I spent most of Friday and Saturday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, checking out other research and discussing my work (with my buddy Chris) on the NBA draft and tanking. Peter Dizikes wrote a nice article for MIT News discussing our project and some of the other work by MIT affiliates. I was also interviewed by a fellow named David Staples from the Edmonton Journal about our project.
David mentions another project on tanking presented at the conference. Adam Gold, who’s a PhD student at the University of Missouri, presented his “solution” for tanking. The proposal: total team wins after playoff elimination should determine draft order. My problem with this: teams that are eliminated sooner have more time to accumulate wins post-elimination, so, rather than race for the overall worst record, teams would race to be eliminated first. I think this would make the problem worse, since teams with low expectations might give up early in the season, even if these expectations were wrong.
Adam’s response was that no teams will tank early, since they all try to make the playoffs first and foremost. I wish that were true, Continue reading
Posted in Basketball, Causal Analysis, Commentary, Common Sense, Research Papers
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Since it all began for Jeremy Lin on Saturday, February 4th against the Nets, Jeremy Lin has shot 42-73 from the field (58%!) over four games. Lin’s shooting percentage his senior year at Harvard? 52%. His first four games as the starter for the Knicks are even more anomalous considering that he is only 3-14 from three point range. He shot 60% on two pointers his senior year, compared with 66% over the last four games.
You probably know what’s coming. That’s right, Lin has had a great start to his career, but also a lucky start. Although his performance has transformed the Knicks’ demeanor, don’t expect the insane shooting to continue. Teams will also start backing off on pick and rolls to see if he can reliably make NBA threes. If you still want to jump on the bandwagon, Brother Conor can tell you what to expect.
I also have great news today! One of my submissions to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was accepted for the poster session. The paper (available at my academic website, written with Christopher Walters) estimates the causal impact of NBA draft incentives on tanking as well as the causal impact of winning the NBA draft lottery. In short, we find that teams tank a lot — teams that can improve their draft position by losing have lower winning percentages than teams that can’t by about 15 percentage points. There’s good reason for all this tanking. After adjusting for team quality, winning the draft lottery provides a four year attendance boost (though only a small increase in winning percentage). I’ll explain the details in a future post.
Posted in Basketball, Causal Analysis, Common Sense, Research Papers
Tagged basketball, Brother Conor, Conor Williams, does it help to win the NBA draft lottery, Harvard University, how much tanking is there in the NBA, impact of winning the NBA draft lottery, is tanking worth it, Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lin bad three point shooter, Jeremy Lin Chinese, Jeremy Lin Harvard shooting percentage, Jeremy Lin has gotten lucky, Jeremy Lin hype, Jeremy Lin lucky, Jeremy Lin overhyped, Jeremy Lin overrated, Jeremy Lin shooting percentage, Jeremy Lin too much hype, Knicks, Lin, Linsanity, National Basketball Association, NBA, NBA draft, NBA draft lottery, NBA tanking, New York Knicks, Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, too much tanking NBA, why do NBA teams tank