Decisions, Durant, and a Nurse timeout (Book Note for "Thinking in Bets")

What makes a decision great is not that it has a great outcome. A great decision is the result of a good process, and that process must include an attempt to accurately represent our own state of knowledge. That state of knowledge, in turn, is some variation of “I’m not sure.”"

― Annie Duke, Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts

It’s the morning Raptors/Warriors game 5. Today’s story is, of course: Should Kevin Durant have played or not? What factors went into that decision? There's the Bob Myers post-game interview where he says it was a collaborative decision, but to blame him if you're going to blame anyone.

That collaborative decision looked pretty good after KD hit his third three. And much worse after he tore his achilles.

As Annie Duke explains in Thinking in Bets, process matters more than the result when judging the quality of the decision. I think in the coming weeks we’ll get a better sense of what that process was.

I liked what Ryen Russillo said on Bill Simmons's podcast:

"I'm saying it's really bad luck. Obviously he was already hurt. But if he's the one that wants to go out there—and I think this actually shows tremendous character. I think Durant, for all the shit that guy takes, he proved and should've proved to all the people that hate on him, because they're mad he went to Golden State—and I get why people are mad that he went to Golden State. But this dude went out there right in front of free agency, stared at max money, and said You know what I want to go out there and help these dudes. When, if he were as soft mentally as sometimes we suggest, because he does some weird stuff, but if he were really soft he could have easily said Look, I'm not gonna come back, I'm not gonna risk it, and if I come back and then we lose and everybody shits on me all over again, and I've gotta worry about all this stuff and—that stuff that does bother him. And instead he's like No man, I'm just gonna go back out there and play."

There was another decision in the scope of the game that people questioned. The Warriors were on the ropes. Kawhi was on fire. And… the Raptors take a timeout.

They come back out. The Warriors go on a 9-2 run and win the game.

I've read some comments suggesting that this is resulting. If Kawhi stays on fire and they end up winning the game then nobody will question the timeout. But people questioned the timeout immediately. Thinking it was nuts to call a timeout there was based on the factors going into it.

It's probably a little harder to look at the numbers that might go into the decision. One story throughout Thinking in Bets is the Seahawks passing at the 1-yard line. (I also saw the Raptors timeout compared to this on Reddit.) No passes were intercepted at the 1-yard line that season, so it wasn't a bad decision.

“Still. Run the ball.” — The Feeling Brain (not a fan of analytics)

In the case of the Raptors timeout, it boils down to whether you believe in momentum or not. I think you'd need some numbers about late game timeouts for the Warriors and Raptors and and then judge the decision based on that. (Along with whatever other factors went into calling it.)

  • It's a bad timeout if… they only called timeouts because they'd lose some timeouts anyway since you can only take 2 timeouts into the final minutes.

  • It's a good timeout if… one of the players waved for it and wanted rest. They came out flat out of the timeout so that's where you just sort of guess about things.

If they were gassed after the timeout then they might've been flat without the timeout too, running on fumes. Or you think the momentum would've carried them through and it actually allowed the Warriors to recompose themselves.

I also wish Kawhi just forced something up on the last possession instead of making the right play. There goes my feeling brain again.

Who knows!

I'm excited that there’s more basketball. (And it was an excellent decision for Powell to go for that dunk after Kawhi's travel/not-travel.)