I’ve been enjoying the Heat/Spurs NBA finals, tied at 2-2, after lopsided victories have gone both ways. So I was interested in Neil Irwin’s economic analysis of the journeymen (at least relative to the star-studded Heat) and globally-sourced Spurs.
Neil explains a complicated analysis wherein teams maximize the probability that a shoot is good by trying to find underpriced players (expected value of their contribution > their cost) and getting them the ball when your stars are being double- and triple-teamed (the Heat’s defense seems to alter between smothering, as in last night’s game, and lazy, as on Tuesday night).
This is a neat example of price arbitrage—exploiting a price advantage that the market hasn’t yet discovered—the sort of thing you read about in “Moneyball.”
On the other hand, it also sounds a lot like what we’ve done since we were kids choosing up sides: pick the best players and when they’re open, get them the ball. So, the Spurs are employing either brilliant arbitrage technique or playground smarts. You decide.
[Who’s gonna win the series? Probably the Heat, as when they’re in their zone (you know what I mean–not the 2-1-2 thing), they’re unbeatable. But the Spurs have shown that they can get the Heat out of their zone, so it ain’t over by a long shot. Especially not with Tony Parker sacrificing himself like that on every crazy drive!]