Thursday, November 16, 2006

Worthwhile Sports Nut Article

My issues with the Slate'sSports Nut column have been well documented, or documented, at least.

But Matt Yglesias's(!) article outlining why the new NBA rules put a premium on defense in opposition to the conventional wisdom that they favor the offense actually persuaded me of something I did not agree with before I read the article.

Yglesias's point seems so obvious that you wonder how hte CW went the other way-- if the new rules make offense easier and defense more difficult, then good defensive players will be more valuable than ever. The problem with the NBA before wasn't that it placed a premium on defensive ability, but just the opposite -- it was possible to be an effective defensive player without any particular skill. Now, you can't get by with hand-checking

The same will be true in other industries. In software engineering, switching between tasks is expensive. But it is also necessary to meet business goals, so that means, engineers who are good at taks switching are incredibly valuable. As Joel wrote, that's why they pay us the big bucks.

I think that's an important determinant in someone's success or failure. If new developements (regulations, technological developments) make your job more difficult, will you see that as a hindrance, or an indication that your ability to adapt and be successful in the new environment will be at a premium?


JohnMcG said...

Thinking about this some more, I think the disconnect is that we mix up relative and absolute performance.

In today's NBA, you need to regularly score at least 100 points to compete, wheres before you only needed to score 90. So, intutively, that makes you think that the scales have tipped from valuing defense to valuing offense. If you need to score 100 points, you need some scorers.

But the reason you need 100 points to compete is that points are easier to come by. The same offensive talent that would give you 90 points before will give you 100 points today (as Yglesias notes, it might be a different type of offensive talent, but the same amount of absolute skill).

It seems like this contradiction between intuition and reality could lead to some market inefficiencies that could be exploited in a Moneyball kind of way.