Threes Are Cheaper for SLR

On: 05 March 2010

William's trifeca

Believe it or not, there's was one spectacle in the Sta. Lucia Realtors (SLR) game in the last two years that doesn't involve one-sided deals to accommodate cost-cutting measures. This one centers on the rate at which the players are pulling up 25 feet from the basket, letting the ball fly and not getting the much-needed 3 points.

The Realtors attempted about 365 three-point shots during the 2009 PBA Philippine Cup, or approximately 25 percent more than they did just 3 years ago. The number of attempts from the rainbow area translates to an average of 20.3 attempts each game or 26 percent of all shots thrown, including those from the two-point area.

This development could be attributed to many fathers: the legalization of zone defenses, the growing pool of capable shooters from college and abroad and the mindsets of some new coaches, to name a few. But unlike some PBA fads (i.e. alley hoop dunks, mohawk hair style and headbands), this one may have less to do with strategy than economics. Simply put, three-point bombers tend to be among the cheapest specialist players in the game — and right now, for the Realtors, cheap is good.

As the Realty company tries to shake off the effects of the sluggish economy, the average team payroll has dropped by trading away expensive low-post players (i.e. Dennis Espino and Norman Gonzalez) for some unproven draft picks. The team's available salary, which is directly tied to overall revenue they receive from all marketing programs, fell this season for just the first time in nearly two decades. Last September 2009, team manager Buddy Encarnado admitted that the company did not earn much to pay steep increases and maintain high player wage rates.

The SLR situation is similar to what happened to American baseball's Oakland A's. When faced with financial constraints, Oakland pioneered the trend of trying to build winning teams by identifying players whose skills were undervalued by the market.

During the 18 games of the elimination round, the key players with the most number of attempts for the Realtors, make much less than the team's top shot blocker and their top player in steals.

Josh Urbiztondo, who tries to loosen the defense in the shaded area by shooting threes, makes less than Marlou Aquino or Ryan Reyes. This is the case inside the team even if Aquino can only managed 5.5 points per ball game compared to Urbiztondo's 8.7 points. It appears that guys who can shoot are almost always going to have a place to play with the Realtors, but nobody will see them making PhP 200-300 thousand a month.

Before the three-point shot was instituted in 1979 in the National Basketball Association (NBA), most American teams used a system where a center would dominate near the basket while a midsize forward did most of the scoring and the guards picked up the scraps.

But as soon as it arrived, players here and abroad fell in love with the three, which gave them a way to score points and look flashy without getting manhandled by defenders. Maybe this is the reason why resident franchise player, Kelly Williams, takes about three 3-point shots per game even if he only averages 16.7 percent from that zone, the lowest among those in the team that took at least 25 attempts in the elimination round.

The correlation between the number of threes a team makes and its winning percentage is relatively weak in the NBA, 0.3 on a scale where 1 shows a direct relationship and 0 shows no relationship at all. However, even if the jury's still out as to whether or not three-pointers help Realtors win their games, one thing is clear: they cannot win CONSISTENTLY at all if they are shooting less than 26 percent from arc.

"Everyone loves that three-pointer," said NBA Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was famous for his close-in and almost indefensible skyhook. "It's childish if you ask me."

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