The Lakers analytics department could have easily been the focus of a stand up bit over the years. The team’s reputation around the subject of analytics and the general feel of how up to speed they were in this area just never aligned with how the team tried to portray themselves.
I could dig up the articles about them not sending any representatives to the MIT Sloan Conference several years ago, how Jim Buss was somewhat mocked for having his own formulas for analyzing prospects and NBA players, or how even after the team did make hires to their analytics team people around the league did not consider them top flight hires or well known. But you can do your own googling.
Those stories, no matter the context which was or was not removed, have influenced the perception of the team. And it did so negatively. The Lakers are now trying to reverse that perception and, seemingly, in a big way. Per Zach Lowe of ESPN, the Lakers will hire Jason Rosenfeld as their new Director of Basketball Analytics.
The Lakers are hiring Jason Rosenfeld, the NBA's director of basketball analytics, to fill the same role in L.A., sources say.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) October 6, 2017
Shortly after Lowe’s tweet, the Lakers also issued a press release on the hire with more details of the scope and duties of Rosenfeld’s position:
Rosenfeld and his basketball analytics department will work closely with the basketball operations staff, as well as the coaching and training staffs, to incorporate statistical analysis and quantitative strategy into the day-to-day operations of each front office department.
If you recall, back in early May, the Lakers parted ways with previous director Yuju Lee — after trying to demote him, Lee resigned. In replacing him with Jason Rosenfeld — the league’s director of basketball analytics — the team has seemingly gone out and hired one of the most qualified people they could find to fill this vacant role.
If you want to know more about Rosenfeld, his bio notes he’s the former Analytics Director of the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets and also worked with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chines Basketball Association. He’s also served as an adjunct professor at NYU and has lectured at Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Toronto.
I will not pretend to know how good Rosenfeld actually is at his job, but his resumé is tremendous and his credentials as both a team and league office director in analytics carries weight with me. Beyond that, though, the optics of this are fantastic. As noted at the top, the Lakers have long been viewed as a team that was not up to the current times in this area. Fair or not, that view hampered their reputation and was another data point (no pun intended) in what was viewed as the overall decline of the franchise in recent years.
Rosenfeld’s hire alone doesn’t fix that. But his hire in conjunction with the Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka hirings, speak to a certain amount of forward thinking and progressiveness that has been lacking. Again, these people will actually need to succeed in their positions for the final grade on these moves to be positive, but the perception of these moves — not just from fans, but within and around the league — matters a lot. And, by most accounts, these moves are viewed positively.