The importance of Punishment Plays By “Nacho” Jose Ignacio Gamez Jimenez


In the rebounding series we’ve defined the concept of punishment plays, just remember, a punishment play takes place when three conditions are met:

  • the origin of the offense is a rebound
  • the offense lasts 8 seconds or less
  • the offense ends with a shot, both made and missed shots are taken into account

In this new article we’ll first analyze the importance of quick shots, and then we’ll see the weight of punishment plays in those quick shots, that’s to say, we’ll see the weight of rebounds (both offensive and defensive) as source of quick shots. 


In this section we are going to address the importance of quick shots in the offense. Inherent advantages of quick shots are; first, except when the origin is a deadball the defense isn’t set yet, and second, we spend less energy in the offense. Let’s dive deeper in this kind of shots.

First thing we must look at is the FG%, as we can see in the following picture, except for the first two seconds, the quicker we shot the better. In these two first seconds, 2FG% is still better than non-quick shots, since they come mostly off offensive rebounds close to the basket, as for 3FG% well, taking such a quick shot doesn’t look a good idea.

Numbers demonstrate that the closer is the defender the lesser is the FG%, so let’s look at the proportion of open shots taking into account the shot clock range. As we can see in the following table (please note that the columns “2FG Open” and “3FG Open” show shot frequencies not FG%), there’s no evidence of improvement in the quality of shots (that’s to say whether they are open or not) for longer possessions, in fact, when we enter the final seconds open 3FG are more difficult to get.

Now we’ve seen there’s no advantage for longer possessions, let’s check whether there is real advantage for quick shots, do they deliver easy points? The answer is in the following table. We can see a pattern for every team, the contribution of points off quick shots is significantly higher than the contribution of possessions, that’s to say, those points off quick shots are easier than the points got in longer possessions. As a result, we can see how the Offensive Rating is on average 26% better for short possessions, if we compare short possessions with longer ones (the column for Slow OFFRTG), the improvement is on average 46%.

Taking into account all this information, it’s safe to say that quick shots deliver easy points, and that’s really a key question. Easy points let you make your score bigger with controlled effort and, probably as important, make life way more difficult to your opponents cause they start their offense off a deadball against a set defense, if getting easy points is not the main goal for a coach it should be close.

The following question to address is the weight of punishment plays (quick shots off a rebound) as source of quick shots, let’s do it in the following section.


In the following pictures we are going to compare punishment plays with the rest of quick shots (in 8 seconds or less) paying attention to their origin, we introduce a breakdown for clutch time just to check whether punishment plays loss importance when the game is on the line:

We should pay special attention to sources in red, cause once the ball is dead you can set your defense. Anyway, comparing all the sources give us a measure of defensive rebound as a source for quick shots, in fact, it arises as the main source. In clutch time, we can see that punishment plays off rebounds remain the main source of quick shots while steals plummet, and deadball plays go up as expected in these minutes. The weight of offensive rebound isn’t as high as defensive rebound, but still higher than the rest.

As conclusion:

Punishment plays are a key source of easy points and, as a result, a main reason for offensive rating improvement

I just hope you find this article interesting, please, don’t hesitate to share your opinion here or in twitter. Thanks!

PS: You can find this article in my linkedin account