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Last Shot Traps - Winning the Possession Battle

So far this week we’ve discussed winning the possession battle. We’ve done this with toughness: diving for loose balls and taking charges, and we’ve also discussed offensive toughness and limiting turnovers. To round out the week we are going to take a special look into a concept I first heard from Nate Babcock in his interview with Slappin Glass.


In this idea, the other team has the ball with the intentions of taking the last shot to end the quarter or half. But this means they may be getting an extra possessions depending on the jump ball status and who gets the ball after the stoppage. Taking the last shot to end a quarter or half is a great way to guarantee an extra possession(s) on the opponent.



However in this scenario the other team has the ball with this opportunity. Nate’s idea is to turn up your defensive pressure and look to send a trap. In this way we are hurrying up the offense into a mistake, best case scenario - we steal the ball and get a great offensive lay in to end the time. Worst case scenario they score against our trap and pressure, but we were conceding a last shot that could have resulted in the same way anyway and now we have a chance to score as well. And the last scenario is they handle the trap but are disciplined enough to still hold the ball for a last shot, in other words, we got them out of their set or play call.


If you are still concerned about that worst case scenario, let’s get a little mathy. In NBA stats, the last shot is worth .89 points per possessions. So the decision to let them take the last shot is conceding .89 points. Even if our trapping defense isn’t very good and let’s say we get a steal rarely and give up points more often; that is still probably 1.4 points per possessions (being generously bad). Even though we’ve raised their chance of scoring, we’ve also given ourselves a chance to score (assuming we left time on the clock with our trap). In this way we gained that .89 points per possessions for the last shot attempt. So even if we trap and sacrifice a .5 improved PPP, we’ve gained .89, leading to a +.49 PPP decision to trap.

Now I get it, we are talking analytics and a half a point’s value. So yes, the stats aren’t going to make this a no-brainer, but feel out the game. Know how the other team handles trap, how your team handles last second chances. Do you need momentum headed into the quarter or half? Or do you feel good with just ending with a defense stop?


Nevertheless, this is a great tool to steal extra possessions when the time is right. The perfect defensive tactic to end the week; going from gaining an advantage with toughness, grit and pride to gaining and advantage with decisioning making and strategy. The brains and the bronze. After all, the best defenses are a combination of the two.


See you next week.


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