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The Definition of a Good Shot Vs. a Bad Shot in Basketball

October 13, 2017

I watch a lot of basketball and therefore hear a lot of different announcers. Some of my favorite announcers are the ones who take the time to teach and explain. I enjoy it when experienced, former players break down what's happening on the court. One phrase that I hear a lot is "that was a bad shot".


It isn't used in the sense that it looked bad but that it shouldn't have been taken in the first place. Let's look at a couple examples to help understand what a good or a bad shot really is.


Before we break down some specifics let's cover the basics. Great coaches want a couple things from their offense but when broken down to its simplest form a coach wants a makeable shot close to the basket as possible or an uncontested 3 point shot by a person who can make it. It's very simple. Defensively it is the opposite. The defense wants every shot to be contested and to be as far from the basket as possible.


Statistically it is harder to make a 25 foot shoot than a 5 foot shot - always has been and always will be. Those numbers are even higher, in favor of the defense, when you throw in if the shot was contested or not. Keeping this in mind, let's look at the specifics of why shots are described as good or bad.


Bad Shots:

  • -The worst shot in basketball, in my opinion, is the contested shot just short of the 3 point line. If you are already shooting the ball 19 feet away from the basket you may as well be back another foot so you can get the extra point if you make it. In 3 pointers you only have to shoot 40% to equal someone shooting 50% from 2 point range so make it worthwhile to even attempt. I had a coach take anyone out of the game if they made a 3 pointer with their foot on the line. A contested 19 footer is what every defensive coach wants to see from the offense.

  • -Another example is a shot that is defended early in the shot clock. Coaches often say "we can get that shot anytime" and they are right. Any player can come down the court and shoot the first shot they see. What did this do? It doesn't get anyone involved and it doesn't tire the defense. What it does is play into exactly what the defense wants you to do. If a contested shot goes up it needs to be near the end of the shot clock after you've worked hard to get a better shot first. This way there are at least some teammates under the basket that can get a rebound.

Good Shots:

  • -Layups and wide open looks near the basket will always be considered great shots. They are as close to you'll ever get for guaranteed points and they build confidence. Sometimes all a team needs to get going is a few easy baskets and everything seems to just fall in place. Basketball is a game of momentum and this is a perfect way to get momentum. The first priority is always to look for the easy basket.

  • -The next best shot in basketball today is the uncontested 3 pointer by a good shooter (players only need to shoot 40% to be considered good shooters). The 3 point shot has changed the game of basketball. Whether you are talking about the high school, college or pro levels it is the same. If I have Kyle Korver or Ray Allen all alone at the 3 point line, I'd rather have that shot compared to Paul Pierce shooting a 15 footer. The percentages are the same so I'll take the 3. The best coaches realize this and that is why they love having post players that can draw double teams. When a double team takes place they know that someone will be left wide open.

  • -When your very best player is not being double teamed, having him create something is another great shot. Coaches want their best player taking the best shot. That means that they will live with their best guy taking a shot if he is guarded by only one player. Meaning, I know that when the shot clock gets low or the offense is dragging, I will take my chances with my best offensive player attacking the basket.

Every offense should focus on getting either a layup or an uncontested 3 pointer. The best offenses are based around those shots. In reverse, the worst offenses around are bad around the basket and from the 3 point line.



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