“Players don’t win games, teams do. As a result, players shouldn’t look for their own points, they should look to maximize team points. Players shouldn’t care about stopping their own man if it means that other guys are scoring easily against teammates. Basketball is a team game, where winning as a team is all that matters . . .”

Key Takeaways:
  • Blame the Ref
  • Defense Wins Championships
  • Distributing Credit

“A bad ref is an inconsistent ref. A terrible ref is a biased ref. I was interested only in the bad refs and really hope that the terrible ones are kept from being refs by the professionals who oversee refereeing standards.”

How much can a missed call influence the outcome of a game? Using error rates between 5 to 15 percent with consideration of home-court advantage or biases there seemed to be a plus or minus of 3 to 4 games in a given 82-game season. The context didn’t create much confidence that the numbers suggest there is a large swing in an expected outcome based on a 5 to 10 percent error rate, while the 15% error rate evidence started to suggest that a team with a 70 percent chance of winning could drop to 65 percent.

There are some more numbers discussed from the NBA Last Two Minute Report. After evaluating the seasons between 2015 to 2018 the officials were found to miss 8.2% of all calls after reviewing 26,822 plays over 1,476 games. That is a total of 2,197 plays missed, which may seem relatively inconsequential over the course of 3 seasons. However, of those two-thousand plus incorrect calls, 1.49 of those wrong decisions occurred during the last two minutes of each close game. Not a statistician by any means one missed call in any close game could swing that result of any game.

Defense Wins Championships

“So I decided to look at winners of playoff series and whether they were better defensively than their opponents. If two teams are facing off in an important play-off series, the better defensive team should win – that seems like a reasonable interpretation of the phrase doesn’t it? Well, of the 387 playoff series wins since 1974 (to 2002), 221 (or 57%) have been won by the team with the better defensive rating and 240 (62%) have been won by the team with the better offensive rating. Offense seems to win.”

Distributing Credit

The Last Dance is conveniently providing a blueprint to the intricacies in coaching different roles and personalities that contribute to a team’s success. Would the Bulls have won the same amount of championships had it not been for Paxon’s shooting ability? Or, what about Rodman and his contributions to the defensive side of the floor – outhustling, winning angles, and getting under opponents’ skin? The difficulty concept speaks to allocating credit to specific roles, not necessarily the personalities.

“The difficulty concept provides a way to parse out the credit for things that can be measured, not just calculated – team floor percentage and team offensive ratings.”

Coaches allocate credit to players’ abilities/potential in any decision-making process, particularly focusing on game-to-game rotations or try-outs. The difficulty concept introduced individual offensive ratings and floor percentages to answer questions like:

  • How many points is a player likely to generate when he tries?
  • What percentage of the time that a player wants to score does he actually score?

I’d be willing to bet that these statistics are largely not available to the typical high-school or even college coach. Decisions are being made based on visual evidence accumulated from practices and games. Those that are on the floor most frequently likely are seen as having the higher conversation ratings finishing around the rim, or hitting open shots from the perimeter at an efficient rate. On the defensive side, take a look at this excerpt:

“On defense, it takes one player to force his guy to miss a shot and (often) another player to get the defensive rebound. How you distribute credit to those two guys follows the same rule. Who did the harder job? In the NBA, where teams shoot around 45 percent and collect about 70 percent of their opponents’ missed shots, it is harder to force guys to miss shots (forcing the miss is successful about 55 percent of the time) than to get the defensive rebounds (again, a team is able to grab the defensive rebound about 70 percent) of the time. So good shot defenders are relatively more important than good defensive rebounders in the NBA.

All of this seems relatively simple to grasp; it is more difficult to prevent the opponent from scoring than it is to get a defensive rebound. Therefore, logic would tell you that having an on-ball defender capable of limiting efficient scoring from the opponent would be of higher value than someone who can secure the rebound following a missed shot attempt. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that because as we had mentioned before about team over me, it doesn’t matter if you can stop your man if the team continues to keep scoring. The difficult concept is about understanding the KSA’s (knowledge, skills, and abilities) of the entire team to produce the best possible rotation creating the most sustainable success increasing the odds of winning.


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