NBA Moneyball

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Term Definition
The Hot Hand Myth

The "hot hand" describes the belief that the performance of a player, temporarily improves following a string of successes.

Players, coaches, commentators and fans believe in streaky shooting, but the academic studies against this conventional wisdom suggest that there is no player with the hot hand. Analysis through play-by-play data strongly considers streaks of made shots are some sort of natural variation.

Making 10 consecutive shots does not prove that a player is hot. NBA players tend to become significantly overconfident after making consecutive shots. After making one shot, a player's shooting percentage actually drops for the next field goal attempt. As if the player and his teammates believed him to be the team's best scoring option. Behaving as though the hot hand existed might actually be detrimental and cost an average team about four victories over one season!

See the analysis of "a hot hand", breakdown of Kobe's 81 points.

The Price of Anarchy
Author: Brian Skinner

It’s a suboptimal arrangement used in "traffic networks" that can be applied to Basketball as well. sportswriter Bill Simmons calles it the “Ewing Theory”. The idea that a team could improve after losing one of its best players may in fact have a network-based justification, and not just a psychological one.

Optimizing the performance of a basketball offense may be viewed as a network problem, wherein each play represents a "pathway" through which the ball and players may move from origin (the in-bounds pass) to goal (the basket). Effective field goal percentages from the resulting shot attempts can be used to characterize the efficiency of each pathway. The analysis suggests that there may be a significant difference between taking the highest-percentage shot each time down the court and playing the most efficient possible game. There may also be an analogue of Braess's Paradox in basketball, such that removing a key player from a team can result in the improvement of the team's offensive efficiency.


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