A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Chamberlain Theory

Kobe Theory: Adventures in Distorted Probability

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We saw some fantastic, hard-hitting articles this week about Kobe Bryant‘s clutch reputation. I’ll go over them briefly, and then just talk about what people’s perceptions say about people in general, and running a basketball team specifically.

Henry Abbott at ESPN’s TrueHoop does a great job of just summarizing the fact that despite Kobe‘s reputation as the ultimate clutch performer, all the evidence says this is not the case.

Kelly Dwyer at Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie shows some moxie in making clear that he’s quite comfortable saying that if NBA GM’s don’t see the problem with Kobe’s stats, then the GM’s are in the wrong.

Zach Lowe at SI’s The Point Forward chimes in, but also emphasizes the larger trend that NBA offenses in general do terrible in the clutch. Scoring at far lower rates than they do in the rest of the game.

All very cool stuff. Here’s the most telling fact as I see it: People who reject the numbers here do it by dismissing statistics as not being as valid as what they see, which is an argument that often has merit, but is not valid at all here. So, Why isn’t it valid? and Why are people like this? Read the rest of this entry »

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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