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Tollison and the Three-pointer

2017 October 17
by Skip Sauer

Mark D’Antoni and the Houston Rockets are pushing the envelope on the three-ball, once again.  They shot 40 per game last year and “destroyed the record for most three point attempts by 23%.”  A loose target for this year is 50%.  The reason?  If you are good at shooting the three-ball and expected points are higher than with a two point shot, expected points scored will increase by moving “would-be” two point shots outside the three point line.  This is a form of basketball arbitrage explored 25+ years ago in papers by Robert Clement and Robert McCormick, and Kevin Grier and Robert Tollison.  D’Antoni is channelling his inner Tollison with this: “The league will keep changing until the expected points and all the different actions on the floor converge into a similar number,” Morey said. “I do not think we’re there yet.”

From a good story for opening night in the NBA by Ben Cohen in the WSJ.

P.S.  KPC channelled Bob Tollison over the weekend: “I told y’all so, again!.

Sources:

EZ Angus and Bob Tollison, “Arbitrage in a Basketball Economy,” Kyklos, V. 43(4),  1990

Bobby McCormick and Robert Clement, “Intrafirm Profit Opportunities and Managerial Slack: Evidence from Professional Basketball,” In Advances in the Economics of Sports, ed. G. W. Scully, Greenwich CT., JAI Press.

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