The effect of defensive pressure on the hot-hand phenomenon in basketball

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The present thesis examines the effect of defensive pressure on the hot-hand phenomenon in basketball. According to this phenomenon, players are more likely to hit their following shot attempt if they have hit their previous shots than if they have missed them. Previous research hypothesized that the opposing team may react to a streaky player’s performance by increasing its defensive pressure and thereby rendering the hot-hand effect unobservable.
The aim of this thesis is to provide an in-depth analysis of this conjecture by considering it from three different perspectives. In Study 1, I analyze changes in the shot- taking behavior of professional basketball players based on offensive metrics and relate these findings to potential defensive adjustments. Study 2 assesses the decision making of professional basketball coaches in an experimental setting and examines whether coaches are likely to adjust their defensive strategy based on an opposing player’s streakiness. Moreover, the effects of such behavior are analyzed by testing the decisions of basketball players as a function of streakiness and applied defensive pressure. Finally, Study 3 directly assesses how defensive pressure changes based on an opposing player’s streakiness in real-game situations through the use of novel defensive metrics. In addition, I analyze how the players’ shooting performance evolves during hot versus cold streaks when controlling for shot difficulty.
Overall, the three studies provide strong evidence that defenders behave according to the hot-hand belief and increase their pressure on presumably hot players. Consequently, players attempt significantly more difficult shots following hot streaks and easier ones following cold streaks. However, after controlling for shot difficulty, no evidence in favor of a hot-hand effect can be found, as the observed players’ performance tends to be slightly lower after hot streaks. For instance, easy shot attempts, i.e., open shots, are hit with a lower accuracy than following cold streaks. Finally, the present work also examines the
adaptiveness of hot-hand behavior and concludes that the observed behavior on defense cannot be considered adaptive.
From a theoretical standpoint, the added value of this thesis includes the first-time modeling of the hot-hand heuristic and the specification of the environmental conditions in which it is used by basketball professionals. Furthermore, I define the necessary conditions for the observed behavior by players and coaches to be ecologically rational. To embed the insights of this thesis into a practical context, I also derive recommendations for how athletes, coaches and teams can turn the non-adaptiveness of an opponent’s hot-hand behavior into a strategic advantage and benefit from such behavior.
Original languageGerman
Place of PublicationKöln
PublisherDeutsche Sporthochschule Köln
Number of pages148
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ID: 3257851

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