2023-2024 General NBA Season Thread

Kliq

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 31, 2013
22,491
I've got to start hitting the pavement now so I can be in shape in the spring when the Clippers flame out and the Bucks are pushing the Celtics to the brink. Going to be a lot of victory laps around the Port Cellar.
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
21,265
Pittsburgh, PA
I get that you have a challenge to use but that doesn't mean you need to throw it away.
I actually think challenges are very under-used. Better to throw it away on a low-percentage challenge than let the game expire with it unused. It's a bit like guessing and losing a game of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire despite having lifelines remaining.

Let's suppose a coach has an average 60% success rate, and that they only use it in situations where it will save them some conceded free throws or get them an additional possession (on an out-of-bounds call or a block/charge or the like). So that's 60% of a possession (1.1 points) or 2x FTs saved (1.5 points), call it a 60% chance of 1.3 points or 0.65 points gained for using the challenge. Then compound it with the second challenge you get if you win, so a 60% chance of another 0.65 points - net-net, using your challenges is worth about a point in an NBA game, a pretty substantial amount. Sometimes you win the challenge(s) and sometimes you won't, of course. But if you let the game finish without using it, you have given up that point equity. It's a bit of a variation on the secretary problem - when do you use it, and how late in the game do you start lowering your standards on what call to use it for?

Now, most coaches are holding onto theirs into the 4th quarter, keeping the standard very high until they're more-or-less forced to lower their threshold later in the game - see this excellent article:

77740
(I think that's challenges per game between the two coaches, so coaches are averaging about 1/2 a use per game each)

I'd argue this is a cognitive bias - clearly, there are more calls worth challenging in the first quarter than get challenged, and proportionally fewer in the 4th quarter, so it's something like the endowment effect going on. Bad calls have no distribution throughout the game, or at least, I can't conceive of an argument that they do (longtime hoopheads might argue about make-up calls and foul-balancing and such, but I'd say those largely aren't going to be challengeable anyway). To compound that issue, they should want to challenge early in the game! All else equal, a challenge in the 1st is better than a challenge in the 4th. Because if they do and they win it, they have more of the game's remainder to find another suitable situation to use their second challenge.

As that Sportico article says, there's an observable bias at play here:

"For the past four years, there has been a clear divide between coaches willing to use challenges early in games versus those preferring to save them for crunch time. In the 2022-23 season, for instance, Daigneault used 21 challenges prior to the fourth quarter while Mazzulla only used one. The Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra never challenged prior to the final period all last year. "​

As noted by other wonks, the success rate this season of first-3-quarters challenges is much higher (58%) than 4th-quarter challenges (42%), with some of the latter clearly being born "by desperation, not merit". But also because of the use-it-or-lose-it aspect to them. Use them earlier, and desperation won't come into play nearly as much.

Not all challengeable situations are an equal throw of the dice, of course. We all know this - we've seen 100%-reverse-ers, and we've seen 50-50 calls where the star begged for the challenge so the coach did it, and we've seen no-hopers very late in a game where the coach is more or less hoping for a miracle reversal because they need it to preserve a shot to win. But I can assure you that along with every other Celtics fan, I have observed 60%+ type situations in the first and second quarters that go unchallenged. And I think all coaches are giving up a lot of outcome equity by not challenging more than they do already. You can see it in the above chart, frankly: they are letting 1st-half calls go by, and then settling for (almost certainly more poor) opportunities late in the game, when they think it matters more. Their threshold of bad-call-ness over which they challenge goes down as the game goes along.

But it doesn't matter more in the 4th, as anyone sensible knows. A point is a point regardless of game-situation leverage. Let the players and the pundits worry about "clutch play". If you can get an extra point for your team by being smarter about challenges than the rest of the league is, you do it*. There are no bonuses for doing it in higher-leverage situations.

Are other factors at play? Sure. But I'm not sure they really affect the calculus:
  1. If it's a 20-point blowout, "why bother" is a perfectly reasonable point of view. But if you can turn around a charge/block call earlier in the game, maybe it becomes a blowout earlier in the game, and you rest your starters more. I don't expect many challenges are done in 20-point games in the 4th quarter, Payton Pritchard demanding one in that early-season blowout notwithstanding.
  2. Hey, timeouts matter, why should we throw them away in risking a challenge we might not fully believe in, or think we need? That's fine, but most games end with teams (A) not using their discretionary timeout prior to getting crunched down to 2 TOs at 3 minutes remaining, so before then you've basically got a freebie, and (B) frankly most games end without coaches using both their last 2 closing-minutes TOs either. For a small fraction of one-possession games, you'll end up using both of those final timeouts, but even then, if you challenge while still possessing your freebie (the use-it-or-lose-it one), you're not risking anything that you're going to miss in the endgame.
  3. Challenges are also an opportunity for a timeout, to give the guys a breather and a pep talk. You want those when you want them, one might say - not necessarily just for the sake of challenging a call. I might need to stop a run, or change the defense, or draw up an ATO play to get things humming again. But on the other hand: If you win the first challenge, you've just gotten a free timeout. If your team is better than their opponents, you want to help them stay focused and having caught their breath as much as possible. And if you're a better coach, then you'd back yourself to improve the team's performance more with more timeout pep talks, right? So I'm not really seeing how this ends up a net downside.
  4. What if there's a late-game situation with an egregious, 100%-percenter call and I've used my challenges on lesser things earlier in the game? I mean, yes, we can construct scenarios like that. But the odds don't favor it - there's a reason the solution to the secretary problem isn't "just wait as long as possible". Your best-equity play is to stop earlier than emotions might make you want to. Second, challenging more and challenging earlier means slightly compromising your success rate, in theory, yes, but you also get a second challenge if you win it. That's point equity you don't want to just give up. And third, if it's close and late, you can persuade the refs to initiate a challenge themselves to review a close call - and you're more likely to get them to do so if you've already used and won your challenge(s) that evening.

How does CJM do with challenges? Pretty well! Arguably, among the best in the league. From that same article:

77743

I would argue that the "Efficient frontier" of challenge volume is down-and-to-the-right of Joe Mazzulla today. Yes, it'd be great if he could make more challenges while maintaining his 77% success rate. But even if that rate goes down with higher volume, he's still helping the team by doing so. Because, again, if the game ends with him not having used them, particularly if it was a close game, it's something of a tactical tragedy - he's yielded points he could have gained. I rather doubt if CJM started challenging an extra 0.1 calls per game (to take him to Mike Brown territory), his rate would go down to Mike Brown's 40%. Maybe it goes to 70%, or even 60%, but that's still several extra reversed calls in a season, and any one of those could end up mattering to a game's outcome.

The same is doubly true for every other coach in the league, clearly. Until coaches are almost never ending games with an unused challenge, we'll have no idea what the sweet spot is between volume and success rate. But the math pretty clearly says they're too conservative right now - much like the math in the NFL said that coaches go for it on 4th down too little, a decade or so ago, and gradually they started going for it more. Same emotional situation: they want to avoid looking foolish / getting blamed for making a bet and then losing it. But that's not the best play to help the team win.

The Sportico article goes into a more-detailed calculation of win-probability-added through coaches' challenges, which is kinda amazing. Daigneault added a full win (100% WPA) over the course of the season through his challenges, Billups 118% WPA. Mazzulla got 77% of a win last year, about average. Some of these are luck-of-the-draw high-leverage challenges, like one Billups got with 11 seconds remaining in a one-possession game that turned a block into a charge, which added ~40% WPA just from that one call. But you can't depend on having those dramatic opportunities present themselves. Over the course of a season, the right play is clearly to challenge more and challenge earlier.


* and don't get me started about poor free-throw shooters who refuse to shoot underhanded out of vanity - that's a whole other topic, but the same argument applies. I'm more forgiving because players are I guess expected to be more emotional creatures whose motivation levels and self-respect and such are factors that are hard to measure... but imo for purely tactical issues like challenges, coaches should be cost-benefit-optimizing robots.
 

HomeRunBaker

bet squelcher
SoSH Member
Jan 15, 2004
29,820
I actually think challenges are very under-used. Better to throw it away on a low-percentage challenge than let the game expire with it unused. It's a bit like guessing and losing a game of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire despite having lifelines remaining.

Let's suppose a coach has an average 60% success rate, and that they only use it in situations where it will save them some conceded free throws or get them an additional possession (on an out-of-bounds call or a block/charge or the like). So that's 60% of a possession (1.1 points) or 2x FTs saved (1.5 points), call it a 60% chance of 1.3 points or 0.65 points gained for using the challenge. Then compound it with the second challenge you get if you win, so a 60% chance of another 0.65 points - net-net, using your challenges is worth about a point in an NBA game, a pretty substantial amount. Sometimes you win the challenge(s) and sometimes you won't, of course. But if you let the game finish without using it, you have given up that point equity. It's a bit of a variation on the secretary problem - when do you use it, and how late in the game do you start lowering your standards on what call to use it for?

