The Analytics of No-Middle Defense
I’ve been intrigued by “no-middle” man-to-man defense since reading about it and watching Jordan Sperber’s video breaking it down. Once you learn to recognize it, you’ll see it used by top defensive college teams like Baylor and Texas Tech, as well as many NBA teams. Rather than traditionally forcing the offensive player to the middle of the floor (where there is “help”), this defense encourages baseline drives, with the expectation that a low defender will come to help.
The geometry behind no-middle makes sense. If you force the offensive player to one side of the floor, there are fewer passing options. From the middle, you can dish left or right. But from the side, you can only pass middle, or attempt a risky skip pass. In addition, shooting from straight-on seems like it would be more prone to getting a “shooter’s bounce” than shooting from one side of the floor, where a shot that is long doesn’t have the backboard to help nudge the ball through the basket.
Using Hoopsalytics with a full season from my High School Girls team, I was curious to see if forcing shots away from the middle would make a difference in shooting percentage. Using the Shot Chart tool for all 23 games I had charted, I filtered out shots inside of 7 feet, and just selected all 2 pt. shots from the slot.
So what did we learn? Drumroll please…
For my team, we shot 26% from the middle:
Excluding the selected middle area, we shot 16%:
I ran the same analysis on our opponents. They were 30% from the middle:
And 20% away from the middle:
I also did the same analysis on the Hoopsalytics High School Demo team, and got a similar result for that team. For the opponents, there was just a 1% difference however.
We’ll be doing more analysis of other levels of basketball in the off-season, and will update this article as we get more data on side vs. middle shots. But please leave a comment and share your insights!