How Much Trouble is Early Foul Trouble?

Abstract: We introduce a win probability approach to modeling basketball performance and employ it to determine the effect that early foul trouble by a team’s starters has on its future performance. We find that each of the three seasons from 2006-2007 through 2008-2009 display negative team performance when starters are in early foul trouble, defined as having committed at least one more foul than the current quarter “Q+1”. Most players in early foul trouble should be yanked until they are no longer in foul trouble. Our approach can be extended to other state variables.

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