Shot Clock Players

5 Apr

Shot Clock Players

Written by Kevin Sutton

Assistant Basketball Coach

George Washington University


While watching the NCAA tournament the last two weeks I decided to chart the type of shots taken and what time the shots are taken on the shot clock.

The Harvard vs New Mexico game was a prime example of managing the shot clock properly.  Harvard while using their “Passing Game” offense to control the tempo of the game and thus they won the game.


Commentator Doug Gottlieb said it best when he said,”Harvard attacked early in the shot clock for a three and attacked late in the shot clock for a lay up or to draw a foul”.  This philosophy lead me to look at what took place in the middle shot clock.


So I decided to divide the shot clock into thirds:

The first 1/3rd of the clock I call Early clock(35-25 seconds).

The second 1/3rd of the clock is Middle clock(25-10 seconds).

The third 1/3rd of the clock is Late clock(10-0 seconds).


Majority of the Early Clock shots come  in transition when the defense is trying to get back.  They also come after an offensive rebound when the ball is kicked  out of the paint to a shooter spotting up for 3’s.  These shots are when the defense is not set.


The highest percentage of shots come during the Middle Shot Clock time zone (25-10 seconds).  This is due primarily to the fact that the offense is now running either a set  play or some form of motion offense.  They are executing their offensive principals: Ball reversal, inside/out, penetration(ball and/or dribble).


Interestingly enough, three point shots are taken during all three shot clock time zones:

Three’s taken during the Early Shot Clock time zone are transition 3’s while the defense is not set.

Three’s taken during the Middle Shot Clock time zone are a by product of the offense being run effectively(Inside/out).

Three’s taken  during the Late Shot Clock time zone are due to Drive & Kick  and/or  Pick and Pop.


Dunks and lay ups usually occur during Early and Late shot clock time zones. The floater is the shot of choice by the players when attacking the basket late in the shot clock.


The shot clock is such an important part of the game.  I feel that championship teams have what I call “Shot Clock Player”.  The “Shot Clock Player” is that player that consistently makes the “right play” as the clock is running down.    The “right play” can be made on both the offensive and/or defensive end of the court.


The “right play” from a offensive perspective is:

1. making the shot

2. making the pass

3. setting a screen

4. drawing a foul


The “right play” from a defensive perspective is:

1. forcing a turnover

2. getting a 5 second count

3. taking a charge

4. closing out without fouling

5. closing out while containing the dribble

6. plugging the gap

7. helping the helper

8. contain the dribble


Management or mismanagement of the shot clock can determine winning or losing. Ohio State proved by playing three close games(winning two of them – Mississippi and Arizona) and losing the third to Wichita  State with a chance to go to the Final Four, that is why you have to be able to manage the shot clock properly.  In the two games that Ohio State won they had two different players(Craft and Ross) make huge shots late in the game as the shot clock expired.   Their understanding of time and score were important to the outcome of the game. They knew how many points they were down and they knew exactly how much time they had to get their shot off.


Close games come down to four things:

1. decision making,

2. execution,

3. Time and score  management (especially the shot clock).

4. a Free Throw shooting contest.


The four teams in the Final Four have “Shot Clock Players”:

(Syracuse – Michael   Carter-Williams, Michigan – Trey Burke,

Louisville – Peyton Silva and Russ Smith ,  Wichita State – Malcom Armstead and  Fred Van Vleet).  These players learn to embrace success instead of fearing failure.  They have learned through trial and error to gain the confidence needed to become a “SHOT CLOCK PLAYER”.


2 Responses to “Shot Clock Players”

  1. Functional Basketball Coaching April 6, 2013 at 8:02 PM #

    Hi Coach,

    As always an interesting read.

    How do you think the shot clock affects play in the 24 second version of the rules?

    The principles described by you here would probably be a good way of breaking down analysis (earl, mid and late).

    I also find it interesting the selection of the different shot throughout the information. I would not have guessed that the 3-pt shot was so heavily used in the early part of the offense. Is this a good strategy without having good rebounding coverage?


    Functional Basketball Coaching
    Twitter: @funbballcoach
    Find Us on Facebook!

  2. Oliver Andal April 23, 2013 at 4:50 AM #

    Hi Coach! Very nice article. No one write this better than you.

    This will be one exciting playoffs season for all the teams. I just hope that officiating will be fair as compared to previous nba season. I hate to see injuries specially at this crucial moments. Very excited to see the nba finals go to a game 7. Goodluck to all the teams.

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