Selfish Routing, NBA Style
I wasn’t able to get up to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this year (though I wanted to, particularly as there were guys from Chelsea and Manchester United there), but as Traffic had both the Braess Paradox and Tim Roughgarden’s book The Price of Anarchy as touchstones, I was intrigued by a presentation from Brian Skinner, a physics professor at the University of Minnesota, which draws some parallels between network (in)efficiencies in roads and the running of successful basketball plays. The video above gives a short description but there’s more on offer at the paper (behind a pay wall):
Optimizing the performance of a basketball offense may be viewed as a network problem, wherein each play represents a “pathway” through which the ball and players may move from origin (the in-bounds pass) to goal (the basket). Effective field goal percentages from the resulting shot attempts can be used to characterize the efficiency of each pathway. Inspired by recent discussions of the “price of anarchy” in traffic networks, this paper makes a formal analogy between a basketball offense and a simplified traffic network. The analysis suggests that there may be a significant difference between taking the highest-percentage shot each time down the court and playing the most efficient possible game. There may also be an analogue of Braess’s Paradox in basketball, such that removing a key player from a team can result in the improvement of the team’s offensive efficiency.
(horn honk to The Transportationist)
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