Now, most coaches are holding onto theirs into the 4th quarter, keeping the standard very high until they're more-or-less forced to lower their threshold later in the game - see this excellent article:

View attachment 77740
(I think that's challenges per game between the two coaches, so coaches are averaging about 1/2 a use per game each)

I'd argue this is a cognitive bias - clearly, there are more calls worth challenging in the first quarter than get challenged, and proportionally fewer in the 4th quarter, so it's something like the endowment effect going on. Bad calls have no distribution throughout the game, or at least, I can't conceive of an argument that they do (longtime hoopheads might argue about make-up calls and foul-balancing and such, but I'd say those largely aren't going to be challengeable anyway). To compound that issue, they should want to challenge early in the game! All else equal, a challenge in the 1st is better than a challenge in the 4th. Because if they do and they win it, they have more of the game's remainder to find another suitable situation to use their second challenge.

As that Sportico article says, there's an observable bias at play here:

"For the past four years, there has been a clear divide between coaches willing to use challenges early in games versus those preferring to save them for crunch time. In the 2022-23 season, for instance, Daigneault used 21 challenges prior to the fourth quarter while Mazzulla only used one. The Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra never challenged prior to the final period all last year. "​

As noted by other wonks, the success rate this season of first-3-quarters challenges is much higher (58%) than 4th-quarter challenges (42%), with some of the latter clearly being born "by desperation, not merit". But also because of the use-it-or-lose-it aspect to them. Use them earlier, and desperation won't come into play nearly as much.

Not all challengeable situations are an equal throw of the dice, of course. We all know this - we've seen 100%-reverse-ers, and we've seen 50-50 calls where the star begged for the challenge so the coach did it, and we've seen no-hopers very late in a game where the coach is more or less hoping for a miracle reversal because they need it to preserve a shot to win. But I can assure you that along with every other Celtics fan, I have observed 60%+ type situations in the first and second quarters that go unchallenged. And I think all coaches are giving up a lot of outcome equity by not challenging more than they do already. You can see it in the above chart, frankly: they are letting 1st-half calls go by, and then settling for (almost certainly more poor) opportunities late in the game, when they think it matters more. Their threshold of bad-call-ness over which they challenge goes down as the game goes along.

But it doesn't matter more in the 4th, as anyone sensible knows. A point is a point regardless of game-situation leverage. Let the players and the pundits worry about "clutch play". If you can get an extra point for your team by being smarter about challenges than the rest of the league is, you do it*. There are no bonuses for doing it in higher-leverage situations.

Are other factors at play? Sure. But I'm not sure they really affect the calculus:
  1. If it's a 20-point blowout, "why bother" is a perfectly reasonable point of view. But if you can turn around a charge/block call earlier in the game, maybe it becomes a blowout earlier in the game, and you rest your starters more. I don't expect many challenges are done in 20-point games in the 4th quarter, Payton Pritchard demanding one in that early-season blowout notwithstanding.
  2. Hey, timeouts matter, why should we throw them away in risking a challenge we might not fully believe in, or think we need? That's fine, but most games end with teams (A) not using their discretionary timeout prior to getting crunched down to 2 TOs at 3 minutes remaining, so before then you've basically got a freebie, and (B) frankly most games end without coaches using both their last 2 closing-minutes TOs either. For a small fraction of one-possession games, you'll end up using both of those final timeouts, but even then, if you challenge while still possessing your freebie (the use-it-or-lose-it one), you're not risking anything that you're going to miss in the endgame.
  3. Challenges are also an opportunity for a timeout, to give the guys a breather and a pep talk. You want those when you want them, one might say - not necessarily just for the sake of challenging a call. I might need to stop a run, or change the defense, or draw up an ATO play to get things humming again. But on the other hand: If you win the first challenge, you've just gotten a free timeout. If your team is better than their opponents, you want to help them stay focused and having caught their breath as much as possible. And if you're a better coach, then you'd back yourself to improve the team's performance more with more timeout pep talks, right? So I'm not really seeing how this ends up a net downside.
  4. What if there's a late-game situation with an egregious, 100%-percenter call and I've used my challenges on lesser things earlier in the game? I mean, yes, we can construct scenarios like that. But the odds don't favor it - there's a reason the solution to the secretary problem isn't "just wait as long as possible". Your best-equity play is to stop earlier than emotions might make you want to. Second, challenging more and challenging earlier means slightly compromising your success rate, in theory, yes, but you also get a second challenge if you win it. That's point equity you don't want to just give up. And third, if it's close and late, you can persuade the refs to initiate a challenge themselves to review a close call - and you're more likely to get them to do so if you've already used and won your challenge(s) that evening.

How does CJM do with challenges? Pretty well! Arguably, among the best in the league. From that same article:

View attachment 77743

I would argue that the "Efficient frontier" of challenge volume is down-and-to-the-right of Joe Mazzulla today. Yes, it'd be great if he could make more challenges while maintaining his 77% success rate. But even if that rate goes down with higher volume, he's still helping the team by doing so. Because, again, if the game ends with him not having used them, particularly if it was a close game, it's something of a tactical tragedy - he's yielded points he could have gained. I rather doubt if CJM started challenging an extra 0.1 calls per game (to take him to Mike Brown territory), his rate would go down to Mike Brown's 40%. Maybe it goes to 70%, or even 60%, but that's still several extra reversed calls in a season, and any one of those could end up mattering to a game's outcome.

The same is doubly true for every other coach in the league, clearly. Until coaches are almost never ending games with an unused challenge, we'll have no idea what the sweet spot is between volume and success rate. But the math pretty clearly says they're too conservative right now - much like the math in the NFL said that coaches go for it on 4th down too little, a decade or so ago, and gradually they started going for it more. Same emotional situation: they want to avoid looking foolish / getting blamed for making a bet and then losing it. But that's not the best play to help the team win.

The Sportico article goes into a more-detailed calculation of win-probability-added through coaches' challenges, which is kinda amazing. Daigneault added a full win (100% WPA) over the course of the season through his challenges, Billups 118% WPA. Mazzulla got 77% of a win last year, about average. Some of these are luck-of-the-draw high-leverage challenges, like one Billups got with 11 seconds remaining in a one-possession game that turned a block into a charge, which added ~40% WPA just from that one call. But you can't depend on having those dramatic opportunities present themselves. Over the course of a season, the right play is clearly to challenge more and challenge earlier.


* and don't get me started about poor free-throw shooters who refuse to shoot underhanded out of vanity - that's a whole other topic, but the same argument applies. I'm more forgiving because players are I guess expected to be more emotional creatures whose motivation levels and self-respect and such are factors that are hard to measure... but imo for purely tactical issues like challenges, coaches should be cost-benefit-optimizing robots.
Love ya bro but you lost me at 60% success rate on a play that one quick replay, as well as the live shot, looked to be about as close to 0% as one can get. The defender fouled two players AND was clearly inside the circle….the only question was who they would send to the line.

I also don’t feel that many challenges can be overturned by the language of the rule….certainly nowhere close to 60% imo and it would still need to be on an impactful play and not only a side out which we saw twice in that Phoenix game.
 

ElUno20

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 19, 2005
5,978
I've got to start hitting the pavement now so I can be in shape in the spring when the Clippers flame out and the Bucks are pushing the Celtics to the brink. Going to be a lot of victory laps around the Port Cellar.
No one who watches the nba is giving the clippers anything more than the "theyre good but you know what's coming" critique. I'm not sure what your victory lap would be.
 

HomeRunBaker

bet squelcher
SoSH Member
Jan 15, 2004
29,820
At every step of his career, he's tall Rondo. It remains an imperfect comp because Rondo did the best when the lights were brightest and Simmons is the polar opposite, but Rondo was an elite passer, excellent rebounder for his size, an elite defender when he wanted to be, and extremely unselfish. He was a poor outside shooter early in his career, and later he was afraid to go to the rim for fear of being fouled and embarrassed at the line.
Yeah wow so many similarities for sure that I hadn’t even considered right down to quitting on their own team and teammates. At least Simmons was never voted out of playoff share money by his teammates. #rondodig
 
Last edited:

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
11,710
I actually think challenges are very under-used. Better to throw it away on a low-percentage challenge than let the game expire with it unused. It's a bit like guessing and losing a game of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire despite having lifelines remaining.

Let's suppose a coach has an average 60% success rate, and that they only use it in situations where it will save them some conceded free throws or get them an additional possession (on an out-of-bounds call or a block/charge or the like). So that's 60% of a possession (1.1 points) or 2x FTs saved (1.5 points), call it a 60% chance of 1.3 points or 0.65 points gained for using the challenge. Then compound it with the second challenge you get if you win, so a 60% chance of another 0.65 points - net-net, using your challenges is worth about a point in an NBA game, a pretty substantial amount. Sometimes you win the challenge(s) and sometimes you won't, of course. But if you let the game finish without using it, you have given up that point equity. It's a bit of a variation on the secretary problem - when do you use it, and how late in the game do you start lowering your standards on what call to use it for?

