A Sunday Kind of Post: Winning Strategies

Posted on 12/12/2010 by


There’s about 188 possessions in an NBA basketball game.

Hi. Did you miss me? I missed you. I been busy and somewhat sidetracked these last few days. My internet was on the fritz. My wife’s computer broke (and I’m currently sharing custody of my laptop at home) . I have also done Luckily, my blog’s comment section has turned into the rogerebert.com’s of the basketball blogging world.

Let's just not start any evolution debates (and no Darwin is not overrated for God's sake)

So not only am I back, I’m bringing back an old favorite, the sunday feature. In time for Christmas too!

Mrry Intwbs Xms

Ok, 188 possessions in a typical NBA game.I, in fact have this as a table:

To win a basketball game you have to outscore your opponent (yes, I know, thank you captain obvious). There are two ways to go about this:

  • Score more efficiently than your opponent
  • Get more possesions than your opponent

The good teams can do one of the two (while not failing at the other). The great teams can do both. If we look at last season’s team we can clearly see these strategies at play:

Average Point Margin  per game for the team is simply:

Avg possesions for Team * Points per possesion for Team -Avg possesions for Opp * Points per possesion for Opp

To make your team better you have to work on any of these four variables.

The effect of both these strategies is shown below:

Now, interestingly enough we have an equation for changing this into wins:

Wins Produced (team for the season) = Expected Avg Point Margin for Team (season)*82/31 + 41 = PM*2.645 + 41

Apply that here and we see:

So far so cool but here’s where it gets interesting. You see there’s  a third strategy.


If you increase pace:

The best get even better and the worst even worse. If you decrease it:

So a good team can improve it’s chances by increasing the pace. A bad team can do the same by letting the air out of the ball.

That’s enough from me for today. I turn it over to you dear readers.

One final touch:

Image courtesy of xkcd.com

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