Characterization of Space and Time-Dependence of 3-Point Shots in Basketball

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Gabin Rolland, Research Assistant, LIRIS – École Centrale de Lyon
Romain Vuillemot, Assistant Professor, LIRIS – École Centrale de Lyon
Wouter Bos, PhD, CNRS – Ecole Centrale de Lyon
Nathan Rivière, Student, Ecole Centrale de Lyon


Understanding characteristics of 3-point shots is paramount for modern basketball success, as in recent decades, 3-point shots have become more prevalent in the NBA. They accounted for 33,6% of the number of total shots in 2017-2018, compared to only 3% in 1979-1980. In this paper, we aim at better understanding the connections between the type of 3-point shooting (catch-and-shoots and pull-ups) and the timing for shooting, using two distinct space-time models of player motion. Those models allow us to identify individual behavior as a function of specific defensive settings, e.g. shot-behavior when a player is guarded closely.  We assess our models using SportVU data for specific NBA players.  Our code is open-source to support further research and application of those models.