Now, most coaches are holding onto theirs into the 4th quarter, keeping the standard very high until they're more-or-less forced to lower their threshold later in the game - see this excellent article:

View attachment 77740
(I think that's challenges per game between the two coaches, so coaches are averaging about 1/2 a use per game each)

I'd argue this is a cognitive bias - clearly, there are more calls worth challenging in the first quarter than get challenged, and proportionally fewer in the 4th quarter, so it's something like the endowment effect going on. Bad calls have no distribution throughout the game, or at least, I can't conceive of an argument that they do (longtime hoopheads might argue about make-up calls and foul-balancing and such, but I'd say those largely aren't going to be challengeable anyway). To compound that issue, they should want to challenge early in the game! All else equal, a challenge in the 1st is better than a challenge in the 4th. Because if they do and they win it, they have more of the game's remainder to find another suitable situation to use their second challenge.

As that Sportico article says, there's an observable bias at play here:

"For the past four years, there has been a clear divide between coaches willing to use challenges early in games versus those preferring to save them for crunch time. In the 2022-23 season, for instance, Daigneault used 21 challenges prior to the fourth quarter while Mazzulla only used one. The Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra never challenged prior to the final period all last year. "​

As noted by other wonks, the success rate this season of first-3-quarters challenges is much higher (58%) than 4th-quarter challenges (42%), with some of the latter clearly being born "by desperation, not merit". But also because of the use-it-or-lose-it aspect to them. Use them earlier, and desperation won't come into play nearly as much.

Not all challengeable situations are an equal throw of the dice, of course. We all know this - we've seen 100%-reverse-ers, and we've seen 50-50 calls where the star begged for the challenge so the coach did it, and we've seen no-hopers very late in a game where the coach is more or less hoping for a miracle reversal because they need it to preserve a shot to win. But I can assure you that along with every other Celtics fan, I have observed 60%+ type situations in the first and second quarters that go unchallenged. And I think all coaches are giving up a lot of outcome equity by not challenging more than they do already. You can see it in the above chart, frankly: they are letting 1st-half calls go by, and then settling for (almost certainly more poor) opportunities late in the game, when they think it matters more. Their threshold of bad-call-ness over which they challenge goes down as the game goes along.

But it doesn't matter more in the 4th, as anyone sensible knows. A point is a point regardless of game-situation leverage. Let the players and the pundits worry about "clutch play". If you can get an extra point for your team by being smarter about challenges than the rest of the league is, you do it*. There are no bonuses for doing it in higher-leverage situations.

Are other factors at play? Sure. But I'm not sure they really affect the calculus:
  1. If it's a 20-point blowout, "why bother" is a perfectly reasonable point of view. But if you can turn around a charge/block call earlier in the game, maybe it becomes a blowout earlier in the game, and you rest your starters more. I don't expect many challenges are done in 20-point games in the 4th quarter, Payton Pritchard demanding one in that early-season blowout notwithstanding.
  2. Hey, timeouts matter, why should we throw them away in risking a challenge we might not fully believe in, or think we need? That's fine, but most games end with teams (A) not using their discretionary timeout prior to getting crunched down to 2 TOs at 3 minutes remaining, so before then you've basically got a freebie, and (B) frankly most games end without coaches using both their last 2 closing-minutes TOs either. For a small fraction of one-possession games, you'll end up using both of those final timeouts, but even then, if you challenge while still possessing your freebie (the use-it-or-lose-it one), you're not risking anything that you're going to miss in the endgame.
  3. Challenges are also an opportunity for a timeout, to give the guys a breather and a pep talk. You want those when you want them, one might say - not necessarily just for the sake of challenging a call. I might need to stop a run, or change the defense, or draw up an ATO play to get things humming again. But on the other hand: If you win the first challenge, you've just gotten a free timeout. If your team is better than their opponents, you want to help them stay focused and having caught their breath as much as possible. And if you're a better coach, then you'd back yourself to improve the team's performance more with more timeout pep talks, right? So I'm not really seeing how this ends up a net downside.
  4. What if there's a late-game situation with an egregious, 100%-percenter call and I've used my challenges on lesser things earlier in the game? I mean, yes, we can construct scenarios like that. But the odds don't favor it - there's a reason the solution to the secretary problem isn't "just wait as long as possible". Your best-equity play is to stop earlier than emotions might make you want to. Second, challenging more and challenging earlier means slightly compromising your success rate, in theory, yes, but you also get a second challenge if you win it. That's point equity you don't want to just give up. And third, if it's close and late, you can persuade the refs to initiate a challenge themselves to review a close call - and you're more likely to get them to do so if you've already used and won your challenge(s) that evening.

How does CJM do with challenges? Pretty well! Arguably, among the best in the league. From that same article:

View attachment 77743

I would argue that the "Efficient frontier" of challenge volume is down-and-to-the-right of Joe Mazzulla today. Yes, it'd be great if he could make more challenges while maintaining his 77% success rate. But even if that rate goes down with higher volume, he's still helping the team by doing so. Because, again, if the game ends with him not having used them, particularly if it was a close game, it's something of a tactical tragedy - he's yielded points he could have gained. I rather doubt if CJM started challenging an extra 0.1 calls per game (to take him to Mike Brown territory), his rate would go down to Mike Brown's 40%. Maybe it goes to 70%, or even 60%, but that's still several extra reversed calls in a season, and any one of those could end up mattering to a game's outcome.

The same is doubly true for every other coach in the league, clearly. Until coaches are almost never ending games with an unused challenge, we'll have no idea what the sweet spot is between volume and success rate. But the math pretty clearly says they're too conservative right now - much like the math in the NFL said that coaches go for it on 4th down too little, a decade or so ago, and gradually they started going for it more. Same emotional situation: they want to avoid looking foolish / getting blamed for making a bet and then losing it. But that's not the best play to help the team win.

The Sportico article goes into a more-detailed calculation of win-probability-added through coaches' challenges, which is kinda amazing. Daigneault added a full win (100% WPA) over the course of the season through his challenges, Billups 118% WPA. Mazzulla got 77% of a win last year, about average. Some of these are luck-of-the-draw high-leverage challenges, like one Billups got with 11 seconds remaining in a one-possession game that turned a block into a charge, which added ~40% WPA just from that one call. But you can't depend on having those dramatic opportunities present themselves. Over the course of a season, the right play is clearly to challenge more and challenge earlier.


* and don't get me started about poor free-throw shooters who refuse to shoot underhanded out of vanity - that's a whole other topic, but the same argument applies. I'm more forgiving because players are I guess expected to be more emotional creatures whose motivation levels and self-respect and such are factors that are hard to measure... but imo for purely tactical issues like challenges, coaches should be cost-benefit-optimizing robots.
I wonder whether there's an aspect of playing to the score that makes a won challenge early in the game far less valuable. E.g. you reverse an OOB call in the 1st quarter, and then your team gives it all back with lazy transition defense.

Obviously you can't take that logic too far, and the whole game does matter, but I wouldn't be surprised if a successful challenge late in the game is more valuable, all else being equal.

The Celtics clearly also feel that you don't want to challenge judgement calls early in the game, and try to save those challenges only for OOP-type, very objective calls. 3-point fouls also seem like valuable challenge territory.

The Sportico article goes into a more-detailed calculation of win-probability-added through coaches' challenges, which is kinda amazing. Daigneault added a full win (100% WPA) over the course of the season through his challenges, Billups 118% WPA. Mazzulla got 77% of a win last year, about average. Some of these are luck-of-the-draw high-leverage challenges, like one Billups got with 11 seconds remaining in a one-possession game that turned a block into a charge, which added ~40% WPA just from that one call.
If most of the difference between coaches comes down to whether you got a big call overturned late, doesn't that
* validate the idea that late-game overturns are more valuable
* invalidate most of the Sportico analysis?
I'm pretty uncomfortable saying Mazzulla is better than coaches further down on the list, or worse than Billups, just because Billups had the opportunity to make a block/charge challenge with 11 seconds left.

It's all interesting, so thanks for that.
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
21,265
Pittsburgh, PA
Love ya bro but you lost me at 60% success rate on a play that one quick replay, as well as the live shot, looked to be about as close to 0% as one can get. The defender fouled two players AND was clearly inside the circle….the only question was who they would send to the line.

