While the use and popularity of analytics in basketball has exploded over the past few years, there is still a large, albeit shrinking, group of basketball fans and media members who decry their usage—whether that’s from a lack of desire to understand analytics in general, or how they are implemented by teams.
Was analytics around when Jordan won 6 titles in 8 years, or when Russell won 11 in 13 years? Those teams had great players! Period.
— Dwain Price (@DwainPrice) February 23, 2016
You take the analytics and all of its glory, and I’ll take the 13 great players, and may the best man win. — Dwain Price (@DwainPrice) February 23, 2016
But analytics are prevalent throughout all higher levels of basketball and critical to success in today’s age. Although it can be hard for some to believe, the construction of basketball rosters has been influenced by data patterns for years, even before it was popularized by the likes of Daryl Morey.
Andy Glockner’s book ‘Chasing Perfection’ will not only show how analytics become so popular in basketball, but will take you through how organizations use all forms of advanced metrics to construct their roster in the best possible way. The book is perfect for both analytic novices and those that have stats.nba.com as their homepage.
The book does have to dive into math at some points, but it isn’t overly reliant on dry mathematical equations and numbers, making it accessible for all readers. Glockner clearly explains any charts or equations he presents to support his points about how teams use analytics. Anyone that picks up the book can glean some information from reading and you will learn about how teams currently utilize various forms of analytics in their team building and player development as well as how teams are looking forward and going next.
Glockner takes you through many levels of basketball, all the way from the high school AAU scene to the U-19 and below USA Basketball program to the NCAA up to the NBA. He touches on not just how teams manipulate basic statistics into more meaningful information but how they utilize proprietary SportVU data or P3 and Catapult information in player training, health and recovery situations.
For the analytic skeptics, you will learn how teams translate the data they gather into decisions that affect the actual game. There isn’t a stat head out there that thinks a team wins games in the off-season by collecting the most data; rather, they still need to win on the court by using this information in the best way possible. But using all forms of information can help build better winners and you’ll find out how the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, and Golden State Warriors built some of the best teams in the NBA.
One of the best endorsements of this books stems from Glockner’s time with Buzz Williams, one of the first SportVU movers in the NCAA, who has achieved a seven win increase in his second season at Virginia Tech with below average talent relative to the rest of the ACC.
It’s no accident that Williams has orchestrated the first winning season in five years for the Hokies. His use of analytics is one of the centerpieces of his rebuild. Williams discusses how he evaluates the information set in front of him to continually evaluate his thought process about players.
There are still strides to be made, as Glockner points out throughout the book—most prevalently in a conversation with Joe Lacob, majority owner of the Golden State Warriors:
“You can have all the data…but no matter what data you have and how well you put it together, if it’s not used properly, it just doesn’t happen.”
Communication from the analytics team to the coaching staff and players is paramount to making the most of the data a team gathers. Glockner explores this side of the equation as well as how each team has different methods of communicating the information to the right people throughout the organization. Teams are still making mistakes, as you will see, but the decision making process is evolving and the best teams are limiting these mistakes through the use of analytics.
Not only will you have a better understanding of what analytics teams and individual players use, you will have a greater sense of how players change their development patterns to get better, and how front offices use them to build the team you see on the court. Analytics isn’t the only part of basketball, but it’s rapidly becoming a more important piece, especially to identify and increase the impact of those great players Mr. Price speaks about.
Kelly Dwyer put it eloquently in response to a quote by Randy Wittman who said “analytics haven’t won a ballgame”:
A lot of things have never technically won an NBA game. That doesn’t mean we need to denigrate them.
Analytics will not cease to be a part of basketball and in fact, they have become an entrenched part of successful organizations. After reading this, you will know doubt have a better appreciation for how off the court information is translated to on court success. And that’s mainly what we care about, right?
Buy Chasing Perfection from Amazon here.
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