Backyard Basketball: Alternative Scoring Systems

Welcome back to another edition of Backyard Basketball! In this much awaited sequel, we’ll examine how the discussion on shot selection presented in the first edition of Backyard Basketball changes in the alternative scoring systems often used in recreational basketball.

Playing By Ones and Twos

Sometimes, recreational basketball is played by ones and twos rather than by twos and threes. This means that shots inside the arc are worth one points and shots from downtown are worth two points. The implications of this are immediately obvious: long-distance shots are now twice as valuable as all other shots! To see exactly how valuable they are, let’s take a look at the table on shooting percentages presented in the first edition, adjusted for the new scoring system:

At the Rim

3-9 Feet

10-15 Feet

16-23 Feet

Beyond 23 Feet

61.70%

41.30%

39.00%

39.60%

71.60%

Wow! Under this scoring system, three pointers gain incredible value. They’re even more effective than the average layup! So if you’re on offense, and you’re even reasonably competent at shooting three pointers, I recommend shooting them. At least half of your shots should be threes, anything less is simply unacceptable. In fact, I recommend for you to shoot 75% of your shots from beyond the arc. While picking players for your team, prioritize three point shooting above all else.

If you’re on the defensive side of the ball, work as hard as you can to prevent your opponent from getting good looks from three point land. Close out hard on shooters and force them to drive to the rim; remember, layups are worse shots to take than threes!

Of course, this assumes that you are as good at shooting from each location on the floor as NBA players. However, given the shorter distance of the three point line in recreational courts, I think it is likely that these percentages are proportional to shooting percentages at the equivalent distances in recreational basketball.

I don’t know why this scoring system is ever used. I don’t think it’s really any easier to count by 1s and 2s than by 2s and 3s, and even if it is, such ease comes at the cost of giving three pointers ridiculous value relative to other shots. It may be the case that certain courts are very tough places to hit threes from, “justifying” their high value. While I’m pretty sure most basketball player don’t take this into account, it still doesn’t truly address the issue, as the eFG% of the threes are still likely to be higher than mid range shots. So, the next time your opponent wants to play by ones and twos, jack up as many threes as you can and destroy him (or her, I guess).

No Three Pointers

In this scoring system, all shots count equally, regardless of where on the floor they come from. This is often used on courts without any three point lines. To understand the implications this, lets revisit the shooting percentages by distance. You math whizzes nerds may have realized that this is the same chart as previously, with the eFG% of “two pointers” cut in half :

At the Rim

3-9 Feet

10-15 Feet

16-23 Feet

Beyond 23 Feet

61.70%

41.30%

39.00%

39.60%

35.80%

Threes are now the worst shot in the game, so even if there is a line on your court, don’t take any threes under this scoring system. Shots at the rim stand out as the best shots to take by far, so try to have as many of your shots come from here as possible, preferably 100%. Of course, even without a shot clock forcing you to shoot, this isn’t realistic, especially as the best defensive strategy under this scoring system is to clog the paint as much as possible.

So how do you best take advantage of this scoring system? One way would be while picking teams; disregard perimeter shooting entirely and focus on getting big men and strong, physical basketball players. Rebounding and put backs will be invaluable, as will having a post presence who can get deep inside the paint and get those high percentage shots at the rim.

Another way to gain a leg up is to play a 2-3 zone defense. This will help you have more bodies down low to protect the rim and gather rebounds. Pack the paint as much as possible, sag off shooters, and go under screens.

Unfortunately, I can’t provide much more help for this scoring system. It’s a tough nut to crack, as the inventors of basketball learned early on. The original game of basketball (which of course had no three pointers), had become an overly physical, grind of a game. Shorter players were getting phased out; they couldn’t contribute much to their teams compared to their bigger counterparts. The three point shot completely revitalized the game and made it a much more fun and exciting product.

In conclusion, both of these scoring systems cause certain skill sets become much more valuable than they would under the normal “twos and threes” scoring system. Use this to your advantage. If you have a team with great shooters, tell your opponents that you’ll be played by ones and twos. If you have a team with great big men and slashing forwards, but limited shooting, try to play with the traditional “twos and threes” rule, or ideally, play without three pointers at all. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Backyard Basketball!

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