I also don’t feel that many challenges can be overturned by the language of the rule….certainly nowhere close to 60% imo and it would still need to be on an impactful play and not only a side out which we saw twice in that Phoenix game.
Yeah I wasn't talking about that one play in particular, but rather using it as a jumping-of point to rant about the general principle. Which is why I wrote an essay not a one-liner :)

The success rate thus far this year is 52%. On challenged out-of-bounds calls, it's 72% (foul calls do much worse at getting reversed). There are more suitable opportunities in a game than are currently used by coaches. Maybe that one wasn't it, but if so I'd argue that there were probably good-enough opportunities earlier in the game. And here's the main thing: even if it's 50-50, taking that 50% shot is still better than nothing! Which is what you get if the game ends and your challenge remains in your pocket.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
11,710
...Which is what you get if the game ends and your challenge remains in your pocket.
Hmmm, but if Chauncey Billups' WPA was 118%, and 40% of that came from 1 (!) block/charge call with 11 seconds left, doesn't this imply that having no late-game challenge is a far, far bigger risk than ending the game with one in your pocket?
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 26, 2005
30,170
I’ve been a huge Beauchamp guy since early last year. The kid can flat out play but it’s hard to fit in a 21-yr old w no high level experience in schemes at either end of the floor with veterans who understand how each players movement affects the entire set…on both ends. It sucks for him too with minites available around the league on younger teams.
Given that MIL has a glaring need at perimeter defense, seems like Griffin's strategy of giving him minutes hoping he'll be ready for the playoffs is better than Rivers' burying him on the bench so he won't be useful at all this year, but what do I know?

I mean, most of us were pretty skeptical of the Bucks trading out Jrue for Lillard and the results speak for themselves. A real disaster in the making for that franchise.
Disaster probably started when Middleton got hurt - MIL has been pushing chips to the pot the entire time and didn't have much left at this point. Series of probably not great events/decisions since then. But maybe they can pull it together for a couple of months in the playoffs.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
11,710
Given that MIL has a glaring need at perimeter defense, seems like Griffin's strategy of giving him minutes hoping he'll be ready for the playoffs is better than Rivers' burying him on the bench so he won't be useful at all this year, but what do I know?
Whenever you can acquire a coach with Doc's postseason track record over the past decade, you just get out of the way and let him cook. Don't disturb the art.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
11,710
I've got to start hitting the pavement now so I can be in shape in the spring when the Clippers flame out and the Bucks are pushing the Celtics to the brink. Going to be a lot of victory laps around the Port Cellar.
That's fair, as long as you don't take said victory laps if the Clippers flame out due to injury. We've all caveated that they're an "if healthy" team enough, I think.
 

HomeRunBaker

bet squelcher
SoSH Member
Jan 15, 2004
29,820
Yeah I wasn't talking about that one play in particular, but rather using it as a jumping-of point to rant about the general principle. Which is why I wrote an essay not a one-liner :)

The success rate thus far this year is 52%. On challenged out-of-bounds calls, it's 72% (foul calls do much worse at getting reversed). There are more suitable opportunities in a game than are currently used by coaches. Maybe that one wasn't it, but if so I'd argue that there were probably good-enough opportunities earlier in the game. And here's the main thing: even if it's 50-50, taking that 50% shot is still better than nothing! Which is what you get if the game ends and your challenge remains in your pocket.
What is tricky about success rates, and I’ll point specifically to last nights Suns-Bucks game since that was the one most watched last night. There was a 1H foul whistled on the floor that was certain to get overturned but it was a side out and even Vogel had this snicker like yeah that’s the worst call ever but it isn’t optimal with the play not affecting the scoreboard or putting his guy in foul trouble. Then later in the game we of course had the Doc one that was used as a true flier with little chance to succeed BUT as you say you have one in your pocket so take a shot (even though that play had no shot).

Right here you have two plays, that are common over the course of most NBA games, that skew the “success rate” of challenges due to the timing and lack of impact of the bad call.
 

tims4wins

PN23's replacement
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
36,619
Hingham, MA
I've got to start hitting the pavement now so I can be in shape in the spring when the Clippers flame out and the Bucks are pushing the Celtics to the brink. Going to be a lot of victory laps around the Port Cellar.
My latest hot take is that after spending months thinking about the Sixer and Bucks, the Celts won't play either of them in the playoffs.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
11,710
My latest hot take is that after spending months thinking about the Sixer and Bucks, the Celts won't play either of them in the playoffs.
Orlando -> Indiana -> Miami would not be a shocking path for a C's playoff run.
 

HomeRunBaker

bet squelcher
SoSH Member
Jan 15, 2004
29,820
Given that MIL has a glaring need at perimeter defense, seems like Griffin's strategy of giving him minutes hoping he'll be ready for the playoffs is better than Rivers' burying him on the bench so he won't be useful at all this year, but what do I know?


Disaster probably started when Middleton got hurt - MIL has been pushing chips to the pot the entire time and didn't have much left at this point. Series of probably not great events/decisions since then. But maybe they can pull it together for a couple of months in the playoffs.
Hey I was the one early in the year saying Beauchamp wasn’t playing enough so you’re preaching to the choir on this one. I do recognize that it’s a challenge to get young players into the rotation of a veteran team however.

From what we hear now it seems pretty clear that Griffin lost that locker room and a chance had to be made. There was a reason he’d been passed over in previous years for head jobs and it looks like those GMs were correct.
 

PedroKsBambino

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Apr 17, 2003
30,903
No one who watches the nba is giving the clippers anything more than the "theyre good but you know what's coming" critique. I'm not sure what your victory lap would be.
Yeah, the desire to turn a whole set of nuanced comment into a simplistic "Clippers great/Clippers a joke" binary choice would even embarrass WEEI callers.
 

jablo1312

New Member
Sep 20, 2005
937
I actually think challenges are very under-used. Better to throw it away on a low-percentage challenge than let the game expire with it unused. It's a bit like guessing and losing a game of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire despite having lifelines remaining.

Let's suppose a coach has an average 60% success rate, and that they only use it in situations where it will save them some conceded free throws or get them an additional possession (on an out-of-bounds call or a block/charge or the like). So that's 60% of a possession (1.1 points) or 2x FTs saved (1.5 points), call it a 60% chance of 1.3 points or 0.65 points gained for using the challenge. Then compound it with the second challenge you get if you win, so a 60% chance of another 0.65 points - net-net, using your challenges is worth about a point in an NBA game, a pretty substantial amount. Sometimes you win the challenge(s) and sometimes you won't, of course. But if you let the game finish without using it, you have given up that point equity. It's a bit of a variation on the secretary problem - when do you use it, and how late in the game do you start lowering your standards on what call to use it for?

Now, most coaches are holding onto theirs into the 4th quarter, keeping the standard very high until they're more-or-less forced to lower their threshold later in the game - see this excellent article:

View attachment 77740
(I think that's challenges per game between the two coaches, so coaches are averaging about 1/2 a use per game each)

I'd argue this is a cognitive bias - clearly, there are more calls worth challenging in the first quarter than get challenged, and proportionally fewer in the 4th quarter, so it's something like the endowment effect going on. Bad calls have no distribution throughout the game, or at least, I can't conceive of an argument that they do (longtime hoopheads might argue about make-up calls and foul-balancing and such, but I'd say those largely aren't going to be challengeable anyway). To compound that issue, they should want to challenge early in the game! All else equal, a challenge in the 1st is better than a challenge in the 4th. Because if they do and they win it, they have more of the game's remainder to find another suitable situation to use their second challenge.

As that Sportico article says, there's an observable bias at play here:

"For the past four years, there has been a clear divide between coaches willing to use challenges early in games versus those preferring to save them for crunch time. In the 2022-23 season, for instance, Daigneault used 21 challenges prior to the fourth quarter while Mazzulla only used one. The Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra never challenged prior to the final period all last year. "​

As noted by other wonks, the success rate this season of first-3-quarters challenges is much higher (58%) than 4th-quarter challenges (42%), with some of the latter clearly being born "by desperation, not merit". But also because of the use-it-or-lose-it aspect to them. Use them earlier, and desperation won't come into play nearly as much.

Not all challengeable situations are an equal throw of the dice, of course. We all know this - we've seen 100%-reverse-ers, and we've seen 50-50 calls where the star begged for the challenge so the coach did it, and we've seen no-hopers very late in a game where the coach is more or less hoping for a miracle reversal because they need it to preserve a shot to win. But I can assure you that along with every other Celtics fan, I have observed 60%+ type situations in the first and second quarters that go unchallenged. And I think all coaches are giving up a lot of outcome equity by not challenging more than they do already. You can see it in the above chart, frankly: they are letting 1st-half calls go by, and then settling for (almost certainly more poor) opportunities late in the game, when they think it matters more. Their threshold of bad-call-ness over which they challenge goes down as the game goes along.

But it doesn't matter more in the 4th, as anyone sensible knows. A point is a point regardless of game-situation leverage. Let the players and the pundits worry about "clutch play". If you can get an extra point for your team by being smarter about challenges than the rest of the league is, you do it*. There are no bonuses for doing it in higher-leverage situations.

