Andrew Bynum and the dribble question

Andrew Bynum had a monster night on Wednesday in the Lakers' big road win over the Spurs. He racked up 30 rebounds.


Only eight other players have collected that many boards in a game since the 1985-86 season, and no Laker had accomplished such a feat since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1978. Meanwhile, the entire Spurs team managed only 33 rebounds.

Although Bynum was pleased with his heroics on the glass, he was bothered by his subpar shooting performance from the field. From Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register:

But Bynum also wasn’t satisfied, citing his 7-of-20 shooting from the field to go with 2-of-4 free-throw shooting. In these three road games without Bryant, enabling opposing defenses to trap Bynum faster and stronger, Bynum shot 24 of 64 from the field (37.5 percent).

He said he needs to figure out a way to get his base stronger to shoot with defenses taking away the dribbles he likes to take to get himself in rhythm.

“People are realizing if I get two or three dribbles, I’m going to get a basket very quickly and very easily,” Bynum said.

Bynum described himself in the locker room after a postgame shower as “a little upset” about the shooting that he said will send him into the gym for more work.

“For me, I’ll remember shooting horribly,” he said.

Bynum has an interesting dilemma that most of us face at some point -- what feels comfortable might not be the most efficient way to master a task. He likes to dribble the basketball before going up for his shot. For Bynum, it's a way of clearing his throat, of sorts, before getting into his move. But those dribbles present complications. They provide time for defenses to swarm and also leave him potentially vulnerable to turnovers.

A while back, 82games.com studied the correlation between the number of dribbles of a player taking a shot (or drawing a foul, or committing a turnover) -- in other words, the player whose action is decisive on a given possession. It's no surprise that the research concluded that a player is most likely to score and least likely to commit a turnover or get his shot blocked if he takes zero dribbles.

More of this kind of data is being explored. To wit, check out this clip from the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, in which Jackie MacMullan shares some findings about the correlation between Kevin Durant's shooting performance and the number of dribbles he takes prior to his shot attempts. For this specific portion for the discussion, please fast forward to the 16:00 mark: