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What Businesses Can Learn From the NBA Finals

With the newest SAP line of business focusing on sports and entertainment I thought I would highlight one of SAP’s new partnerships with the NBA at through the lens of the NBA Finals. This edition of NBA Finals on Business Trends will focus on the NBA as a corollary to business.

/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/bball2_230220.jpgSAP getting into sports makes sense for what it can do for the fan experience for leagues and teams, but so too can it be important for SAP to learn from some of the things going on in sports. The NBA Finals this season is being played between two very different franchises.

If the Spurs were a corporation they would have years of solid performance.Their stock would occasional plateau, rarely dip, and would trend for the most part upward. Miami, on the other hand would be a start up, albeit an extremely deep pocketed one with plenty of venture capital and some nice pieces it has acquired over the course of a few years.

The Spurs of the last decade and a half are one of the best sports franchises ever. The best way to understand their dominance is from a player evaluation and management standpoint, and there is no team better than the Spurs to illustrate this point. Conventional wisdom would have you believe that because Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, two players who stand 5 inches taller than small forward Kawhi Leonard would be far superior rebounders. To simply assume this would force you to miss out on the ability of Kawhi Leonard. Here are some interesting numbers from this Finals.

Finals Rebounds Per Game

Tiago Splitter


Tim Duncan


Kawhi Leonard


In evaluating employees and talent, it can be easy for business leaders to have a similarly skewed viewpoint on potential workers. In lieu of personal sentiment, statistics and data about an employee’s production can allow people to lift the veil on hidden potential.

Danny Green is another great case study in finding hidden talent and allowing it to shine. The example of Danny Green is one in which the culture of an organization can make all the difference.

He has shot extremely well this postseason, especially in the last two Finals games. Below is a look at his numbers shooting 3-pointers from this Finals and playoffs versus the league average for the season.

3-point shooting %

3 pointers made per game

Danny Green Finals

70% (yes 70%)


Green Playoffs

50 %


League Average



That’s right, Green has made almost three fourths of the 3-pointers he has taken, and is making more than 5 a game. What was Danny Green doing before he came to the Spurs? He was being cut by the Cleveland Cavaliers, (one of the league’s worst teams at present).

Now he is the starting small forward on an NBA Finals team, as well as the leading scorer of Game 2 and 3. So how did he go from being cut, to having one of the best out of nowhere NBA Finals performances in recent memory? It can be done through great internal leadership (head coach Gregg Popovich, considered by many as the best in the league) and a culture of winning (the Spurs have won 70 plus percent of their games for more than a decade).

Tonight the team shot a Finals record 16 3-pointers, seven of which were Danny Green’s, spurring (pun intended) a San Antonio drubbing of the vaunted Heat.

The Heat on the other hand are best explained through the play of some newly acquired pieces that have only been playing together for a few years, or a few months as the case may be. If there is anything we can learn from the 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers or the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers, it is impossible for one player to win a championship.

Miami too evaluated talent, but acquired it rather than drafting players or cultivating free agents over the course of a few years. They knew they wanted to win now. The team decided the way to win now was going to find players who could really shoot the ball, and shoot it they did. During the regular season the Heat were second in shooting percentage and third in three pointers made per game. Many of the pieces they have bought over the last few years were aquired to accommodate that focus.

Ray Allen was a free agent after a strong few years with the Boston Celtics and before that with the Seattle Sonics. He is widely understood as one of the best three point shooters of all time and some consider him the best. He is a career 40 percent 3-point shooter, and has made more threes in his career than any other player in NBA history by almost 300.

The Heat also drafted Mario Chalmers out of Kansas, who shot over 42 percent from three on his collegiate career. They decided to round out their shooting core by adding Mike Miller, (always known for his shooting prowess) Shane Battier, and Rashard Lewis. The latter two are big men who can shoot. Big men who can shoot aren’t unheard of, though they are rare and more specialized than most big men, so they were clearly chosen on purpose.

Otherwise the Heat filled in other roles that would be necessary with rebounders like Chris Andersen and scrappy role players like Norris Cole. Since the team was a contender with the big trio of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh it was easier to lure in bigger names for less money to be a part of something special. Showing that there is inherent value in relationships and the culture of a company can also be another key to luring big talent to an organization with fewer resources, or resources invested elsewhere.

I guess we’ll find out which approach works best this season in the coming days, but right now the Spurs are looking quite good.

You might also like:

NBA Finals and SAP

Third Quarter Recap of the Spurs-Heat

Final Recap of Game 1 Heat-Spurs

First Half Recap of the Heat-Spurs

SAP Fan Experience: Following the Finals – Game 2

SAP Fan Experience: Game 2 NBA Finals Recap

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