This is a review of the basketball research applying allocative efficiency and dynamic efficiency techniques conducted by Brian Skinner and Matthew Goldman.
The end goal for any basketball game is to win the game. In order to maximize the chance of winning, teams need to evaluate the effectiveness of their strategies in influencing the outcome of the game.
One decision a team must face is when should shots be taken and which player should be taking the shots. When a player is faced with a shooting possibility, they must decide whether they should take the shot or pass the ball to a teammate. Which option will have the greater probability of ending up with the team scoring points? This model looks at the number of times a particular play is used during a game and how many points, on average, are earned by the play. If one particular play is used to often during a game its effectiveness decreases so coaches need to understand how to maximize the potential of each strategy by determining how often to use it within the course of a game.
Another factor in basketball strategy deals with time. A team’s decision-making process is constrained by the shot clock. As the shot clock winds down a team often becomes more desperate to score, often taking lower quality shots, which reduces the expected outcome of the possession. Players must take into account the amount of time left on the shot clock when making decisions. Is it better to shoot now or pass the ball and wait for a better opportunity?
A third factor is the riskiness of a strategy. The ultimate goal is not to score points but to win the game. Before taking a shot, a player must look at the probability scoring. Are they likely to make points with the shot or not? Underdog teams can maximize their potential by pursuing risky strategies while stronger teams maximize their potential with a more conservative strategy. It is impossible to know exactly which plays a team will be utilizing ahead of time, however analysts and coaches can look at past games played by the opponents as an indicator of future performance and adapt their own strategy accordingly.
The greatest difficulty in determining optimal strategy is estimating the efficiency of different offensive tactics. This is combined with the fact that each offense play’s efficiency is also affected by the defensive strategies of the opponent.
Determining a team’s optimal strategy is based on maximizing their expected number of points and minimizing the opponent’s expected number of points. Coaches can look at several possibilities to help determine optimal strategy. Some choices are to increase or decrease the number of 3-point shots taken, manipulating the time clock, or calling timeouts.
As advancements continue to be made in the field of basketball statistics, tools will be developed to help coaches and analysts more accurately determine the optimal strategy for individual teams within the league.
How mature is your team’s analytics program? Take the Sports Analytics Maturity Assessment.
Learn about the Groundbreaking Sports Analytics Model coaches and sports analysts are talking about!
Learn all about Sports Analytics here.