Are other factors at play? Sure. But I'm not sure they really affect the calculus:
  1. If it's a 20-point blowout, "why bother" is a perfectly reasonable point of view. But if you can turn around a charge/block call earlier in the game, maybe it becomes a blowout earlier in the game, and you rest your starters more. I don't expect many challenges are done in 20-point games in the 4th quarter, Payton Pritchard demanding one in that early-season blowout notwithstanding.
  2. Hey, timeouts matter, why should we throw them away in risking a challenge we might not fully believe in, or think we need? That's fine, but most games end with teams (A) not using their discretionary timeout prior to getting crunched down to 2 TOs at 3 minutes remaining, so before then you've basically got a freebie, and (B) frankly most games end without coaches using both their last 2 closing-minutes TOs either. For a small fraction of one-possession games, you'll end up using both of those final timeouts, but even then, if you challenge while still possessing your freebie (the use-it-or-lose-it one), you're not risking anything that you're going to miss in the endgame.
  3. Challenges are also an opportunity for a timeout, to give the guys a breather and a pep talk. You want those when you want them, one might say - not necessarily just for the sake of challenging a call. I might need to stop a run, or change the defense, or draw up an ATO play to get things humming again. But on the other hand: If you win the first challenge, you've just gotten a free timeout. If your team is better than their opponents, you want to help them stay focused and having caught their breath as much as possible. And if you're a better coach, then you'd back yourself to improve the team's performance more with more timeout pep talks, right? So I'm not really seeing how this ends up a net downside.
  4. What if there's a late-game situation with an egregious, 100%-percenter call and I've used my challenges on lesser things earlier in the game? I mean, yes, we can construct scenarios like that. But the odds don't favor it - there's a reason the solution to the secretary problem isn't "just wait as long as possible". Your best-equity play is to stop earlier than emotions might make you want to. Second, challenging more and challenging earlier means slightly compromising your success rate, in theory, yes, but you also get a second challenge if you win it. That's point equity you don't want to just give up. And third, if it's close and late, you can persuade the refs to initiate a challenge themselves to review a close call - and you're more likely to get them to do so if you've already used and won your challenge(s) that evening.

How does CJM do with challenges? Pretty well! Arguably, among the best in the league. From that same article:

View attachment 77743

I would argue that the "Efficient frontier" of challenge volume is down-and-to-the-right of Joe Mazzulla today. Yes, it'd be great if he could make more challenges while maintaining his 77% success rate. But even if that rate goes down with higher volume, he's still helping the team by doing so. Because, again, if the game ends with him not having used them, particularly if it was a close game, it's something of a tactical tragedy - he's yielded points he could have gained. I rather doubt if CJM started challenging an extra 0.1 calls per game (to take him to Mike Brown territory), his rate would go down to Mike Brown's 40%. Maybe it goes to 70%, or even 60%, but that's still several extra reversed calls in a season, and any one of those could end up mattering to a game's outcome.

The same is doubly true for every other coach in the league, clearly. Until coaches are almost never ending games with an unused challenge, we'll have no idea what the sweet spot is between volume and success rate. But the math pretty clearly says they're too conservative right now - much like the math in the NFL said that coaches go for it on 4th down too little, a decade or so ago, and gradually they started going for it more. Same emotional situation: they want to avoid looking foolish / getting blamed for making a bet and then losing it. But that's not the best play to help the team win.

The Sportico article goes into a more-detailed calculation of win-probability-added through coaches' challenges, which is kinda amazing. Daigneault added a full win (100% WPA) over the course of the season through his challenges, Billups 118% WPA. Mazzulla got 77% of a win last year, about average. Some of these are luck-of-the-draw high-leverage challenges, like one Billups got with 11 seconds remaining in a one-possession game that turned a block into a charge, which added ~40% WPA just from that one call. But you can't depend on having those dramatic opportunities present themselves. Over the course of a season, the right play is clearly to challenge more and challenge earlier.


* and don't get me started about poor free-throw shooters who refuse to shoot underhanded out of vanity - that's a whole other topic, but the same argument applies. I'm more forgiving because players are I guess expected to be more emotional creatures whose motivation levels and self-respect and such are factors that are hard to measure... but imo for purely tactical issues like challenges, coaches should be cost-benefit-optimizing robots.
Interesting analysis. I do think Win Probability Added is probably the right prism to view this through, and speaks to why so many coaches are relatively conservative with their challenges. Even successfully challenging and overturning a 3 shot foul in the 1st quarter will have a neglibile impact on WPA, whereas like you showed critical challenges late can have huge swings. As a coach you want your challenges available to be able to take the huge swings late, but you never know if the opportunity will present itself (and frankly it very rarely does). Optimal challenge usage is definitely higher then the current levels like you said; coaches will always be afraid of not having a challenge to overturn a bad all late though.
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
21,265
Pittsburgh, PA
I wonder whether there's an aspect of playing to the score that makes a won challenge early in the game far less valuable. E.g. you reverse an OOB call in the 1st quarter, and then your team gives it all back with lazy transition defense.

Obviously you can't take that logic too far, and the whole game does matter, but I wouldn't be surprised if a successful challenge late in the game is more valuable, all else being equal.

The Celtics clearly also feel that you don't want to challenge judgement calls early in the game, and try to save those challenges only for OOP-type, very objective calls. 3-point fouls also seem like valuable challenge territory.
Challenges late in the game can be higher-leverage, yes. But again, not all will be successful, and it's better to end the game having shot your shot than having pocketed it. And as the stats show, if you wait until the 4th, the perfect opportunity may not come and you have likely already overlooked your best chances to get something reversed. Or two of them, even.

If you read the full article - which I'm sure someone like you would enjoy - you'll see that Mazzulla has been challenging more calls in the first 3 quarters this year than last year. My quoted bit was about last year, prior to the second-challenge rule change.

If most of the difference between coaches comes down to whether you got a big call overturned late, doesn't that
* validate the idea that late-game overturns are more valuable
* invalidate most of the Sportico analysis?
I'm pretty uncomfortable saying Mazzulla is better than coaches further down on the list, or worse than Billups, just because Billups had the opportunity to make a block/charge challenge with 11 seconds left.

It's all interesting, so thanks for that.
No, you're confusing anecdote / outlier with data / averages. We can pick out individual situations that make dramatic differences - like the one Billups call - but we can then turn around and note that over a multi-year track record, Billups is worse at winning calls than Mazzulla (or, indeed, than league average), and has also added less WPA. Billups getting 40% WPA because a single dramatic chance fell his way does not change the long-term averages as expressed in season(s)-long success rate.

The distribution of WPA for each overturned call is not random, it's weighted towards end-game scenarios, it's true. But because we're talking in terms of sample sizes and averages, it's important to remember that no coach can predict that there is going to be a suitable high-leverage opportunity at the end of the game. There's some gambler's-fallacy or endowment-effect cognitive biases going on if they think otherwise. The most they can do with challenges is to optimize the number of points they earn for their team by getting some overturns; the game then proceeds and might or might not end up high-leverage at the end. The call overturned in the first half might or might not have made a decisive difference in the endgame scenarios. You can't know whether it will at the time of the challenge; you can only know that, hey, this looks like a decent time to challenge a call, and it's better than sitting on my challenge and maybe never having a better chance to use it.

What I'm saying is, the WPA-based analysis is descriptive, but not predictive. Success rate is more predictive. If Mazzulla challenges one additional call, I feel pretty good that it will be higher-percentage than if Billups does. So if we're assessing the question of "should they challenge earlier", I don't think WPA tells us the story - because, again, we get reversable situations like the Billups call only a handful of times per season. Much better to have a lot of irons in the fire (challenge more calls, get more points earlier in the game) than yield those back and then have (A) fewer points going forward, and (B) maybe never have a better chance to reverse something that's higher-leverage later. An overturn is worth the same number of expected points whether it happens early or late game.

Just because the late-game ones can be high-leverage as to game outcome doesn't mean they're more valuable, it just means that that play swung things more in the moment, because there's less remaining game for the teams' skill differences to prove out (if any). A reversed call is, more or less, worth the same whether it comes early or late, in terms of points. This is a hard distinction to grasp, I'm having a hard time getting the right words for it. Think of this way: Suppose that one time per game, a manager in MLB can flip a coin to add a run for his team. If he waits to flip that coin until the 9th inning, it's more likely to end up affecting the game. But it's still worth the same to the team even if he flips it earlier in the game. It might change his endgame tactics (e.g. use a closer vs not) if he flips earlier, and if he waits he's more likely to know whether it'll matter (a blowout vs a close one). But after 9 innings, his team's runs are almost certainly going to be the same whether he flipped the coin early or late. The higher leverage with flipping it late doesn't mean it's better to wait. It's the same expected-value either way.

Now, add back in the consideration that in the real world, NBA coaches are dependent on there being a presentable call to challenge, they can't just pick any random time to do it. So if it doesn't matter as to the outcome / expected-points whether they challenge early or late, then the important thing is to challenge the first presentable opportunity(-ies), to avoid the scenario where a close game expires without having used it, or having to use it in a no-hoper situation like HRB pointed out with Phoenix.
 

