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Abbott: Blazers GM Neil Olshey Discusses Late-Game Strategies

Portland Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey discusses the merits of various late-game strategies.


Henry Abbott of TrueHoop has an interview with Portland Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey and UCSD Economist Matt Goldman in which the two discuss the merits of various late-game strategies. The interview was conducted at MIT's Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

Here a few of his quotes.

OK if your team shoots threes when up by one late in games?

"Selectively. I think the goal of an offense is to get the best shot every time down the court for the guy with the highest success rate for that shot. If you're asking me whether I want J.J. Hickson to shoot threes, I don't. If you're asking about Luke Babbitt, Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, absolutely. That's a better look. I'd rather shoot an open three by a player shooting 39 or 40 percent from three than a contested two by somebody just because it's by somebody closer to the rim.

Threes when leading late draw second-guessing from sports radio

I'm a possession basketball guy under two minutes. Any time you can change the number of possessions that you're up, that's huge for me. Up one, if someone gets a good look at a three and takes it, I'd rather take the risk/reward of moving that to a two-possession game under two minutes, than to just get a basket and it's still a one-possession game. Now, to your point, a team that knows they have to shoot a three, shoots it with more confidence because there's no downside to doing it because they're looking to tie rather than decreasing the lead to one.

Success of small ball lineups

We've played more close games than anyone in the league this year and we've come back from more double-digit deficits to win games than any team in the league. Going to a model of shooting threes, you put your best three-point shooters in the game. We've found that the stretch four, it opened up the game not so much for that person, who at times isn't even making shots, but his presence on the floor allows for more dribble penetration for our guards, it makes it harder to double the low post, you can't come big to big, it gives him more freedom of movement down below.

Importance of communicating analytics

The art isn't the analytics. The art is communicating the analytics in a digestible way for old-school coaches, old-school GMs, front office, assistant coaches and players so they embrace it and apply it. Working in a vacuum it all looks great and it looks great in research papers. Someone with half as good a research player with twice as good of salesmanship and communication ability is going to get his point across and be embraced more than someone who may have the greatest idea but can't relate it.

-- Ben Golliver | | Twitter