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Saturday, March 5, 2011
Bullets from the basketball analytics panel

By Scott Sereday/48 Minutes of Hell

Four years ago, I attended MIT's Sloan Sports Analytics Conference for the first time. At that point, I was embarrassed to tell my geeky friends (sorry guys) exactly what it was that I was attending. Since then the event has morphed into “dorkapalooza” and I have come to embrace this conference and basketball analytics.

Given that the founder of MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, I considered the “Basketball Analytics” panel to represent the central theme of the event, even though the conference has grown to embrace panelist from a range of fields and sciences. Here are the most salient talking points from this year's foray into advanced basketball statistics.

The Panelists consisted of a group very familiar to basketball the Sloan Conference: General comments from the panel

It was reported that 20 of the 30 NBA teams utilized advanced statistical analysis.

When asked how often coaches simply ignore statistics, Mark Cuban indicated that only Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson were able to get away with this. I suspect he was simply stating that these were the only two coaches with enough power to get away with this.

Cuban went on to explain that analytics are predominantly useful for risk management. He stated the three things that his team analyzes for every trade:

1) How the deal helps the current team

2) How the deal impacts the team’s financial situation

3) How the deal impacts the future team

Questions

To what extent are analytics involved in NBA front office decision making?
Regarding Minnesota Timberwolves General Manager David Kahn recent comment: “Analytics are less important for rebuilding teams”:
What is your preference regarding the one and done rule?
When do you concede a decision was wrong?
In discussion of the Lakers and Heat’s struggles against elite teams, the group had different takes.