Favorite Articles of the Year

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Every year at this time, David Brooks of the New York Times Presents the “Sydney Awards” for the best magazine essays of the year. His first installment of this year’s awards can be found here.

In a similar fashion, throughout the year I have listed my favorite newspaper and magazine pieces in the section titled “The Article I’m Reading” in the right hand column of this page. Below is a collection of four of my favorite articles from this past year; they are all well worth a read.

The biggest news story of the year was the killing of Osama Bin Laden; Nicholas Schmidle wrote a great insider piece in the New Yorker about the raid. Getting Bin Laden – Nicholas Schmidle

 In the New York Times Magazine, John Tierney described scientific findings that our decision-making worsens as we make more and more decisions. Do You Suffer from Decision Fatigue? – John Tierney

I love sports, not just for the drama on the field, but for the reality television it creates off the field. Many events transcend sports and spill over into our everyday culture. The next two pieces are indicative of how sports is intertwined, whether we like it or not, into the fabric of our lives.

Jeffery Toobin’s New Yorker piece about the New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon and his dealings with Bernie Madoff is an eye-opening account that sheds light on the interactions that impacted the Mets franchise forever.  Madoff’s Curveball – Jeffery Toobin Warning: long

Wesley Morris wrote my favorite piece of the year. His piece The Rise of the NBA Nerd delves into numerous social and cultural issues surrounding the NBA and American Culture itself. This is a must read. 

Check back for the next “Article I’m Reading” and for next year’s collection of My Favorite Articles of the Year!

NBA draft viability

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This spring I began researching a paper analyzing the effectiveness of the NBA draft.  The paper is still in the process, but I want to share some of my findings and hopefully garner some responses/comments.

My thesis is that the NBA’s amateur draft is intended to allocate new talent to teams that need it most.  If it is effective, then there would be some fluctuation of teams transforming from bad to good.  Essentially, a cycle would turn bad teams into good teams by allowing them first crack at young talent.  My first data analysis consisted of determine if there is a lag to each team’s success.  I thought that if the draft was effective, teams that were bad in the past would be better 5 or so years later- once their prospects had developed.  That is, the question I asked was: Were the teams that are winning now losers 5 years ago. Here is a table of winning percentages for the top four teams in each conference:

For the 2009-2010, there was a significant negative relationship between wins in 2006 and wins in 2010 (the 2010-2011 year had not finished when I last worked with the data).  But, there was no correlation between wins in 2009 and a year 5 or so year in the past.  Using a time-series analysis on team’s wins over the past 25 NBA seasons, I found that the only significant predictor of a team’s current number of wins was the previous year’s number of wins.  That is, teams that are winning now were not statistically significantly worse 5 (or so) years in the past.  My conclusion was that the NBA’s amateur draft does not turn losing teams into winning teams.

One additional conclusion I came to was that certain draft classes do matter.  Specifically, I found that the draft classes of 1987, 1998, and 2003 turned losing teams into winners 7 years later.  Each draft class turned some losing teams into significant winners.  While only serving as anecdotal evidence, Lebron James turned the Cleveland Cavaliers from a 17 game winner in 2003 to 61 game winners in 2010 and from the draft class of 1998 both Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce turned struggling teams into winners in the early 200s.

My next thought is to account for draft pick number rather than losses, since the lottery does not ensure a reverse order.  There are some interesting studies on the NBA draft including “Losing to Win” by Beck Taylor, which analyzed if teams intentionally lose games in a “race-to-the-bottom” in order to arrive at the top pick.

Most analyses assumes that the NBA draft works, but my research points to an ineffective process of allocating rookie talent to the teams that need it most.