shot from anywhere on the floor, but tends to get wild when rushing his shot

6. Simpson - Shown potential as a dangerous threat from 3, but he makes his game with his vision and passing.

7. Teske - Got a nice elbow jumper. We should use that sometimes

8. Duncan - Has way too much trouble creating his own shot. Don't let him touch the ball unless it's an open catch and shoot. 

9. Brooks/Watson/Simmons - Usually not on the court. No comment on them. 


January 12th, 2018 at 4:35 PM ^

Looking at that photo of Haas guarding Matthews, an argument could be made that he has mutated to an extent that we are talking about another species of human. Hollywood should start writing movies and TV shows for him to star in like they did with Schwarzennegger and Ferrigno. Maybe bring back the Addams family and have him play Lurch. (And of course, Al Borges would play uncle Fester.)

Image result


January 12th, 2018 at 4:36 PM ^

just-take-shot. If you have an open shot. Take it. If there's a open look with 22 seconds on the shot clock than shoot the ball. More often times when team's are winding down the clock most player's panic especially college kids. If your in a close game whether your up or down in the score and there's a couple of minutes left to go don't just go into the typical end of the game shell. Just do what you been doing. I say good strategy.


January 13th, 2018 at 10:21 AM ^

If you notice, our late game offense usually consists of only one or two passes. That conservative approach hurt us against Purdue and will continue to against fundamentally sound defensive teams. Same when the clock is winding down, we turn into iso ball and I️ would argue that’s the weakest aspect of this years team. Z has the ability to break down a defender but lacks the size and quick release that Walton had to pull up. I️ do think Poole is the answer to that, just a year away.