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NBA Teams Should Rely Less on Star Players

Two researchers have found that success comes with a trap: It can cause teams to rely more on their “stars.” This makes the team less adaptable and more likely to get stuck in old ways of doing things. And, ultimately, it increases the chances of failure the next time around.

They started their research by looking at pro basketball teams. They examined teams in the NBA across more than 60,000 games, spanning 34 years. Leveraging motion-tracking-camera data, they looked at how teams’ passing patterns and shot distributions changed after wins and losses. Here’s their conclusion:

We found that after winning, teams became more reliant on their star players. Teams passed the ball about 6% more to the stars, and their shot distribution skewed 15% more toward the big performers. Although doubling down is intuitive (“We want to exploit what worked before”), it ended up decreasing teams’ chances of winning the next game. The increased reliance on the star players made teams more predictable to the next opponent and easier to defend—and therefore less likely to win the game … Our studies suggest that success threatens teams.

Their recommendation? Focus on the whole team, not just the stars. The researchers concluded, “When teams succeed, the credit is less likely to focus on specific performers, but rather on the team. Likewise, blame is less likely to be attributed solely to the stars, so the team can get a clearer picture of what went wrong.”

Sounds like the body of Christ!

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