Tanking: intentionally losing in order to improve draft position.
After my PhD buddy Chris and I circulated our findings that NBA teams tank a lot, we’ve been asked a few times, “Which teams are tanking?” Today I offer a quick look at teams that have likely tanked.
First, a refresher: we measure tanking by comparing performance before and after playoff-eliminated teams “clinch” their lottery spot. In the last couple games of the season, many teams lock in their spot, so they no longer have an incentive to lose. Those games act as our control. The problem with doing it this way is that some tankers may keep trying to lose even after they clinch their spot. This could happen because teams shut down star players because of “injury” or just because teams develop a habit of losing.
So, the big caveat with the results below (and the results in our paper) is that we are almost certainly missing some tankers. Some teams Continue reading
Posted in Basketball, Causal Analysis, Research Papers
Tagged Atlanta Hawks, basketball, Boston Celtics, causal analysis, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, do teams tank NBA, draft position, Golden State Warriors, how much tanking is there in the NBA, Jason Kidd, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, National Basketball Association, NBA, NBA draft lottery, NBA draft lottery incentive to tank, NBA first overall picks, NBA lottery rules, nba teams, playoff elimination, Sports, tanking, Toronto Raptors, Vancouver Grizzlies
When the Nuggets resigned Nene to a large contract in the off season, I wrote that they were making the most of a bad situation (few marquee free agents available, Nene not worth the money). Today, they admitted as much by trading Nene in a three team deal that landed them talented but unreliable JaVale McGee.
Although the Nuggets have bucked the trend slightly by having some success post-Iverson and Carmelo, my preferred models for NBA success are the South Beach Talents and the Seattle Scientists. The Talents involve trading or signing two (or three!) top 15 players, and spending the spare change on spare parts to fill out the roster. The theory is that mid range guys are overpaid, so just spend you money at the top and bottom.
If you’re a small market, it’s tough to attract stars these days, so I suggest the Scientists, a hypothetical NBA team that attacks a different undervalued asset: effort. The Scientists hire guys who will be in better shape and work harder than every other team. They press on offense AND defense.
The Nuggets are neither of these. They are doing okay with their strategy of paying mid range guys (Afflalo is another example); they have the 6 seed right now. However, they probably aren’t a championship team. Wouldn’t it be fun to try something new instead?
Posted in Basketball, Innovative Ideas, Trades/Free Agency
Tagged bad situation, basketball, Denver Nuggets, free agents, ideas for NBA teams, JaVale McGee, JaVale McGee trade, Los Angeles Clippers, low effort NBA, mid range, National Basketball Association, NBA, NBA players don't try, nba team, NBA team models, Nene, Nuggets, Nuggets trade Nene, Nuggets Wizards Clippers trade, Seattle Scientists, South Beach Talents, spare change, Sports, Washington Wizards
On Sunday night, the Lakers traveled to Denver for the second half of a home and away back to back. The Lakers took game 1, but home court and youth were on the Nuggets side for game 2. The Lakers got great games from Pau “the Gas Man” Gasol and Andrew “Great Potential” Bynum, keeping the game close. Then, Kobe “took over” and blew the game for them. His bricklayer performance (6-28, 16 points, 2 boards) was the old man version of his 2009 finals game 7 ugly (6-24, 23 points, 15 boards) — fewer trips to the line and no rebounding. Bad sign for the Lakers.
The Nuggets took full advantage of old man Kobe, letting him take tough jump shots and then leaking a player as soon as the shot went up. On one Kobe brick, Continue reading
Posted in Basketball, Commentary, Common Sense, Innovative Ideas
Tagged Andrew Bynum, basketball, Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Kobe Bryant, Kobe Bryant game 7 2009 NBA finals, Kobe Bryant NBA finals MVP 2009, Kobe Bryant poor shooting, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, NBA playoffs, Pau Gasol, Seattle Scientists, the Gas Man
The transactions keep flowing in the NBA. Nene signed a big contract with the Nuggets (more than $67 million, 5 years) that only looks small because many thought he might receive a $100 million offer. However, this still reminds me of the contracts that brought us NBA Lockout 2011 (which is also the name of a really boring video game about collective bargaining and corporate finance). We’re talking about a big man with past knee problems and a rebound rate around 15 over the last four years. Guys like Dwight Howard and Kevin Love are in the 20s.
I think Nene is a decent defender as well, but this contract is most likely a questionable decision in response to a bad situation. Continue reading
Posted in Basketball, Commentary, Financial Analysis, Hockey, Probability Analysis, Trades/Free Agency
Tagged Aaron Afflalo, basketball in China, cap room, Chris Paul, Corey Brewer, Dallas Mavericks, DeAndre Jordan, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Red Wings, Dwight Howard, eight seed wins series, Evgeni Malkin, J.R. Smith, John Hollinger, Kenyon Martin, Kevin Love, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, max contracts, midlevel contracts, NBA, NBA lockout, NBA playoffs, Nene, New Jersey Nets, NHL, NHL playoffs, PER, Pittsburgh Penguins, rebound rate, Rudy Fernandez, salary cap, Sidney Crosby concussion, Tyson Chandler, Wilson Chandler
You all know by now — the New Orleans Mess tried to trade Chris Paul to the Lakers (involving the Rockets as well), but the other owners, who jointly own the Mess, stepped in and blocked the trade. The trade has quickly become an argument about the small market/big market dichotomy in the NBA. My brother Conor sent me a standard response from Matthew Yglesias at Slate. Yglesias argues that artificially preserving the talent on small market teams is misguided:
It’s not clear to me why they don’t just eliminate this New Orleans franchise. Everyone knows there are too many NBA teams. Nobody wants to own this team, nobody wants to play for it, and there’s no a priori reason to believe an NBA franchise in New Orleans could ever be financially viable.
Yglesias and many others feel that the Mess and maybe a few more teams should be “liquidated” and “replaced” in some way. Ideally, they could be moved to a big market, where the financial returns to winning seem higher. However, eliminating and moving teams is bad press. I also think that keeping teams Continue reading
Posted in Basketball, Commentary, Common Sense, Financial Analysis, Innovative Ideas, Trades/Free Agency
Tagged 30 for 30, baseball, basketball, big market teams, Chris Paul, Chris Paul trade, Daryl Morey, David Aresnault, Denver Nuggets, football, Grinnell College, Houston Rockets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kevin Grier, LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers, Loyola Marymount, Marginal Revolution, Matthew Yglesias, MLB, Moneyball, NBA, New Orleans Hornets, NFL, Paul Westhead, Seattle Scientists, Seattle SuperSonics, small market teams, Tyler Cowen