Since "risky" is a fairly intuitive concept, I
will name a few risky strategies before defining
precisely what it means. First and most obviously,
a press is a risky strategy because it often gets points off
the defense or gives up easy baskets. A second risky
strategy is to shoot a lot of threes; one is more likely
to get 6 points or 50 points by shooting twenty three pointers
than by shooting twenty two pointers. A third risky strategy,
though not as risky as the others, is to slow the game down,
reducing the number of possessions in a game. These are
the three fundamental risky strategies I have thought of.
I will talk about others below.
Secondary risky strategies can be determined by looking
at any strategy that leads to one of the above strategies.
For instance, a zone often causes an opponent to take more three
point attempts and to slow down the game, making it a "risky"
strategy. I honestly never would have thought that a zone
was risky, but the derivation is undeniable and experience
mostly supports the notion (like the Syracuse win over
favored Kansas in the West Regional Final). This is not
to say that a zone should not be used by a favored team. If
the favorite is a small team that has to stop an underdog
with a good big man or no outside shooters, then a zone makes
sense just because it affects the expected point
A second strategy that may be viewed as risky because of what it causes the
opponent to do is play a lot of big men or players who do not
handle the ball well. Doing this can incite an opponent into a press
or pressure defense.
Calling these strategies "risky" is something of a misnomer.
They are "risky" for a good team, but "calculated gambles"
for poor teams. What these strategies do is make a team,
whether good or bad, more inconsistent. Mathematically,
they increase the standard deviation of their
SD(Rating Difference) = SD(Rtg - Opp.Rtg)
Rtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (offensive rating)
Opp.Rtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (defensive rating)
SD(): Statistical standard deviation of quantity in parentheses ()
Var(): Statistical variance of quantity in parentheses ()
Cov(): Statistical covariance of quantities in parentheses ()
There are some other more subtle strategies that come out of this. For
example, whether you front or back a post player can be regarded as risky
or more conservative, respectively, because fronting is more likely to lead
to a steal or an easy shot, while backing usually leads to a tough
shot. (This is not always the case and depends on how the rest of
the defense is taught to play, but is generally true.) If your guards go
to the offensive boards (or follow their shot) rather than getting back, it
can be viewed as relatively risky. As a result of this, if your
defensive guards release rather than block out, that might be viewed
as risky. If you overplay on the wings, it is riskier than playing
position defense. And so on...
I am sure there are other subtleties of basketball influenced by
this principle of risk, perhaps even some important ones that
I have forgotten. However, this should be a good start. To
emphasize, this principle affects the game by making
teams more inconsistent. Perhaps a team plays a zone
substantially better than they play a man-to-man defense;
in this case, playing a zone makes sense regardless of
whether that team is a generally good one or a generally
bad one. Usually, it is difficult to explicitly evaluate
whether a team is better at one type of strategy over another.
This principle gives a good guide for when to use them, if
there is uncertainty over which is best.
Again, my thanks to the reader who suggested outlining