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Two Pointers vs. Threes: Which Is the Better Basketball Shot?
Credit: Dreamstime.

 

Tired of seeing your favorite player put up a three-point shot when a seemingly easier 15-foot two-pointer is there for the taking? Maybe he knows something you don't. Maybe he has seen Kirk Goldsberry's research.
 
Goldsberry, an assistant professor of geography at Michigan State University, has mapped five years (2006-2011) of NBA field goals  to determine from which spots on the floor players score the most points per attempt. In the composite chart below, red squares translates to the most points; blue to the fewest. The larger the square, the more shots were attempted from that spot.
Points per field goal attempt for all NBA field goal attempts from 2006 to 2011. Red means more points and blue means fewer points, so as expected it's orange-red outside the three-point line and dark red in the high percentage key.
Points per field goal attempt for all NBA field goal attempts from 2006 to 2011. Red means more points and blue means fewer points, so as expected it's orange-red outside the three-point line and dark red in the high percentage key.
Credit: Kirk Goldsberry
As you can see, shots taken in the post, right around the basket, have the best chance of scoring points. But shots taken between there and the three-point arc don't generate as many points; only once you enter three-point land do the points really start to add up.
 
Click here for more of Goldsberry's work, including detailed player analysis.