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The price of anarchy

On Hardwood Paroxysm, Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game writes about a paper called "The Price of Anarchy in Basketball" presented by Brian Skinner at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. The paper wrestles with reality that giving the ball to your best offensive player every time down the floor is not the best offensive strategy.

Mahoney writes:

One example that Skinner highlighted is Ray Allen. Allen’s shot usage over the course of his career makes him an easy candidate; in Milwaukee and Seattle he was called upon to be The Man, but in

TrueHoop at MIT Sloan Sports conference

The value of a blocked shot.

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Quantify my life.Boston, he’s simply a man. He’s a shooter, a scorer and leader, and one of the three. He offers plenty on the court but in a completely different capacity, and with a markedly lower percentage of his team’s total shots. There is power in variety, and with the offensive options that have been available in Boston (in 2008, namely, though still today on a theoretical basis, if nothing more), Allen, a talented offensive player, actually benefits his team by not shooting. Not because his teammates are better shooters than he is on a per-possession basis necessarily, but because putting so much of the offensive production on one source creates myriad problems. Fatigue. Defensive attention. Heat checks. Skinner invokes Dean Oliver in stating that as usage goes up, a player’s offensive efficiency goes down, and that makes a ton of sense.

But at the same time, that creates a bit of a boggling result: a team’s best play is sometimes to have their best shooter not shoot. That conclusion naturally led Allen’s former teammate, Brent Barry, to pipe up from the audience and announce that he texted Ray the results of the study with a note to not shoot so much. I’m pretty sure Denzel Washington told him the same thing over ten years ago, though, so I wouldn’t expect some kind of drastic change.