In This Analogy, Ricky Davis Is The Jackass Who Cuts You Off, Then Jackknifes His PT Cruiser Blocking All Lanes

Wired did a remarkably poor job of bringing a sensible example to an otherwise fascinating article. The original article wisely says nothing about Kobe.  Mostly because in the Lakers specific scenario, Kobe’s “car” is able to drive faster and carry more people than the others.

This whole thing is nothing groundbreaking for most stats guys, when you look at PER and the relationship with Usage. However, the physics application is pretty awesome, and the analogy of cars is something that definitely sparks conversation. Take for example the Blazers, who were the #1 team in offensive efficiency last season, despite Roy not even being top 10 in Usage.  When you consider their last ranked pace, you have the absolute model here.  If I’m reading the article right, in this analogy, the Blazers’ city layout would mean that there is one major highway, Roy, and then several other efficient routes that get you where you want to go, without you needing to speed. So you travel the same amount of distance in the exact same time as other teams do while going slower than they have to. The application of multiple routes and the effect on efficiency is something I touched on in the playoffs.

Of course,   there are limitations, like there are in any model.

“Of course Skinner cautions against taking the analogy too far. His model doesn’t capture many of the complexities of basketball. For example, the actions of the defense aren’t modeled at all. But it has interesting implications for analysts. It may be that many teams tend towards a Nash equilibrium in their choice of plays when there may be a better solution. Network theory could help them discover these better strategies.”

(Side note, please notice the fact that we have Dr. Brian Skinner and the Nash Equilibrium present. Ha-ho.)

Interesting stuff, no?

Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.