What we know about the theory of optimal strategy in basketball
A few months ago I was asked by Mark Glickman to write a book chapter about optimal strategy in basketball. (Mark is a senior lecturer in the Department of Statistics at Harvard, and is currently in the process of setting up a sports analytics laboratory.)
That was a sort of daunting task, so I recruited Matt Goldman as a co-author (Matt is currently working in the chief economist’s office at Microsoft, and has done some great work on optimal behavior in basketball), and together we put together a review that you can read here. The Chapter will appear in the upcoming Handbook of Statistical Methods for Design and Analysis in Sports, one of the Chapman & Hall/CRC Handbooks of Modern Statistical Methods.
Of course, it’s likely that you don’t want to read some academic-minded book chapter. Luckily, however, I was given the opportunity to write a short summary of the chapter for the blog Nylon Calculus (probably the greatest of the ultra-nerdy basketball blogs right now).
You can read it here.
A few things you might learn:
- An optimal team is one where everyone’s worst shots have the same quality.
- An optimal strategy does not generally lead to the largest expected margin of victory
- NBA players are shockingly good at their version of the Secretary Problem