Psychology of Marshall Henderson

Posted by on September 13, 2013

Yesterday, Ken Pomeroy sent out several tweets about Oakland’s Travis Bader. At this point, no one should be surprised that Travis Bader showed no signs of having a hot hand. Pomeroy showed that Bader’s 3P% actually went down after making a shot, likely because of overconfidence leading to poor shot selection.

At this point, study after study has made the numbers behind the hot hand pretty clear. Someone who shoots as frequently (and as well) as Bader is obviously going to make a bunch in a row multiple times in a season. Still, there is just no evidence that these streaks go beyond what we would expect from random variation.

Pomeroy’s tweets inspired me to take a different look at this topic. I decided not to look any further at if the hot hand actually exists, but instead to look at if the perception of the hot hand actually influences decision making. With this in mind, what better player to take a look at than Marshall Henderson?

Last season LeBron James tweeted that Marshall Henderson had, “The greenest light in basketball history!!” LeBron was pretty accurate with his tweet. Henderson finished just one three point attempt shy of tying David Holston’s record for the most in a season (stats going back to 1998).

Henderson’s has a reputation for being a streaky shooter with virtually no conscience on the court. I decided to leave that first part aside. I pretty much already knew what the numbers were going to say about his “streaky” shooting. I think the more interesting thing here is his conscience. The question being: Did Marshall Henderson play differently depending on his most recent result?

The numbers emphatically answer this question:

Table 1


This table is simply Henderson’s decision making, NOT his results/efficiency. Henderson was surprisingly a completely different player depending on what he had done last. After making a three, his next used possession was another three point attempt 72% of the time. After missing a three, his next used possession was another three point attempt just 38% of the time. Statistics say that Henderson wasn’t actually hot or cold during these times, but that doesn’t mean perception still doesn’t play a MAJOR role.

After missing a three, Henderson turned into more of an aggressive “playmaker”. He stopped taking so many outside shots and instead drove to the rim at a higher rate, drew fouls at a higher rate, assisted at a higher rate, and turned the ball over at a higher rate.

After making a three, Henderson was a one dimensional player. This seems like it might be valuable information for opposing defenses. I think it’s safe to say that defenses also react to the “hot hand” by giving less space. Clearly Henderson felt they didn’t adjust enough, he let 91 threes fly out of his 126 total plays following a made three.

Finally, the middle/white row shows Henderson’s decision making on his first used possession of a game or after being subbed back into a game. These numbers are a near perfect middle ground. Think of this row as the “rational” Marshall Henderson. Have those last three words ever been used together? By rational I mean that emotion is (probably?) less likely to significantly influence his play.

We think of Marshall Henderson as someone “who is never afraid of shooting from anywhere on the floor”. This seems to be simply off based. The hot hand might not exist, but players believe in it. Even Marshall Henderson has a conscience.

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