When People Forget That Curves Exist

The Houston Rockets, a NBA team with a surprisingly high 48.8% of their shot taken behind 3-point line, has an unique philosophy for the game.

It goes like this: In a basketball game,a regular shot count for 2 points, while those taken a bit further away count for 3 points. On the other hand, longer shots are more difficult to make,hence the chance of making a close layup is higher than that of the one taken 10 feet away from the basket.

A strategy seems to emerge: Make more close layups,they are easy buckets; make more threes, they count for more points. Anything between? Nah.

That make sense, but one thing haven’t been taken into consideration — Curves exist.

What does it mean? The Rockets disdained the midrange — Shots that are not close to the basket, but not far enough to be counted as 3-pointers. The reason is that they are not efficient: They are harder to make than a layup that carries equivalent points, but carries less points than a 3-pointer which is not far away.

Knowing all these, it is tempting to draw a conclusion: The more midrange taken, the less point expected to be scored — that’s a bad news for a basketball team.

Except one thing is wrong. According to the conclusion above.The relationship between number of midrange shots taken and the points expected is linear, meaning that it would look like a straight line if we plot a graph to represent it.

In reality, however, the relationship would be a curve, one that resembles a parabola — Both avoiding all midrange and shooting everything from midrange would not be a good idea.

In a basketball match, defenders have to guess what the opponent will do and react upon it. This is where line bends downward: The strategy of Rockets takes away a crucial option from the players, leading to a simpler and more predictable playing style.

One thing seeming to be good doesn’t make more of it good.

One thing seeming to be bad doesn’t necessarily make reducing it an good idea.

Of course, the coaching staff of the Rockets must have considered what I mention before implementing the strategy; the Rockets aren’t playing bad either. There are many more factors to consider in a real basketball game, yet situation of players passing the ball to each other because of fierce defense (as a result of their simplified game) can be noticed in some of their more intense games.

This is what happens when we overshoot something and let it pass the optimum point of the curve.

This is also how someone would fool us with data.

‘Research show those who take medicine Y daily are subjected to higher rate of heart attack. The medicine have to be banned.’

Wrong. Over-taking something is different from taking something in nature. Drinking 10 litre of water will kill anyone immediately,but can you survive without it?

‘When the best designers in the world are trying to simplify their design,why are we adding something new?

Wrong. Simplistic, simple, rich and complicated are different concepts, being too extreme seldom works out.

In most situations, the relationship between two things are not linear. Knowing dearth of something is a bad idea doesn’t mean an overflowing amount of it is good; both extremes is not where the optimum point is usually found.

Next time someone try to fool you with linear word games, tell them:

Curves exist.

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