Getting the ball in the hoop is like commuting to work

April, 5, 2010
4/05/10
6:26
PM ET


Brian Skinner, a University of Minnesota grad student (and not the NBA player by the same name), presented a paper at the 2010 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference about how a basketball offense is like a traffic network. And he used some of the theories that help cars get around cities more easily to understand how the ball can get around NBA offenses more easily.

(Worth noting is that in a pickup game on the Sunday morning after the conference, at least while I was guarding him, Brian's offense seemed pretty darned efficient.)

In any case, the University of Minnesota has wisely produced a little video in which Skinner explains the point of his research, the idea of which is that giving the ball to the best player every time is just not smart, just like having every car drive on the best road into the city makes everyone late to work. You have to spread the action around to make it most efficient for the most people.

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