Bad Game Theory in the NBA

“He’s got two fouls in the first quarter, he’s going to the bench.”
“They are taking a risk starting him in the second half, he’s already in foul trouble with three”

I don’t know a single NBA team that deals with “foul trouble” correctly. The correct approach is to mostly ignore it.
The logic is simple. Leaving a player in who has foul trouble might result in them fouling out. That is bad. But then again, it might not result in them fouling out. When you take your player out of the game, they are for sure 100% out of the game. To take your player out of the game in case they might get taken out of the game later… it’s nonsense.

“You want that player in the final two minutes.” Erm… maybe. A basket is a basket, and it counts the same no matter when it is scored. There might be some legitimacy here. But again, taking a player out of the game for sure so that there is a chance that they might play those same minutes and at a more important time seems like a poor gamble.

This approach shouldn’t be absolutist. If my star player picks up four fouls in the first five minutes, then they should probably have the rest of their time allocated more conservatively. Right now though, the pendulum is in a crazy place and needs to swing back to letting players play. Much as NFL teams have been gradually getting more aggressive with ‘going for it’ on 4th down, the NBA should take a lesson from them and be more aggressive about letting their player stay in.

I can’t find stats about how fouling out trends, but in 2010, another writer saw the trend, and came to the same conclusions
(coaches are wusses).

(Here is a reddit discussion with some others answers I find unconvincing.)

And because Draymond Green is a jerk, here’s one of him getting it also.

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