MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference bullets
March, 7, 2011
By Timothy Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell
- Beckley Mason of Hoopspeak discusses the place of brain mapping in the future of scouting: "There is an obvious and exciting potential for brain mapping to have a major impact on how we judge and develop talent at the NBA level. In training, coaches could be able to determine the very best training methods to increase functional learning and encourage 'transference between skill domains' or the ability to successfully connect different skills in varied or even new circumstances. It seems logical that it would also become one of, if not the most important evaluating tool of the future."
- Mark Cuban thinks losing is an inevitable strategic decision.
- Ryan DeGama of Celtics Hub details Wyc Grousbeck's strategy for building a dynasty in Boston: "That began with a standard business move: analyzing high-performing organizations to determine how the Celtics might build its own. 'We looked at the last 25 NBA champions,' said Grousbeck. 'Twenty-four out of twenty-five were won with a big three concept -- three all-stars. [That big three included] a top-50 all-time player and two supporting all-stars.'"
- Graydon Gordian of 48 Minutes of Hell begins his discussion on the Sports and Labor panel with this grim backdrop: "As his fellow panelists nodded their heads, Tom Penn, an NBA analyst for ESPN and the former assistant general manager of the Portland Trailblazers, went on to explain that, while nearly every NFL franchise is profitable, the vast majority of NBA teams -- all except six or seven -- lose money."
- Blogger rock star Sebastian Pruiti provides an intelligent summary of the panel discussion entitled Gut vs. Data in NBA Decision Making: "Bringing this back to basketball, both R.C. Buford and Del Harris (who were both a part of this panel), were in agreement when it came to making decisions based on preparation and data vs. gut feeling. For Buford, he tends to shy away from gut decisions because it makes it harder to take a step back and analyze those decisions after the fact. If you get the decision wrong, you don’t know why, but maybe more importantly, if you get it correct, you don’t know how to duplicate it."
- The Celtics Hub's Brian Robb says the conventional wisdom about resting players with early foul trouble is correct.
- Kevin Arnovitz isn't certain that Mark Cuban's calls for consistency in officiating are, well, very consistent: "Interestingly, Cuban approves of the NBA's using replay only for the final two minutes (with the exception of clear-path reviews and to determine which player should be taking free throws), which runs counter to his opinion that games should be officiated consistently irrespective of time of the game. After all, if we want uniformity, shouldn't there be as much opportunity to correct a call in the first minute as the final minute of a period?"
- Scott Sereday of 48 Minutes of Hell is a Sloan veteran. During his bullet point review of the panel on basketball analytics, Sereday carves out a little space to reflect on the conference's history: "Mike Zarren observed that the first year the event was held consisted of an entirely different crowd, joking that 93% of the attendants from the first conference wore pocket protectors. I think that using 93% instead of 95% or 90% confirms that Zarren belongs in this group. I’ve attended for 4 straight years, so it should be pretty safe to include me as well, preferably minus the pocket protector."
- The omnipresent Rob Mahoney draws a smart distinction between interesting and important statistics.
- Some of us think "the NBA needs owners who are willing to take on a franchise as an insanely expensive hobby."
- Tom Haberstroh reports that the Heat need to carefully reconsider their end-game strategies: "Putting sample sizes aside, more concerns about end-game strategy were raised. Cuban, in particular, questioned [LeBron] James and [Chris] Bosh’s decision to shoot threes with the game on the line, pointing out that they’re not efficient 3-point shooters. This was in reference to the Heat’s final moments against the Magic when Miami needed 3-points to tie the game and the ball went to Bosh, a career 29.5 percent shooter, as opposed to, say, Mike Bibby or Mike Miller who are far more competent from beyond the arc. The play was drawn up for Dwyane Wade, not Bosh, according Erik Spoelstra’s post-game remarks, but even so, three-point shooting is Wade’s biggest weakness as a scorer."
- Zach Harper, the world's most important bacon lover, reflects on Henry Abbott's presentation, Bad Decisions in sports skew macho: "As we move into a more analytical era of viewing, judging and executing the NBA game, we see more examples of how sacrificing the image of machismo can be a successful venture. Looking at how Chris Paul runs the Hornets’ offense at the end of games shows that selflessness and not having to prove you’re the man (even when you’re often the most talented player on the court) is a perfect example of how unnecessary being macho is in the NBA."
- Whoa! One of the new frontiers amongst stat geeks is optical tracking data. Who saw this coming? (See what I did there?) Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops writes: "The three primary results of Weil's poring through the data and accounting for things like historical player shooting percentages, distance, and shot type: (1) Tight defense (within three feet) drops expected shooting 12 percentage points (a 50 percent shot becomes a 38 percent shot), (2) field goal percentage drops one percentage point for every 1.5 feet from the rim, and (3) there is something beneficial about the catch and shoot, beyond expectations."
- Michael Schwartz summarizes blogger interaction with Sloan's keynote panel, which was chaired by Malcolm Gladwell, a man whose carefully groomed locks probably took a full 10,000 hours to perfect.
- Devin Kharpertian introduces the world to hard data on undershooting and overshooting, two important considerations of a fascinating new metric called Dynamic Efficiency.
- Beckley Mason goes sci-fi and peeks into the world of coaching circa 2040.
- Facebook and the NBA: Things are going well.