It’s easily the worst, lowest percentage shot in basketball.
No, not a Kendrick Perkins 3-pointer or a Dwight Howard free throw.
It’s the end-of-quarter halfcourt heave.
According to Elias, a halfcourter is attempted about 27 percent of the time to finish the first, second or third quarter (it’s rare you see a heave to finish the fourth). For the season, there have been 758 games played in the NBA total, meaning roughly 205 halfcourt heaves. And total, there have been three total halfcourt or beyond makes. Three. Crunch the numbers and that means the league is shooting roughly combined 1.5 percent from halfcourt and beyond.
It’s a terrible shot, at least just in terms of pure efficiency standards. But you don’t really have many options when it comes to it. It’s either chuck it, or let that one percent chance of three points slip away because you care about your numbers. If you get the ball 80 feet from the basket with 1.6 seconds left in a quarter, you can either a) chunk it or b) eat it.
Or there’s the third, very popular option: the juuuuuuust-a-split-second-too-late halfcourt heave. You know, give the appearance you’re shooting it but oh darn it, the buzzer went off before I let it go so it doesn’t count.
It actually became enough of an issue with the Thunder that Scott Brooks felt the need to address it with the team this season.
“We talked about it, about seven weeks ago maybe, couple months ago, and we talked about it,” Brooks said. “I said ‘We have to shoot that shot. There’s still time in the game — shoot it.’ The only time we don’t shoot it is if we’re up and it’s the last seconds because you don’t want to do that.
“We had that talk and somebody on our team did not take it that same night, and then we all got on him,” he said. “The next night, somebody made that shot.”
Every player I asked about it remembered Brooks talk right away.
“Yeah he said something to us about it,” said Eric Maynor. “He was like, ‘I be peeping some of y’all be doing that.’ But he know me, I’m going to shoot it.”
Said Nick Collison: “It’s funny because when [Brooks] brought that up, Eric said, ‘I’ll shoot it’ and he made one like the next game.”
Shane Battier was recently asked about this by Sam Amick of USA Today and had a typically thoughtful response:
“If you’re a true shooter, those shots add up,” [Battier] said, while making it clear that his view was also the opinion of most, if not all, NBA players. “It’s not worth it (to shoot them). Even though statistically speaking, it’s a positive – it’s a plus-play (in terms of probabilities of success). If you shot every buzzer beater, you’re going to make one out of – whatever the odds are.
“Even the heave is a plus-play. But unfortunately we’re not judged on the plus-plays. We’re judged on (shooting) percentages. I think they should take the heave out of the stat book. It’s common sense.”
And if they did change the rule book to reflect this stance?
“You’d have guys fighting to take that shot, because it’s a hell of a fun shot,” he said. “We shoot those shots every day in practice.”
(In college, it’s not counted as a shot. It’s a “scorekeeper’s discretion” play. I don’t know if that means it has to be inside halfcourt or what, but a 74-foot baseball throw isn’t considered an attempt.)
Now you might see it as a selfish move where a player is putting individual statistics over potential team gain, but look at it like this: Take someone like Kevin Durant who has this whole 50-40-90 thing going. Using the average halfcourters attempted per team a game, let’s say that KD takes 12 for the season. His chances of making one are extremely slim, so let’s say he went 0-for-12. That’s 12 extra misses from 3, and 12 extra misses from the floor. Add 12 misses to his current numbers and his percentage goes from 51.6 to 50.9 from the field and 42.7 to 40.5 from 3. That’s pretty significant. Certainly enough to care about. Like Battier said, those misses add up.
So it’s kind of hard to blame a guy for waiting that extra half second to wait for the buzzer to sound.
“They know. They know,” Brooks said. “They see that light, that light turns on and then they throw it up.”
What about Brooks? Did he shoot it?
“Yeah, because that’s a shot attempt,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going to make it though.”
Did he make any?
“Yeah, sure I did. You guys aren’t going to look it up, so I made seven of ’em.”
How do Thunder players feel about the halfcourt heave? Should it be counted as an attempt? And do they pull the just-after-the-buzzer move? I asked some of them:
Kevin Durant: “It depends on what I’m shooting from the field. First quarter if I’m 4-for-4, I let it go. Third quarter if I’m like 10-for-16, or 10-for-17, I might let it go. But if I’m like 8-for-19, I’m going to go ahead and dribble one more second and let that buzzer go off and then throw it up there. So it depends on how the game’s going.”
Russell Westbrook: “No. Nope … If I was considering about [statistics] I’d do a lot of shit different.”
Thabo Sefolosha: “Personally if I have it, I shoot it. I’ve seen players not shoot it at all, or seen players shoot it late. I’ve seen that before … [Brooks] did, he mentioned it. In the team, most of us, I think we take the shot. But you see players that don’t do it … You gotta count it [as a shot]. You gotta count it. It’s a shot. But who cares really. I don’t care about that kind of stuff. One more shot, make or miss, is not going to break or make me, so I shoot it.”
Eric Maynor: “I know people that do that, but I ain’t doing that. I’m trying to make it. But I’ve seen people do that a lot. Trying to act like they got the shot up but really know that ball didn’t get released. But you see it a lot in this league … It’s a shot. It’s a shot. If somebody shoot it, if you let it go, that’s a shot attempt so you can’t say that.”
Kendrick Perkins: “Yeah so they don’t mess up they field goal percentage. Absolutely … Nah, I don’t care, but I noticed it before. I notice that, yeah … I remember in Boston someone used to do it, I think Eddie House used to do it. Because he was trying to break the single season on 3-point percentage … I don’t know, but you never know at the end of the game what the score is gonna be so you should try everything that you can.”
Kevin Martin: “Yes, I’ve noticed it a lot. For myself? I like to be considered an efficient scorer, so I think that’ll answer your question on how I approach that shot … [Brooks] said something about if no one wants to shoot it, go up and grab it. Don’t be the person to grab it and wait. And then I think Eric Maynor hit a shot or Russ hit a shot … If they changed that rule [to not count it], I’d probably shoot a lot more of them. Some people like to shoot the halfcourt shot, some people don’t.”
Scott Brooks: “Yeah, that’s a shot attempt. I knew I wasn’t going to make it, but you have to shoot it. I mean, three-quarter court? It’s probably not even worth shooting. But halfcourt in? These guys practice halfcourt shots as fun, every team I’ve been on either before practice or after practice they will have shooting contests at halfcourt. You have to shoot them. I believe you take that shot. And our guys do … I’d rather have a chance to make it then wonder if I should’ve shot that. You’ll never know … It makes sense [to not count it], but the purity of the game. You can’t do that. You just can’t do that.”
Nick Collison: “A lot of guys do that. I think they should just not count it as an attempt unless they make it. Why not? I mean, it’s not a real shot. I think they should just not count it. I know then there becomes a line of where does it become an attempt, is it 10 feet behind the line or whatever. At least on the other end of halfcourt. I mean, it’s not a big deal because it doesn’t really change much.”