Sunday, April 17, 2005

Eliminate the 3? No, Make the NBA Like College

There has been a lot of complaints about how the three pointer has ruined the NBA. Proponents of this point of view argue that because a 33% probability of a three point shot equals a 50% probability of a two-pointer, players are taking a lot more ugly shots. Therefore, according to these critics, the three has hurt the quality of play in the NBA. Now it is hard for me to compare having the three point shot to not having it, because the three point shot has been in the NBA longer than I have been alive (23 versus 25 years). However, I think opponents of the three point shot are missing the forest from the trees: many more of the NBA's rules hinder quality of play.

I actually believe that the problem with the shot stems from the fact that the three point line is so far back in the NBA. It takes a much more difficult shot to make the three in the NBA than it does in college or in international play. Therefore you are always are going to have uglier shots. Actually, the NBA would benefit from adopting other rules found in the college game. The twenty-minute halves might make it harder for TV networks to find opportunities to go to commercial, but they liven up the game by removing the extra stops in play that occur in the current four-quarter system. College's zone-defense reduce the number of lay-ups and slam dunks, but it encourages ball movement and offensive creativity. This is clearly a worthwhile trade-off to make. The pace of the twenty minute halves, the better ball movement required to score, and the general, more team-centered game is partly why the college game has become more popular.

Focusing on one-on-one play and big stars has made the NBA popular with the young, but this is part of the reason the league is increasingly scorned by older Americans. The inability to play the team game is also why the United States only barely earned a bronze in last year's Olympics.

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