Kliq

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 31, 2013
22,491
That's fair, as long as you don't take said victory laps if the Clippers flame out due to injury. We've all caveated that they're an "if healthy" team enough, I think.
I will be setting the parameters for my own victory lap, thank you very much.

My latest hot take is that after spending months thinking about the Sixer and Bucks, the Celts won't play either of them in the playoffs.
I'd very pretty surprised if the Bucks didn't face the Celtics, I think they make the ECF (or perhaps play the Celtics in an earlier round). The Sixers, especially given the Embiid news, could totally flatline between now and the end of the regular season. I don't think that is even a controversial take at this point--they lost their best player for an extended period of time and we don't know how healthy he is going to be come playoff time.

Another part of the Sixers threat was that they seemed ready to make a big trade, but I can't imagine they make a major trade now with Embiid's health up in the air for this season.

Miami remains the lurking threat, you can't count them out until they are mathematically eliminated.
 

jablo1312

New Member
Sep 20, 2005
937
On the Bucks front...they don't look great now, and remains to be seen if they can do anything to upgrade their bench before tomorrow,. But the 4 man lineup of Lopez-Lillard-Middleton-Giannis has been crushing (16.4 net rating in almost 600 minutes, just barely ahead of BOS's best 4 man combo w/ extended minutes of Tatum-Brown-White-Porzingis at +16.1). Health issues with Middleton nonwithstanding, I wouldn't necessarily be jumping at the chance to play them in round 2 with that group buoying them.
 

lars10

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 31, 2007
11,330
I've got to start hitting the pavement now so I can be in shape in the spring when the Clippers flame out and the Bucks are pushing the Celtics to the brink. Going to be a lot of victory laps around the Port Cellar.
Have you been watching the Bucks lately.. like any of their games? Because you really do love congratulating yourself for seeing things nobody else is seeing right now. If the Bucks go out in the first round.. what will you do then?
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
21,265
Pittsburgh, PA
What is tricky about success rates, and I’ll point specifically to last nights Suns-Bucks game since that was the one most watched last night. There was a 1H foul whistled on the floor that was certain to get overturned but it was a side out and even Vogel had this snicker like yeah that’s the worst call ever but it isn’t optimal with the play not affecting the scoreboard or putting his guy in foul trouble. Then later in the game we of course had the Doc one that was used as a true flier with little chance to succeed BUT as you say you have one in your pocket so take a shot (even though that play had no shot).

Right here you have two plays, that are common over the course of most NBA games, that skew the “success rate” of challenges due to the timing and lack of impact of the bad call.
Yes, if a bad foul call doesn't result in points, then given that foul calls are overturned at a much lower rate (being more subjective), it's probably not the best opportunity to use it. And most NBA "bad calls" are not really reversable / reviewable either - things like travels, moving-screens, or especially whether contact on a play at the rim was incidental or a foul. So there are not a million calls per game that could be effectively (let's say 40%+ chance of reversal) challenged by coaches. Some games may even have the entire game elapse without one presentable opportunity, and the coaches sorta had no choice but to pocket their challenges. But I think there's pretty clearly more opportunities than what they're going for today.
 

Kliq

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 31, 2013
22,491
Have you been watching the Bucks lately.. like any of their games? Because you really do love congratulating yourself for seeing things nobody else is seeing right now. If the Bucks go out in the first round.. what will you do then?
Admit that I was wrong. I don't have the type of pride where I'm going to be worried about looking incorrect here.

I simply think many posters here have been too dismissive of the Bucks chances of success in the postseason, and I've made that clear many times. If I'm proven right, there is going to be some victory laps.
 

HomeRunBaker

bet squelcher
SoSH Member
Jan 15, 2004
29,820
An overturn is worth the same number of expected points whether it happens early or late game.

Just because the late-game ones can be high-leverage as to game outcome doesn't mean they're more valuable, it just means that that play swung things more in
I will fight to my death on this one though. Points early in a game are FAR less valuable than down the stretch even though they are all counted equally in the scorebook. The 1H and really first 3Q (and often times more) are played in rhythm without much attention payed to the score of the game. In the final 3-6 min or so the games are managed by the score especially when you get down to the final minute. Those 1-2 points early in the game aren’t going to have nearly the same amount of impact as they will in the final possession due to both coaches playing to the score.

I’ve got to run I’ll catch up on this later. Good thread.
 

ElUno20

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 19, 2005
5,978
That's fair, as long as you don't take said victory laps if the Clippers flame out due to injury. We've all caveated that they're an "if healthy" team enough, I think.
Seriously. People love the strawman "clippers are title contenders!" bullshit just so they can dump on them in the playoffs. It's an annual, ignorant, nba tradition. I hate it. It's lazy af and has been going on forever.
 

ElUno20

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 19, 2005
5,978
Admit that I was wrong. I don't have the type of pride where I'm going to be worried about looking incorrect here.

I simply think many posters here have been too dismissive of the Bucks chances of success in the postseason, and I've made that clear many times. If I'm proven right, there is going to be some victory laps.
How does the trade deadline play into this? Because the bucks wont be the same team after February 8.

However, the team they have today is not built to win in the playoffs.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
11,710
Just because the late-game ones can be high-leverage as to game outcome doesn't mean they're more valuable, it just means that that play swung things more in the moment, because there's less remaining game for the teams' skill differences to prove out (if any). A reversed call is, more or less, worth the same whether it comes early or late, in terms of points. This is a hard distinction to grasp, I'm having a hard time getting the right words for it. Think of this way: Suppose that one time per game, a manager in MLB can flip a coin to add a run for his team. If he waits to flip that coin until the 9th inning, it's more likely to end up affecting the game. But it's still worth the same to the team even if he flips it earlier in the game. It might change his endgame tactics (e.g. use a closer vs not) if he flips earlier, and if he waits he's more likely to know whether it'll matter (a blowout vs a close one). But after 9 innings, his team's runs are almost certainly going to be the same whether he flipped the coin early or late. The higher leverage with flipping it late doesn't mean it's better to wait. It's the same expected-value either way.
It's a nuanced point, but I understand that, in point expectation, the reversed calls have the same value regardless of the point in the game.

To state what I'm thinking about more formally:
* NBA games have a wide range out outcomes
* many games are decided by wide margins (much more than a possession), in either direction
* you don't know until the last couple minutes which "type" of game you're in
* all is being equal (I know, it never is), being able to choose to challenge when you find yourself in one of the close games is an advantage

The challenge is pretty unique, relative to other actions a team can take to improve expected point outcomes during the game, because it can be burned. If you shoot an open 3 and miss, you don't lose the ability to shoot 3s in the last 2 minutes. Ditto for any other game action.

For a team like the Celtics, whose point differential is such that the expected game is often not close, I wonder whether there is reduced value in winning early challenges, because you know going in that you're less likely to be in a close one at the end. Once you find out that you're in one, having a challenge in hand, even with a lower probability of success if/when you use it, could be more valuable.

I might be talking out of my ass, but I think that the "use it and maybe lose it" nature of challenges adds more to the analysis than you can get from a simple expected points calculation.
 

Kliq

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 31, 2013
22,491
How does the trade deadline play into this? Because the bucks wont be the same team after February 8.

However, the team they have today is not built to win in the playoffs.
Look you guys just keep wanting to bury yourselves deeper and deeper, that is fine by me.

Just so everyone knows, I'm leaning into a bit here and none of this personal. I think it WILL be fun this spring, either I get to do a victory lap, or everyone dunks on me.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 26, 2005
30,170
From what we hear now it seems pretty clear that Griffin lost that locker room and a chance had to be made. There was a reason he’d been passed over in previous years for head jobs and it looks like those GMs were correct.
Well, the "Locker Room" more or less ran Coach Bud out of town, and MIL made the Jrue for Dame move because the "Locker Room" wouldn't sign an extension until they "upgraded" plus the "Locker Room" didn't want Nurse, who has a ring last I checked and the "Locker Room" won't set picks for Dame in any meaningful way.

So maybe the "Locker Room" might want to think about its outsized influence on MIL's decisions.


Whenever you can acquire a coach with Doc's postseason track record over the past decade, you just get out of the way and let him cook. Don't disturb the art.
Like.

Going from Bud's post-season record to Doc's post-season record, even if not intentional, is still, errr, puzzling.
 

MyDaughterLovesTomGordon

Member
SoSH Member
Jun 26, 2006
13,892
How does the trade deadline play into this? Because the bucks wont be the same team after February 8.

However, the team they have today is not built to win in the playoffs.
Wait. What? What do you think the Bucks are going to do today/tomorrow? I thought the general consensus is that they really don't have much to work with. I guess I've seen Portis for Wiggins, but that doesn't seem to move the needle unless Wiggins has some kind of complete turnaround with a new home.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
11,710
Like.

Going from Bud's post-season record to Doc's post-season record, even if not intentional, is still, errr, puzzling.
Honestly, I feel bad for the way Bud got run out. He wins a title, then loses a tough series to the Celtics without Middleton. 2023 hits, his brother shockingly dies, Giannis was hurt, they lose to the Heat and then suddenly he's gone as coach because Giannis (who has since proven himself to be an awful "GM") decides that's what he wants.
 

