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Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Updated: March 26, 11:48 AM ET
Fears that stats trump hoops acumen

ESPN.com news services

It's said numbers never lie, but apparently they can also get you a front-office job in the NBA.

There is a growing concern that the rise in the popularity of basketball analytics (such as player efficiency rating and true shooting percentage) has led to more stat-based personnel hires rather than ex-players becoming general managers.

One former star in the NBA with years of front office experience said that there is a divide within front offices between those who are perceived to be stat guys and those who are considered basketball lifers.

"Basketball guys who participated in the game through years of rigorous training and practice, decades of observation work through film and field participation work feel under-utilized and under-appreciated and are quite insulted because their PhDs in basketball have been downgraded," the former executive, who chose to remain anonymous, told ESPN NBA Insider Chris Broussard.

One longtime executive, who also chose to remain anonymous, postulated that one reason why so many jobs are going to people with greater analytical backgrounds is because newer and younger owners may better identify with them.

"Generally speaking, neither the [newer generation of] owners nor the analytic guys have basketball in their background," the longtime executive told Broussard. "This fact makes it easy for both parties to dismiss the importance of having experience in and knowledge of the game.

"Most new owners come from the financial world so they rely on analytics as an important part of their business models outside of the NBA. In the attempt to better understand the game [of basketball], the newer owners put analytic-minded guys in place to run their organizations who utilize similar methods and techniques that are familiar to them. There is a comfort level for both parties."

That same executive however also noted that statistics have always played a part in the game of basketball.

"Numbers and statistics have been a part of every organizations' evaluation process for years," the longtime executive said. "The new methods of extracting the information/data is where the improvement has occurred."

But while both executives agree a greater understanding and use of metrics should be part of player evaluation, both think the issue resides in an over-reliance on stats and that is what is ultimately keeping basketball guys from moving into the front office.

"The [analytics] narrative is hurting basketball PhD thinkers right now," the ex-player said. "However, if numbers never lie, the basketball PhD thinkers have won more championships by far than the uneducated analytics guy."

Information from ESPN NBA Insider Chris Broussard contributed to this report.