Study reveals why NBA players miss free throws

Many fans may wonder why so many NBA players struggle with free throws, such as newly acquired Los Angeles Laker Dwight Howard. He made just three of 14 attempts in his Oct. 30 season debut -- and less than one-half of his tries last season. New research may offer Howard and other NBA stars who struggle at the free-throw line a method to identify exactly why their shots go awry.

Using data from a 3-D optical tracking system, researchers studied the trajectory of over 2,400 free throws taken by 20 players during the 2010-11 NBA season. The researchers concluded that in most cases one or two factors are responsible for most misses, but that the cause of success or failure was not consistent: each player missed in his own way.

The research team, Allan Z. Maymin, Philip Z. Maymin, and Eugene Shen, comes from the world of finance. They study how to analyze and act on huge volumes of data via technical methods known as high-frequency and algorithmic-based trading.

Philip Maymin, a professor of financial engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, in Brooklyn, told Inside Science that many of these methods are applicable to analyzing sports.

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