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The Personnel Management of the NBA

The NBA Playoffs are happening right now, and as of this writing the teams are about to start the second round of the tournament. This year, the meta story has been how NBA players have gotten injured throughout the year, and their effect on individual games, teams’ seasons, and even players’ careers.

In response, teams have started to employ a strategy where they rest their top players throughout the season to ensure they remain fresh for the intensity of the playoffs at the end of the season[1]. The generally accepted wisdom is that the regular season is a marathon, and not all games are created equal. Teams in the 80s and 90s went hard every game; resting players and saving energy for the playoffs has been a fairly modern development.

Now, the rituals and strategies employed in sportsball may be cliche and sometimes ignorant to the point of superstition, but what’s been fascinating about the NBA in recent years is its discovery and increasing reliance on statistics and analytics. Teams are quantifying everything from the true value of shots to how defensive schemes are run to players’ health and training regimens, and using these numbers to maximize their chances of success. From a work performance standpoint, few jobs are under as much scrutiny and analysis[2].

I preemptively tagged this post with “management”, as I wanted to tie it back to boring work.

I remember reading the Netflix culture deck a while back, and was surprised at how much I agreed with Reed Hastings’ philosophies on how to hire and retain a great team. Treating a software team like a sports team is a powerful comparison: there is just so much effort towards building and keeping good teams in sports, and firms ought to apply the same lessons learned.

We can start by classifying intensity as a valuable, finite, and slow-to-replenish resource.

Footnotes    (↑ returns to text)

  1. Credit goes to the San Antonio Spurs for setting the example a few years ago, though the league took exception to the move.
  2. Both professionally, but also via all them fans and media types.
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