Careers That Count: Virtual Field Trip with the NBA Viewing Activities

Join Discovery Education and Jr. NBA for a virtual field trip to the NBA headquarters, Madison Square Garden, and Madison Square Boys & Girls Club in New York for an inside look at how math is brought to life through careers in basketball. Meet NBA basketball players and staff who use math every day to improve the game both on and off the court.

Premiering On Demand Thursday, May 4, 2017

Make the most of this special opportunity to open your students’ minds to viable and exciting STEM careers with these viewing activities.

Discovery Education Streaming and Math Techbook users, access the Virtual Field Trip here.

Points Per Shot (PPS) Activity

For a printable version of this lesson plan go here.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Shooting Guard and Small Forward for the Brooklyn Nets, showed how a player’s Points Per Shot (PPS) is calculated. While attempting 10 field goals, Rondae made seven 2-pointers for 14 points, and he made two 3-pointers for 6 points. All together, his shots totaled 20 points. To determine his Points Per Shot, those 20 points were divided by his 10 field goal attempts. His PPS was 2.0.

From Careers that Count: A Virtual Field Trip with the NBA

We all know that shooting around in an open gym is much different from a live game with top defenders, a roaring crowd, and four quarters of intense play. Let’s look at an entire season’s data and determine some Points Per Shot stats.

This table, from Discovery Education Math Techbook’s NBA Analysis Tool, contains real data from top picks in the 2016 NBA Draft. Can you calculate each player’s PPS stat? Write a formula that could be used to determine each player’s Points Per Shot.

Table Key: FGA = Field Goals Attempted, 2PM = Two Pointers Made, and 3PM = Three Pointers Made

Extension: Create your own data set as an individual or class activity. Have each participant take the same number of shots (10, 20, etc.), and have observers record the number of 2-pointers and 3-pointers made. Calculate each player’s Points Per Shot. Alternatively, calculate the PPS for NBA or WNBA players on your favorite team using the NBA Analysis Tool in Discovery Education Math Techbook.

Question to Ponder: Setting aside player skill level, what factors or variables might impact a player’s Points Per Shot statistic?

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) Activity

Zain Jafri, Analyst for the New York Knicks, shared that Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) can be a more accurate measure of a shooter’s impact. Why? Because it accounts for the fact that, even though 3-pointers are made less often, they’re worth more than 2-pointers.

The formula for determining Effective Field Goal Percentage is:

eFG% = (FGM + (0.5*3PTM)) / FGA

The table from Discovery Education Math Techbook’s NBA Analysis Tool contains the data you need to calculate the Effective Field Goal Percentage for each player on the Los Angeles Sparks, including Nneka Ogwumike2016 WNBA Most Valuable Player. What is each player’s eFG%?

Table Key: FGM = Field Goals Made, FGA = Field Goals Attempted, and 3PM = Three Pointers Made

Extension: How does each player’s Effective Field Goal Percentage compare to her general Field Goal Percentage? What does this tell us about the player and the position she plays?

Question to Ponder: What’s the difference between the formulas for Effective Field Goal Percentage and True Shooting Percentage (TSP)? Research each statistic, then compare.

Scheduling Activity

Hao Meng, Director of Basketball Strategy for the NBA, shared some of the complexities of scheduling all 1,230 games in the NBA season. Before the use of computer models to help consider variables like player fatigue, travel times, and facility availability, scheduling used to take over six months to complete.

What did this scheduling actually feel like? Let’s take into account just one variable: distance between destinations.

The Brooklyn Nets compete in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Throughout the season, they play teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences. To help minimize player fatigue and, in many cases, cost of travel, it is helpful to keep travel distances to a minimum.

In this part of their away-game schedule, the Nets need to travel to play the Charlotte Hornets, the Toronto Raptors, the Detroit Pistons, and the Indiana Pacers before returning home to Brooklyn. What is the shortest possible travel route for them to take? The map below shows distances between cities in miles.

Create a partial schedule for the Nets to play each of these four teams and then return home. Try to minimize total travel distance. Is the combined distance for your schedule as few miles as possible? How do you know?

Extension: Doris Daif, Senior Vice President of Customer Data Strategy for the NBA, shared that they use fan data to create compelling and personalized messages. Compose a tweet or email promoting these road games. Who is your target audience? What do you want them to know?

Question to Ponder: This scheduling exercise is a variation on what’s known as the Traveling Salesman Problem, an unsolved problem in mathematics. What algorithms exist to help solve the Traveling Salesman Problem? What do you think this says about creating a “perfect” NBA schedule?


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  1. Stacy said:

    With the Points per shot activity, there were 2 three pointers, and 7 two pointers made…. doesn’t that mean that there are only 9 field goals attempted, not 10. Am I not understanding this correctly?

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