June 11, 2016, 2:46 pm
The Sunk Cost Fallacy is a powerful thing. It explains that people have their present judgment clouded by past decisions, accounting for resources already spent.
Think of it as getting a ticket to see The Angry Birds Movie, but deciding you’d rather not sit through a bad film. Odds are that most people will still go and suffer, citing the fact that they already paid for the ticket and ‘might as well not waste it.’
Really, whether or not you sit through garbage is independent from the ticket purchase at that point. Your $12 are gone whether you see the movie or not and if you’d prefer to not watch Angry Birds, it stands to reason that you should just not go.
Let’s move off of ragging on Angry Birds — how many of you ever have walked out of a theater? Even if you have, how many other bad movies did you sit and finish watching because you’d already paid? I saw The Love Guru in theaters. I saw Green Lantern. I saw The Bounty Hunter. That one I saw for free, but the opportunity cost of doing something else with my time was still there.
Much of that has to do with loss aversion. It’s the human propensity to err on the side of caution when it comes to decision making, even in the face of potential, and perhaps even more probable, gains. It’s the little tick in your mind that makes the safe play seem proper; it’s what makes ‘playing not to lose’ such a common occurrence. It’s ‘taking the points’ in football and kicking a field goal on fourth and goal.
It also covers the endowment effect, which dictates that people (as well as other species) place a higher value on things they already own or are familiar with, even when given equally valuable or superior alternatives. In general, people like the status quo. It feels right, and unless something awful is going down, there’s little reason to exchange one thing for another.
Point being, your prior use of resources should have no effect on your future decisions in a perfectly rational world. In reality, it’s hard to abandon something you’ve invested in. So seeing as how this is a basketball blog (the behavioral economics and consumer behavior stuff is free of charge), how does this all fit in?
Enter Kevin Love.
Let me preface the following by saying a few things. Firstly, I do not believe that Kevin Love’s absence was the reason Cleveland wiped the floor with the Warriors in Game 3.
Secondly, I do not think that Cleveland is a better team without Love. The people saying he shouldn’t see the floor are wrong. I also don’t mean to marginalize Kevin Love and his abilities. I don’t think it’s an insult to say he isn’t capable of performing to his standards against the Warriors, because few people on the planet can claim to do so. Kevin Love was facing an uphill battle in this matchup; one that he was never going to win.
Love, to me, is a pretty good but not great player who just doesn’t fit well in this series. He’s a valuable floor spacer and can be a wonderful secondary, or even primary, scorer. His defensive shortcomings have been discussed at length in every nook and cranny of the basketball world, and the Love-Kyrie Irving defensive combo is a raw steak to a hungry pitbull.
The pair were relentlessly attacked by the unimaginative Raptors, and Golden State is running offense in a whole other universe compared to Toronto. Having them share the floor, particularly against Golden State’s starting group, is a massive tactical blunder.
Love lacks the lateral quickness and footspeed to recover on a rim runner and quite simply can’t do enough to make up for Irving’s defensive shortcomings when the two engage in pick and roll defense. The Cavaliers need a five man defensive effort to keep up with the Warriors, and having two bad defenders share the floor like Love and Irving have is a good way to dig a deep hole.
Injuries are brutal, and the NBA deserves to be questioned for bungling its own concussion protocol, seeing how Love wasn’t removed until the game was out of reach in the third quarter. In a vacuum, losing one of your star players is a brutal blow at any time, let alone the Finals.
On the other hand, when Love absorbed an errant Harrison Barnes elbow in the second quarter of Game 2, it may have opened up a window that had previously been sealed shut by a fat check.
It’s foolish to assume that Cleveland was happy to proceed without Love. He’s a $113 million dollar man for a reason, even if he didn’t fare too well in the first two games of the series. He’s a key cog in the machine that manhandled the Eastern Conference without breaking more than a light sweat.
Moreover, it’s tough to imagine that Tyronn Lue would want to rock the boat that had only lost two games in the postseason. But maybe the boat needed to be rocked for the Cavs to stand a chance.
The devil’s advocate argument is that Love’s concussion gave Cleveland a convenient reason to keep him out of the mix and get some fresh faces in with the starters without bruising the ego of an expensive star.
If Cleveland had the guts and was free of the specter of Love’s big contract, they could have made the move themselves. Neither as a permanent solution nor an indictment of Love as a player, but just to see what might happen.