Lakers head coach Byron Scott didn’t say the Lakers should get the ball into George Mikan more, but what he did say is as big a throwback as feeding the ball to Minneapolis Lakers best-ever big man. Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times quotes Scott as saying “our biggest thing is trying to get three or four passes before we look for shots. We get the defense moving from side to side and then we can look to attack.” That may be the way the game was once played, but data analytics reveals that Scott’s strategy is actually the enemy of success in today’s fast-paced game. Forget about the fact that even Scott’s great teammate Magic Johnson played as fast as possible on his way to five championships, just look at the data.
Scott’s statement sounds like the strategy of a well-meaning camp coach, trying to teach his kids the fundamentals. But the new NBA tells a different story. Research shows that NBA teams shoot an 10% higher percentage when they take a shot early in the shot clock. The longer the shot clock goes — while Scott’s Lakers are making those three or four passes — the worse their chances of a make become. Facts: NBA teams shoot 60.5 percent on shots taken during the first six seconds of the shot clock. As the clock goes from 18 to 13 seconds, the percentage drops to 50 percent. It drops all the way down to 42.5% in the last six seconds of a possession. Teams have been making adjustments accordingly. The Lakers offense currently ranks 28th in the NBA in offensive efficiency.