An argument for the shot clock

The shot clock does not make better players. However, the lack of a shot clock retards player development. I coached girls’ basketball in California with a 30-second shot clock. Only once or twice a game was the shot clock really a factor. The presence of the shot clock sped up the pace of the game. The threat of a shot clock led to players shooting open shots early in the clock and being more aggressive. 

I coached boys basketball in Utah this year without a shot clock. There were times that our opponent would run a minute of offense. Without the threat of the shot clock violation, there was no urgency. In close games, some teams would take even more time. I am sitting at the high-school tournament, and teams have started to hold the ball with three to four minutes left in the game.

Let’s assume a 25-game schedule. Some teams play more games and some play fewer, but let’s assume that is the average for a high school team. Let’s assume the presence of a 30 or 35-second shot clock increases possessions per game by 10, which would be a conservative estimate, though dependent on the style of play, opponents, etc. 10 possessions per game would mean 250 possessions per season for a player to practice a skill, whether penetrating against defenders or defending the ball or cutting versus a zone. Over four seasons, that is 1000 more opportunities for a player to practice his or her skills in a game environment. That is 1000 more possessions to get opportunities for the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th or 10th players.

One game today was played at such a slow pace that one team did not make a single substitution, and the players hardly looked tired after the game; one player was shooting around 20 minutes after her game ended and looked like she was warming up before a game, not after a closely-contested play-off game. But, I imagine if she filled out a Borg scale (6-20) and was completely honest with herself, I’d say that she would be at a 12 or 13, 65% – 70% effort or “somewhat hard.”

While a game with a shot clock can be played at a slow tempo, the shot clock limits how slow a team can play. The shot clock guarantees changes in possession. Teams have to make plays for the entire game; they cannot take the air out of the ball with three minutes to play.

Honestly, without the shot clock, most games are boring. But, the need of a shot clock is beyond aesthetics. It’s a matter of development. More possessions equal more opportunities. More opportunities equals more experience. More experience should lead to more improvement and development. It’s a simple matter of numbers. 1000 possessions may not seem like much, but that’s a conservative estimate. 1000 extra opportunities for development matter, especially in girls’ basketball where many people comment on the lack of experience playing pick-up games.

By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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