The Price of Anarchy in Basketball

Optimizing the performance of a basketball offense can be viewed as a network problem, wherein each play represents a “pathway” through which the ball and players move from origin (the in-bounds pass) to goal (the basket). Inspired by recent discussions of the “price of anarchy”, this talk makes a formal analogy between a basketball offense and a traffic network. The analysis suggests a significant difference between taking the highest-percentage shot each possession and playing the most efficient possible game. There may also be an analogue of Braess’s Paradox in basketball, wherein a team’s offense improves after losing a key player.

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