The Lakers do not have the reputation around the league as one of the more new stat-based or new stat-friendly organizations. I think this type of approach could help with their rebuilding efforts â€” but they have to be open to it and do it right. Like Seattle has done.
Seattle actually designed and built its own software program to track stats (somehow they were able to find some computer programmers in Seattle). Then they came up with their own, designed-in-house stats to follow on that software. All of this is detailed in a must read installment of â€œSonics Play Moneyballâ€ on the Sonics official web site, written by Kevin Pelton (no stats slouch, himself).
Having drafted their center of the future (last summer), Robert Swift, the Sonics looked to move center Calvin Booth for a rebounder who could help address the team’s weakness on the boards. With only a few clicks of their mouse, Walker (now president and CEO), GM Rick Sund or Assistant GM Rich Cho could call up a list of all the NBA players they could trade Booth for straight up who were above their minimum rate of rebounds per 48 minutes.
From this list, one name jumped out: Dallas forward/center Danny Fortson, whose contract was virtually identical to Booth’s and who had led the league in rebounds per 48 minutes (19.2) in 2003-04. The Sonics made a deal for Fortson, and midway through his first season in Seattle, he’s averaging 8.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and has played a key role in the Sonics emergence as one of the NBA’s top rebounding teams this season.
Or, check out this tidbit about the Sonics evaluation system:
The Sonics Evaluation Number (SEN) Sund references is used by the front office to rank players by position (a process Sund also regularly has them and the coaching staff do on a subjective basis). The Sonics don’t go down the list and sign the top player or use the SEN that literally, but do use it as a first cut to find players that might be undervalued by the market. For example, Walker recently began watching a somewhat obscure Eastern Conference rookie because he had rated so well in limited minutes.
What makes the SEN unique is that the weighting for various statistics depends on the position. When Sonics Explorer was first being built, the Sonics coaching staff and front-office personnel submitted their list of the most important statistical criteria for each position. A composite of these rankings was used to create a formula for each position. Notably, the Sonics place a heavy importance on assist-to-turnover ratios for point guards, and their ratings at the position reflect that.
Then there is this final quote, the thing I think is the key to making this work and why Dean Oliver is so valuable.
“The math, for me, is very difficult to decipher,” says Sund. “What I like with what Dean does for me is that he puts it in paragraph basketball form, and that’s very understandable. It’s understandable for the coaches, it’s understandable for me. I think that’s very useful.”
The entire article is well worth the read. Do this and then you can go do something fun.
Another guy pretty good with stats is Maverickâ€™s owner Mark Cuban. He recently had the stats guys on the Dallas payroll crunch the numbers â€” and map out shot locations similar to what ESPN does â€” and they found that players and teams shoot the â€œshortâ€ three pointer from the corner better than they do more straight on.
More interesting is the teams that were already putting this to use â€” the teams that shoot the most corner threes in the league are the Suns and the Spurs. Coincidence?