Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

September 2, 2011

Bucks Exec on Advanced Stats

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:14 pm

On the blog BrewHoop, Alex Boeder has an excellent two-part interview with Milwaukee Bucks assistant general manager Jeff Weltman focusing largely on the role of statistical analysis in the NBA. The Bucks have hired Jon Nichols, one of the brightest young analysts around, and are having him play an increasing role in their player evaluation. Both Part One and Part Two of the Q&A are well worth your team. I was particularly intrigued by Weltman agreeing with friend of BBP Benjamin Golliver about analytics entering the maturity phase of their acceptance by NBA teams (link in the quote).

There was a great quote coming out of last year’s MIT Sloan Conference in Boston, which I think was the fourth or fifth one (editor’s note: 2011 marked the fifth conference), and it’s grown significantly of course. There was a piece written… and the writer was coming to the conclusion at the end of the piece, and basically said: The honeymoon period with the analytics guys is over.

Now this position is commonplace enough where it is not an outsider looking in; it is part of the establishment. And as such, the analytics guys have been right, they have been wrong, they have differed from one another. And they have basically proven, the bloom is off the rose, so to speak.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us, in our minds, here the Bucks, with the conclusion that analytics has a strong part of our evaluation process. Is it the end-all, be-all? No, nothing is.

At the end of the day — and I hate to always use that term but it seems like when you when you are talking about this stuff that it reverts back to that — it’s really you are scouting players, and every decision, no matter how much empirical data you apply, is going to come to some sort of gut level.

Because if you ask the medical guys, they are going to give you a gut level. If you ask the analytics guys, they are going to give you a gut level. There is nothing that can distill it enough to say, empirically, here is the right answer.  So, long way of answering your question, but in a nutshell, we view the analytics as an important part of the process, one of many layers that we try to incorporate. From sight tests, to stats, to medicals, to background work and probably most importantly, to our own scouting evaluations.

In this case, the honeymoon period being over is largely a positive. Teams have realized the limitations of statistical analysis, but also its value, which is why it will continue to have a place in many–possibly even most–NBA front offices.

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