Archives for NBA



Kevin Durant Impersonates Russell Westbrook for Sprint

If you have been watching the NBA recently – and with the playoffs going on, you should be – you may have seen the following ad for Sprint.

Often people don’t pay attention to what people say in ads.  But this one – starring Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder – has a very interesting opening line: “Man I was double-teamed.  With no one to pass it to, so I pulled up and hit the shot for the win…” 

Let’s think about this for the moment. Durant says he has two defenders on him (i.e. he is double-teamed).  That means – if the other team is playing the standard five players, there are three more defenders on the court. And if Durant has four teammates on the court (and that would be standard), there must be someone open. But Durant says that there is no one to pass it to. 

Hmmmm….  Read More »



You Don’t Need to Be Bad to be Good in the NBA

The Portland Trail Blazers – a team that won 48 games in 2010-11 and was only three games below 0.500 this season – made two puzzling trades a couple of weeks ago.  Gerald Wallace was sent to the New Jersey Nets for two injured players and a first round pick in the 2012 draft.  And Marcus Camby was sent to the Houston Rockets for a second round pick and two players who had only played 158 minutes this year.

Camby and Wallace combined to produce more than 10 wins for the Blazers this season, and at the time of the trade their level of productivity led the team.  Given what the Blazers received back, it seems likely the Blazers just got worse. Read More »



How the NBA Takes Money From People Who Don’t Like Basketball

The Sacramento Kings will continue to exist. This week, the City Council approved a plan to finance a new home for the Kings in Sacramento. The price tag, though, is pretty steep.  The arena will cost $391 million, and $255.5 million will be coming from the city of Sacramento.   

Opponents of this plan – and there were just two on the nine-member Council – noted that sports arenas don’t provide much economic benefit. Furthermore, they questioned why public money should be given to a private business. 

As Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy – who voted no – observed: “This city is on the verge of insolvency. As far as I know, we still technically qualify for bankruptcy under federal law.”

Proponents of this plan, though, argued that this plan will create jobs and economic benefits.  And it was this argument that apparently persuaded the majority.

So we have two perspectives and one question: Do sports generate jobs and economic growth?  Read More »



Why Did the NBA Miss On Jeremy Lin?

In my last post, I reviewed how difficult it was to evaluate quarterbacks in the NFL draft. Essentially, I noted that there were several factors connected to where a quarterback was selected in the draft. But those factors failed to predict future performance. Given how difficult it was to just predict the future performance of veterans in the NFL, the difficulty people have forecasting the NFL performance of college quarterbacks is not surprising.  In sum, “mistakes” on draft day in the NFL simply reflect the immense complexity of the problem.

In the NBA, though, it is a very different story. Veteran NBA players – relative to what we see in the NFL – are far more consistent over time. And although we cannot predict future NBA performance on draft day perfectly, we certainly know something. Part of that “something” that we know is that NBA teams make mistakes by focusing on the “wrong” factors.Right now, people are wondering how a player like Jeremy Lin could have been missed by NBA decision-makers. Read More »



Talent Evaluation is Different in the NFL and NBA

The sudden emergence of Jeremy Lin has led people to wonder about talent evaluation in the NBA. Two recent examples — from Stephen Dubner in this forum and from Jonah Lehrer at Wired Science – both take similar approaches.  Both begin with the story of Lin, and then pivot to a discussion of the National Football League.  In essence, each writer argues that talent evaluation in basketball and football is similar.  

In my next two posts, I wish to address why I think talent evaluation in the NBA and the NFL is quite different. Read More »



Football Freakonomics: What Can Linsanity Teach Us About the Upcoming NFL Draft?

In his first six NBA starts, Jeremy Lin averaged 24.3 points and 9.5 assists while leading the Knicks to six straight wins. 

If those numbers were attached to someone like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, you wouldn’t bat an eye. But until a couple weeks ago, Lin was little more than roster fodder, an undrafted player already cut by two teams and about to be cut by his third. That’s when a desperate coach who had run out of able-bodied point guards threw him into the fire. The rest – for the moment, at least – is history.

Let’s be honest: the reason we’re hearing so much about Lin is because he was overlooked. This might lead you to think he’s a true anomaly, a great game-time athlete who somehow slipped through a pro sports league’s finely-tuned talent-scouting machine. But if you look closely at the NFL, you’ll find Jeremy Lins all over the place. Read More »



Revenue-Sharing Isn’t Needed to Make NBA Small-Market Teams Competitive

According to the Sports Business Journal, the NBA is going to fully phase in a revenue-sharing plan in 2013-14 which:

1. “Calls for all teams to contribute an annually fixed percentage, roughly 50 percent, of their total annual revenue, minus certain expenses such as arena operating costs, into a revenue sharing pool.
2. “Will shift $140 million around the league
3. Will allow a single team to receive up to $16 million (this year the most any team could receive was $5.8 million), a mark that is about 25 percent of this year’s payroll cap

All of this will — according to Jeanie Buss (Executive VP of business operations for the Los Angeles Lakers) — allow teams to become “economically viable so that every team has the opportunity to compete.”  And according to Buss, this will “make for a healthier league.” 

As the article notes, Buss served on the committee that created this plan.  And as the article also notes, Buss and the Lakers will contribute the most revenue.  Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that this plan will dramatically change the level of balance in the league. Read More »



NBA Fans Give the League a Predictable Present on Christmas

Before labor peace came to the NBA, it was not uncommon to hear stories that the lockout was going to negatively impact fan interest in the game (here is one example in this genre). The story basically went as follows:

1. Fans become angry when the games are taken away.
2. The longer fans go without games, the angrier they become.
3. Stay away too long and the angry fans will never come back.

This story actually gets repeated every time a labor dispute that taken away games in North American sports. And the story certainly seems plausible.

A few years ago, though, Martin Schmidt and I investigated the impact disputes have upon fan attendance; and much to our surprise (yes, we tended to believe the stories sports writers had told us for years) we failed to find an effect. Attendance in the major North American sports is not statistically impacted by labor disputes. Read More »