By Craig Kwasniewski
NBA stat guys are dancing in the streets, running up to random store fronts screaming, "You like apples???", and tweeting to their hearts content. Today is your day fellas. Finally some recognition. Finally the hard work and highly uncomfortable worship of Darly Morey has paid off! Mainstream media has championed your cause.
Wall Street Journal found that half the league's teams this season have at least one of these statisticians who helps make in-game, draft-day and trade-deadline decisions. Many of these teams are among the NBA's best. The list accounts for all six division leaders, including the Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks, who have a data analyst traveling with the team. These 15 teams that have invested heavily in statistics have combined to win 59.3% of their games this season.
There you go, money spent on statisticians equals a 59.3% winning percentage. The numbers don't lie... but they kinda of do.
Like most stats, the numbers convey a specific certain type of data and don't really show the big picture. Fellas, it's just not that simple as more stat guys = more wins.
The big picture is more money invested in you team = more wins. It's not just better statistical analysis, it's better practice facilities, better training staffs, better transportation, better personnel management, etc. It's the teams willing to spend the extra dollar to squeeze out any kind of advantage outside and beyond the limits of the salary cap. It's no surprise that the Mavericks are on that list of teams with data analysts. Mark Cuban is the perfect example of an owner smartly investing in his team to gain an advantage and it shows (they've been in the playoffs every year since 2000-01).
Conversely, one of the teams not on that list, the Phoenix Suns, are notoriously cheap. Their owner has been looking for ways to slash salary the second he pushed Jerry Colangelo out the door. Robert Sarver flies coach for crissake! With their owner giving Donald T. Sterling a run at cheapness, the recent fall from title contender to playoff hopefuls comes as no real surprise.
For what it's worth, I do think stat guys are a helpful aid and very necessary in today's game. They allow us to see the game in a completely different light and prove that the NBA is evolving into the technological age. I just don't think they are the clear cut difference maker as everyone is making it (especially after seeing 'he "results" in today's WSJ).