Basketball analytics: the users

March, 6, 2010
3/06/10
8:00
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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The basketball analytics panel is always one of the best-attended and most engaging panel of the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Last year, the debate crackled when the panelists revisited the Jason Kidd-Devin Harris deal. This year, the participants took inventory of the state of basketball analytics in the League, and made particular note of how many NBA organizations had sent representatives to the conference (by one count, 16 of the 30 teams).

Jared Wade was there and relayed his impressions of the panel at Hardwood Paroxysm. One especially fun portion of the discussion surfaced when Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard gabbed about a recent game between Dallas and Portland that came down the wire, when the expectations of the data diverted from the actual outcome on the floor:

Much to the chagrin of Cuban, Pritchard recounted a late-game play between his Blazers and Cuban’s Mavs in an earlier match up this year that showed how these things can effect the games on a day-to-day basis.

With Portland needing a big hoop with seconds left, Juwan Howard hit a 15-footer that sealed the win. Knowing Howard’s shooting percentages and tendencies from different locations on the floor, Cuban couldn’t believe that Juwan hit that shot. That was a shot he never makes, and it was a shot Cuban would love to see Howard take all game long.

Pritchard told Cuban that the look on his face after it went in was priceless. “That’s the only 15-footer he’s hit this year,” said Cuban.

“He’s hit two,” said Pritchard.

And whether or not that number is an exact figure that Pritchard can pull off the top of his head or just a quant-centric joke, I think it’s safe to say that Dorkapalooza isn’t just for dorks anymore.

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