Kliq

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 31, 2013
22,491
In the off-season, the NBA orchestrated a new statistical change that changed some plays that were previously called steals that are now attributed as block shots (the type of plays where a player knocks away a ball that is above a player's head).

That has created some fun statistical quirks, my favorite being that diminutive Fred Van Vleet currently has 46 blocks on the season--more than Jokic, Al Horford, Nikola Vucevic, Bam, and a bunch of other starting Centers.
 

m0ckduck

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 20, 2005
1,691
I mean, most of us were pretty skeptical of the Bucks trading out Jrue for Lillard and the results speak for themselves. A real disaster in the making for that franchise.
Isn't "disaster" a bit strong? I was skeptical at the time, and the skepticism has been rewarded. But I could see the merit in rolling the dice and not standing pat. Jrue Holiday isn't the #2 offensive option overall / #1 crunch time offense option on a title-winning team, which is where he found himself last year with the Heat series on the line and Middleton compromised. Would they be better off having not made the trade? Well... maybe a little bit, but that team wasn't going anywhere as constructed anyway and Giannis was making noises about wanting out. I think "swing big" was the right idea even if the odds were against it working out.

Now: getting a better coach definitely would have helped. That part _was_ a disaster.
 

ElUno20

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 19, 2005
5,978
Wait. What? What do you think the Bucks are going to do today/tomorrow? I thought the general consensus is that they really don't have much to work with. I guess I've seen Portis for Wiggins, but that doesn't seem to move the needle unless Wiggins has some kind of complete turnaround with a new home.
I don't know what they're going to do but they won't stand pat. They'll try something. They started with dame, then doc. When franchise start flailing, it doesnt stop until they get bounced in the playoffs.
 

the moops

Member
SoSH Member
Jan 19, 2016
4,574
Saint Paul, MN
Disaster is way too strong. Through 51 games they are 33-18. Last year they were 34-17. 31-20 the previous year. 32-19 the year they won the title
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
11,710
Isn't "disaster" a bit strong? I was skeptical at the time, and the skepticism has been rewarded. But I could see the merit in rolling the dice and not standing pat. Jrue Holiday isn't the #2 offensive option overall / #1 crunch time offense option on a title-winning team, which is where he found himself last year with the Heat series on the line and Middleton compromised. Would they be better off having not made the trade? Well... maybe a little bit, but that team wasn't going anywhere as constructed anyway and Giannis was making noises about wanting out. I think "swing big" was the right idea even if the odds were against it working out.

Now: getting a better coach definitely would have helped. That part _was_ a disaster.
I think the "Brad move" in this spot would have been to try and address the root issue (lack of scoring creation) while not trading Jrue. The Bucks had some OK draft capital to work with, and you can go out then and look for top-50 type players who can score the ball, while still keeping the Giannis/Jrue core. Trading Middleton would have made sense too, although I think that would have had to wait until Dec.

The issue with the Dame approach is that they lost Jrue for a marginal upgrade and spent the draft capital, which just doesn't leave much room to maneuver at that point.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 26, 2005
30,170
On the Bucks front...they don't look great now, and remains to be seen if they can do anything to upgrade their bench before tomorrow,. But the 4 man lineup of Lopez-Lillard-Middleton-Giannis has been crushing (16.4 net rating in almost 600 minutes, just barely ahead of BOS's best 4 man combo w/ extended minutes of Tatum-Brown-White-Porzingis at +16.1). Health issues with Middleton nonwithstanding, I wouldn't necessarily be jumping at the chance to play them in round 2 with that group buoying them.
Yeah but most of that is Giannis, no?

This Newsweek article (which also has some amusing clips of Dame's defense) - https://www.newsweek.com/damian-lillard-says-people-think-he-fell-off-reality-complicated-1867395 - says that MIL is outscored by 7.2 points per 100 possessions when Dame is on the floor but Giannis is out, which I'm sure MIL didn't anticipate.

Looking at 5-man lineups, over the last five games, I don't see a lineup without Giannis that has a positive NetRtg.

For the season, the only non-Giannis 5-man lineups that have played more than 15 minutes total and have a positive NRtg are: Lopez / Lillard / Portis / Connaughton / Beasley (+17.4 in 59 minutes over 20 games); Lopez / Lillard / Portis / Beasley / Beauchamp (+30.6 in 23 minutes over 7 games); and Lopez / Middleton / Payne / Portis / Beauchamp (+50.6 in 6 games but only 15 minutes).

I'll also note that the lineup of Antetokounmpo / Payne / Portis / Connaughton / Beauchamp had played in 14 games for 44 minutes before Doc arrived - 115.8 ORtg; 106.1 DRtg; 9.7 NetRtg - but it doesn't look like Doc will be using this lineup again, at least for a long while.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 26, 2005
30,170
Honestly, I feel bad for the way Bud got run out. He wins a title, then loses a tough series to the Celtics without Middleton. 2023 hits, his brother shockingly dies, Giannis was hurt, they lose to the Heat and then suddenly he's gone as coach because Giannis (who has since proven himself to be an awful "GM") decides that's what he wants.
At least Bud got a title, which they can never take away (although, as Brian Billick once said, they won't stop trying).

However, I think Coach Joe is correct here - Bud needed a "curveball." He was able to implement an effective system and get guys to run it very well, which mean that they were great during the regular season. But during the playoffs, when teams had a chance to game plan, there was no "curveball." There was nothing different to go to because there wasn't anything different they had tried.

Which is why I love Coach Joe trying out the 2-1-2 (I think he used with the bench guys in the MEM game a few times) and I'm glad the Cs will just dump the ball in the post when necessary.

I wonder if Bud will coach again.
 

PedroKsBambino

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Apr 17, 2003
30,903
Disaster is way too strong. Through 51 games they are 33-18. Last year they were 34-17. 31-20 the previous year. 32-19 the year they won the title
Also, for a small market team, remember that the biggest "win" in the Dame trade was the extension Giannis signed not long after. That to me justifies the trade even if the on-court results have been disappointing.

I acknowledge that "make a better deal so Giannis doesn't eventually still ask for a trade" option is ideal- and may or may not be realistic. What we do know is the deal they made gof him to commit and that's massively important for the franchise.
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
21,265
Pittsburgh, PA
It's a nuanced point, but I understand that, in point expectation, the reversed calls have the same value regardless of the point in the game.

To state what I'm thinking about more formally:
* NBA games have a wide range out outcomes
* many games are decided by wide margins (much more than a possession), in either direction
* you don't know until the last couple minutes which "type" of game you're in
* all is being equal (I know, it never is), being able to choose to challenge when you find yourself in one of the close games is an advantage

The challenge is pretty unique, relative to other actions a team can take to improve expected point outcomes during the game, because it can be burned. If you shoot an open 3 and miss, you don't lose the ability to shoot 3s in the last 2 minutes. Ditto for any other game action.

For a team like the Celtics, whose point differential is such that the expected game is often not close, I wonder whether there is reduced value in winning early challenges, because you know going in that you're less likely to be in a close one at the end. Once you find out that you're in one, having a challenge in hand, even with a lower probability of success if/when you use it, could be more valuable.

I might be talking out of my ass, but I think that the "use it and maybe lose it" nature of challenges adds more to the analysis than you can get from a simple expected points calculation.
Good post. Yes, the challenge is unusual in the non-renewable nature of it, and makes it a more complicated thing to evaluate (hence my reference to formal mathematics thought exercises like the Secretary Problem). And yes, you don't know if you're going to be in a blowout or a close game. But:

(1) If it does end up being a blowout, there is still some residual value to being able to send in the bench (slightly) earlier rather than later. It certainly doesn't hurt you to challenge earlier, tactically, aside from the 2 minutes of our lives that we'll never get back.

(2) If on the other hand you're going to end up being in a close game, then every point matters. Even a single extra point can be the difference between having good endgame options available to you vs your situation being dire. Getting that point added early vs added late doesn't really change anything, except insofar as it changes your approach in the final few possessions based on what you need. Assuming any challenge you would use would, 99% of the time, happen before those last few possessions, "Saving it for the 4th" doesn't really gain you anything. And in the (probably) less than once-per-year per-team where you get a Billups high-leverage reversable call, I still argue the following two scenarios are equivalent:

A. You got the reversal earlier, but now can't challenge this crunch-time call. Your "challenge points" are already in the bank.
B. You didn't challenge earlier, and now can challenge the crunch-time call. You get your challenge points late, but you were starting from ~a point behind relative to scenario A.

