Are analytics taking over basketball?

Basketball constantly creates a plethora of debates. Charge or blocking foul? LeBron James or Michael Jordan? No sleeves or sleeved jerseys? The list goes on.

But here’s a better topic that’s actually worth discussing and will probably dictate the future of pro and college basketball: Where are advanced metrics’ place in basketball?

The “Moneyball” effect may be carrying over to basketball. Thanks to different tracking tools like the SportVU cameras that the NBA has started to use this year, players, coaches and front office personnel have unlimited information to use from games. They can access sophisticated statistics like what percentage of rebounds a player gets per field goal attempt while he’s on the court, which lineups are more efficient than others, or even how many miles a point guard runs per game.

 

 

Some general managers like the Rockets’ Daryl Morey and coaches like the Clippers’ Doc Rivers are openly embracing the movement.

Yet, basketball isn’t too much like baseball where general managers are more prone to treat players like they’re numbers to a formula and directly correlate it to wins. It’s harder to quantify team chemistry and how players adapt to environments and coaching styles. Numbers also can’t just take away the jobs of scouts, video coordinators and other visual talent evaluators.

Analytics are definitely making front offices smarter but are they really going to be the end-all answer to every personnel decision in the future? Are players really going to start sitting down with a calculator and figure out how to get their win shares per 48 minutes up?

The answer to both questions — probably not. But analytics are so rapidly expanding in basketball right now that it’s something on which people around the game will need to be at least educated.

 

Reach the columnist at jnacion@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @Josh_Nacion