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Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Braess’ Paradox

Chamberlain Theory: The Real Price of Anarchy in Basketball

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Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell during a bas...

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A recent post by ElGee over at Back Picks talks about something I’ve been wanting to chime in on, and I want to go over it and then point something out that I haven’t seen discussed, other than in conversations I’ve had with ElGee and a few others.  The back story:

Braess’ Paradox

The Price of Anarchy is a game theory concept describing the difference between actual and optimal performance in a network where individuals in the network behave selfishly.  One of the amazing counterintuitive epiphanies relating to this is called Braess’ Paradox which describes how in a transportation system, building a new road can actually slow traffic down.  I’m going to skip an explanation of exactly how this is so and go straight to the analogy to basketball because it’s most relevant, and actually easier to understand.

People in the basketball world started talking about this when Brian Skinner wrote a paper and gave a talk at the Sloan Sports Analytics conference last year.  Skinner broke down the situation admirably:  If you keep running the same play, even if it’s easily the best play you have, the opponent is going to catch on, and it’s not going to be as effective.  Hard to argue with the man, he’s clearly right – but how big of a problem is this?

Ewing Theory…is not caused by Braess’ Paradox

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