Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kobe In Crunch Time: Efficiency vs Predictability

Henry Abbott breaks it down, showing that Kobe isn't that legit in late game scenarios, despite popular opinion, and his own. But here's what Abbott is missing. Kobe probably would have the highest probability of making the last shot of any player in the NBA, if defenses paid equal attention to everyone. Kobe gets his rep for what he could do in this situation, and that matters for something.

The problem is that defenses adjust for this ability. "Doubling-teaming" isn't always a binary yes or no--it's also about being more apt to help off your man in case of a drive, hedge on off-ball screens, and keep Kobe in your plane of vision. Of course, all of this hinders how well the defense can guard Kobe's teammates. So what Kobe should do is look for them. But he doesn't, because he gets too caught up in thinking about how efficient he can be, and forgets that this makes him predictable.

This is a pretty clear demonstration of the trade off. Crunch time offense is a game, and in any game you want a mixed strategy. That means that with some probability you'll do one thing, and with some probability you'll do something else. If you're the Lakers and you commit to Kobe always shooting, or even assign it a higher probability than you should, the other team will be able to take advantage.