Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two Things: The Death Of The Hot Hand And Wagering

First, there is no such thing as a hot hand in basketball:

John Huizinga, who, when he's not teaching economics at the University of Chicago, serves as Yao Ming's agent, delivered a fairly ironclad analysis showing that the hot-hand phenomenon almost certainly doesn't exist, and that players who have just made a jumper are far more likely to take and miss a jumper on the next trip -- what might be called the Jamal Crawford phenomenon.

Huizinga studied high-volume shooters over the past five seasons and took note of players who had made a jump shot on the previous trip. On the subsequent trip, they shot about 16 percent more often and converted 3.5 percent less of those shots. The finding was statistically significant and pointed to a tendency by players to act as if they were hot after one made J … and a counterproductive tendency to feed the allegedly hot hand by both the player and his teammates.

Proving that something doesn't exist is always vastly more difficult than proving it does, but Huizinga's analysis hammered the hot-hand theory from so many angles that its proponents are reeling. And as luck would have it, the scenario played out at the end of the Boston-Orlando game: The Celtics ran a play to feed their hot hand, Ray Allen, and he missed a difficult 3-pointer after a strong contest by Dwight Howard that would have tied the game.

Interestingly, Huizinga's study showed this phenomenon was almost entirely confined to perimeter players -- most likely because it's far more difficult for post players to ignore the offense and call their own number. (Though I suspect Zach Randolph and Dirk Nowitzki may be exceptions).

Second, we occasionally make friendly wagers around here. (In fact, I believe I still owe E like 3 beers.) This site seems very well suited to keeping track of said wagers.

(H/T, MR)


Asok said...

I whole-heartedly disagree with this hot-hand analysis. I think the term is being defined too loosely.

Everyone who has played basketball knows that you have off, on, and average nights. Most of the time you have average nights which is clearly included in Huizinga's sample size.

Hot hands exist, but not every night and not every game. Same goes for the cold hand.

Jon said...

agree with previous poster - Paul you play basketball, how can you assert "there is no such thing as a hot hand in basketball"? sometimes when you shoot (like myself at the gym the other day) you feel great and everything's going down, sometimes the opposite is true. sounds like the study is saying that 1 made shot does not make a hot shooter, but that doesn't prove what you're saying. is there research that looks at players who have made 8 of their last 10 jumpers, and what they do in their next 5 shots? all you had to do was watch games 6 and 7 of the nba finals as a knick fan to see john starks hitting everything in game 6 and then go 2 for 18 in game 7

Rob said...

Interesting thoughts. I found it interesting that players who just made a J are 16% more likely to jack it up on the next trip. I wonder what the percentage is if they have made 2,3,4 or more shots in a row.

I would, too, like to see stats that look at players who have made 2,3,4 out of 5, etc.. shots and how they perform on the subsequent shot.

I do think that it might be tough to seperate the "feeling" of having a hot hand and actually having one. I am always amazed looking at stats and seeing a player have 27 pts and being 8-25 from the floor. 27 is a good night, but not if you are 8-25.

I wonder what my shooting percentage is when I'm tearing it up in my morning pick-up games. This, by no means of course, will prevent me from launching it when I'm hot...

PaulNoonan said...

Jon, you've seen me play basketball and you know very well that I've never had the hot hand before.

Eric said...

I likewise disagree. Chaos theory suggests that like activities happen in clumps, in this case the hot hand. Naturally chaos theory works the other way; a cold hand displays in clumps as well.

wish i could remember the book but its been 25 years

E.S.K. said...

Didn't you get eaten by a dinosaur?

Eric said...

Nah. That's what fire is for.

Anonymous said...

Without going through and looking at Huizenga's research, I think it can be slightly misinterpreted. I believe what Huizenga's research showed was that after making only one basket, a player is more likely to take his teams next shot earlier in the shot clock (and usually a lower percentage attempt) which does lend credence to the fact that a player feels like he/she has the "hot hand" after making just one single shot. Not so coincidentally, a player is more likely to miss his next shot after making the previous, which is probably counterintuitive to what every single player thinks, as is showcased by the research. Love the topic and the debate.