And that's leaving aside that there will almost never be a situation like that - your challenge value as a coach is determined by the incremental calls you get or don't get over the course of the season, not over a single game-deciding call. So I'd say that if there's value to be gained in challenging earlier (all else equal), and the downside risk is the Billups situation, the odds of the Billups situation occurring are tiny, and even then, the impact is arguably equivalent to having challenged earlier (unless the Billups call is a 100%-er and the earlier one was iffy), then my reasoning says that "challenge earlier" is still the winning play here.

HRB disagrees on the basis that the coaching approach changes dramatically in the final few minutes of a close game, and that the players are largely on autopilot with respect to the score up until those last few minutes. I think that's a bit of superstition - if the score doesn't matter to people, then getting the extra ~1 point early vs late shouldn't matter - but I'm willing to hear it out. But as I'm thinking about the counterfactual, like "we didn't challenge earlier, and now we're in a position where we need something to go our way to swing the game to us, and here comes a bad call I think will be reversed if I challenge", I'm not sure the coaching intensity, player-focus intensity, play-calls, or anything else would really be different if the score were 1-2 points different at that point going in.

All the "but all else is not equal" stuff still applies, of course. I covered a lot of that upthread, but one important point is that you need your challenge-buddy coaching copilot to be good at picking solid-percentage bets. You need to reliably recognize those opportunities, and evaluate them as likely, before you're in a position to overcome the emotional urge to hold on to the challenge till late (or fail to overcome it). That's hard, and very non-deterministic (if we knew the odds of reversal, that'd be a lot easier! The number of times Scal has reversed his prediction after seeing the first slow-mo replay are not huge but not rare, either). So if coaches started challenging earlier and more liberally, and they started picking poorer spots and got meaningfully lower reversal rates, that might affect our thinking as to whether they're acting optimally. But given that right now, they're challenging ~0.5 calls per game and in theory could be challenging as many as ~1.5 per game (using the second challenge after a 50%-successful first one), I think there's still plenty of room to explore the upside.
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
21,265
Pittsburgh, PA
Look you guys just keep wanting to bury yourselves deeper and deeper, that is fine by me.

Just so everyone knows, I'm leaning into a bit here and none of this personal. I think it WILL be fun this spring, either I get to do a victory lap, or everyone dunks on me.
Every forum needs its Kevin Durant chaos-agent. Keeps things fun, as you said. Just gotta be able to keep track of what you actually believe, or it can devolve quickly into just common trolling.
 

slamminsammya

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 31, 2006
8,977
San Francisco
I will fight to my death on this one though. Points early in a game are FAR less valuable than down the stretch even though they are all counted equally in the scorebook.
There is a difference between leverage and value which is maybe what you are getting at here, but the correct way to think about the challenge is maximizing value and not leverage.
 

m0ckduck

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 20, 2005
1,691
I think the "Brad move" in this spot would have been to try and address the root issue (lack of scoring creation) while not trading Jrue. The Bucks had some OK draft capital to work with, and you can go out then and look for top-50 type players who can score the ball, while still keeping the Giannis/Jrue core. Trading Middleton would have made sense too, although I think that would have had to wait until Dec.

The issue with the Dame approach is that they lost Jrue for a marginal upgrade and spent the draft capital, which just doesn't leave much room to maneuver at that point.
Well, Brad isn't operating in a tiny market with an unhappy superstar threatening to leave.

I agree on some level that it would have more sense of keep Jrue, upgrade the other guard spot with a sure-fire scorer (someone in the Tyler Hero mold) and use Jrue to cover his defensive deficiencies. But I'm not sure that player was available, or that Giannis would have been content with that kind of acquisition.

Edit: However, looking at the trade details, I'd forgotten that MIL gave up Jrue, Grayson Allen, a first AND two swaps. That is an awful lot, I'll admit.
 

slamminsammya

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 31, 2006
8,977
San Francisco
There is a difference between leverage and value which is maybe what you are getting at here, but the correct way to think about the challenge is maximizing value and not leverage.
Id like to expand on this point because it trips people up a lot. To illustrate lets imagine a very simple game. You get 3 coin flips, and get 1 point if you draw a heads and -1 point if you get tails. The goal is to end the game with > 0 points. You are allowed one "challenge" to a flip, where you can modify a tails to a heads.

Would you rather use your challenge on the first flip, the second, or the third? The correct answer in this simple game is you should be completely indifferent, and I hope that is clear in this simple example game.

The confusion arises from conditioning on the final flip being the decided one, ie. a situation where the first two flips were one heads and one tails. In that case you will definitely prefer having a challenge versus not having one, right? Since the "win probability added" for the final flip is 100%! This kind of reasoning is wrong, because you are already conditioning on a particular scenario having played out.

A correct response in the case of basketball is that possessions unlike coin flips are not independent events, and this is true! The rubber band effect seems to suggest that a 2 point lead in the first quarter is actually less valuable than in later quarters, and not just due to the mistake in using conditional probabilities. (The rubber band effect says that teams who are winning play less well than youd otherwise expect and teams who are losing tend to make comebacks more than youd otherwise expect). BUT! The observed impact of the rubber band effect is very small compared to the regret associated with ending the game having not used a challenge, i.e. the EV of changing a turnover / foul / basket via a challenge with even a decent chance of success is far greater than the difference between a 4th quarter and 1st quarter basket after accounting for the rubber band effect.

But to point out that 4th quarter possessions in close games are way more valuable than 1st quarter possessions as a reason for holding onto a challenge is a simple abuse of probability.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 24, 2002
47,687
Thank you for that post.

That said I need to simplify everything for my single remaining brain cell so I simply remind myself that the values of all the different types of baskets stay the same regardless of quarter. What often changes is the degree of difficulty.
 

Euclis20

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 3, 2004
7,774
Imaginationland
Simmons made an updated trade value list and video:

https://nbarankings.theringer.com/

View: https://youtu.be/QDmx7ej9IVM?si=ae0hnZkfO2QuSoPC


Celtics: Holiday at 63, Porzingis at 56, White at 47, Brown at 38, Tatum at 6.

The main thing I was curious about with this list was how many guys were above Wemby. Just three (Jokic, Giannis and Luka), with four just behind in the same category (SGA, Tatum, Edwards, Banchero). I wonder where Embiid would've ranked if he'd pulled this together two weeks ago, right after the 70 point game (he was 12th on this list).
 

Kliq

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 31, 2013
22,491
Simmons made an updated trade value list and video:

https://nbarankings.theringer.com/

View: https://youtu.be/QDmx7ej9IVM?si=ae0hnZkfO2QuSoPC


Celtics: Holiday at 63, Porzingis at 56, White at 47, Brown at 38, Tatum at 6.

The main thing I was curious about with this list was how many guys were above Wemby. Just three (Jokic, Giannis and Luka), with four just behind in the same category (SGA, Tatum, Edwards, Banchero). I wonder where Embiid would've ranked if he'd pulled this together two weeks ago, right after the 70 point game (he was 12th on this list).
Just glancing at the list, I think he underrates Chet and overrates Banchero and Jaylin Williams. Williams in particular being above Chet I don't understand, and that includes when Williams was getting some ASG buzz earlier. Williams is a very good player, but Chet is younger, pretty much just as good offensively (and more versatile) and a significantly better defender, and will likely be one of the 3-4 best defensive players in the NBA in his prime if he can add even a little more weight.

SGA is excellent, I don't really want to say anything bad about him...but I find it hard to rate someone that hasn't done anything in the playoffs before above someone like Tatum, who has dominated playoff series and done things like absolutely batter Kevin Durant on both ends of the floor, led his team past Giannis when Giannis was playing out of his mind, drop 51 points in a closeout game against Philly, etc.
 

Euclis20

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 3, 2004
7,774
Imaginationland
Just glancing at the list, I think he underrates Chet and overrates Banchero and Jaylin Williams. Williams in particular being above Chet I don't understand, and that includes when Williams was getting some ASG buzz earlier. Williams is a very good player, but Chet is younger, pretty much just as good offensively (and more versatile) and a significantly better defender, and will likely be one of the 3-4 best defensive players in the NBA in his prime if he can add even a little more weight.

SGA is excellent, I don't really want to say anything bad about him...but I find it hard to rate someone that hasn't done anything in the playoffs before above someone like Tatum, who has dominated playoff series and done things like absolutely batter Kevin Durant on both ends of the floor, led his team past Giannis when Giannis was playing out of his mind, drop 51 points in a closeout game against Philly, etc.
I think injury and durability concerns come into play here, which is going to be a problem for Chet his entire career (unless he starts ripping off multiple 70+ game seasons, at least). I've always loved Banchero (I've posted here that he was the best player drafted in the 4+ years between Luka and Wemby), I'm fine with his placement.

Agreed on SGA/Tatum. It's not just that he's unproven in the playoffs, he's also a pretty slight guy (listed at 6'6 180, though he's put on some weight since then) leading me to think he might have some trouble with the banging over a long playoff run. Tatum always gets a raw deal in these things because he's been in so many games that people tend to just remember the most recent (game 7 loss to Miami) and the biggest (finals loss to GS), neither of which do Tatum any favors.