Klay Thompson once scored 37 points on 13-for-13 shooting during an impossibly perfect third quarter against the Kings in 2015. It was the type of performance that would make a true believer out of even the most cynical hot-hand skeptic. But do moments like these really prove that the hot hand exists? To test it out, I looked up Thompson’s 3-point shooting percentages and compared his shooting to simulations of random makes and misses.
How do superstars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry deal with repeated failure? Does the constant missing get in their heads? I examined these questions for Nylon Calculus in my story, “LeBron, Curry, and the mentality of missing“
To quantify how players react to missing field goals, I looked up the 2016-17 regular-season shot logs of the four most-prolific Cavalier shooters (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and J.R. Smith) and the four most-prolific Warrior shooters (Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green) on Basketball-Reference. I identified every cold-shooting streak suffered by one of those players — as many as ten straight missed shots in a single game — and I calculated the change in shot distance following each of these cold streaks.
For comparison, I used the same approach for hot-shooting streaks
My initial approach of looking at changes in shot distances after missed field goals encouraged me to construe a cause-and-effect relationship that might not actually exist. This distortion is especially strong for James, who has the biggest discrepancy in made-vs.-missed shot distances among the eight players I evaluated (7.7 feet).
“Ima shoot it til my arms fall off.” -KD
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