The Washington Post

Points in the paint are overrated and here’s why

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Former Washington Wizards’ forward Chris Webber didn’t like what he was seeing toward the end of the first period of Game 4 in the Wizards-Pacers matchup.

“Indiana has 10 points in the paint,” explained Weber. “Game 1 they had 20. Game 2 they had 40, Game 3 they had 26 so [the Pacers] are well on their way to dominating in the paint. If you are the Wizards you don’t want that.”

The Wizards would end up losing the game 95-92 but would lead Indiana 42-30 in terms of points in the paint, suggesting points in the paint are overrated.

Scoring from inside the key is seductive because the closer you are to the basket the better chance you have of making the shot.

In fact, it is such an advantage that the league puts restrictions on how long a player can stand in the “restricted area:”

Section VII-Offensive Three-Second Rule
a. An offensive player shall not remain for more than three seconds in that part of his free throw lane between the endline and extended 4′ (imaginary) off the court and the farther edge of the free throw line while the ball is in control of his team.

But, if we look at points in the paint per 100 possessions against a team’s Offensive Rating – an estimate of points scored per 100 possessions – there doesn’t appear to be any strong correlation between the two.

For example, the Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers all generated similar points in the paint per 100 but had different Offensive Ratings and very different results during the regular season.

This isn’t to say scoring points in the paint is pointless, but they are overrated in how much they contribute to winning over the course of a season, let alone a one-game sample size.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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