I’m guessing this has been planned long before Pistons owner Tom Gores saw “Moneyball” last weekend. Although that Brad Pitt can be quite persuasive.
Last weekend was the New England Symposium on Statistics and Sports, which you were not invited to because you are not a sports math geek. Or not geeky enough. No, I didn’t get an invite either.
But Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated is geeky enough — in a good way — and he saw something different: The Detroit Pistons had a representative there. Certain NBA teams are known advanced stat teams (Rockets, Thunder, Mavericks, Celtics and a few others) but the Pistons were more blue collar than that.
Lowe spoke to Robert Wentworth, the guy from Gores firm Platinum Equity that was at the symposium and asked him what was going on.
“We’re a private equity firm. This is our first move into professional sports, both for the firm and for Tom Gores, and we approach this like any other investment that we make. We will really try to understand best practices and be forward-thinking as opposed to reactionary. Getting heavily into statistical analysis seems quite natural to us….
“The advanced stats just ought to be a part of your tool kit. It’s equally important to have really solid basketball people, and Joe Dumars has obviously been in this league for 25-plus years now. He has tremendous basketball intellect. But we’re just trying to make sure we use every tool in that took box, even if it means you just do a better job at finding that 8th, 9th or 10th guy.”
Pistons fans, this is good news. That new coach Lawrence Frank is on board with this and helped (also something Wentworth said) is even better.
They have the right attitude — statistics are just another tool. It can help you see value where others might not, it can help you question conventional wisdom about a player. You don’t have to just say “this guy has the look and skills of a guy who can rebound” you can look at the numbers and see exactly how well he rebounds against whom.
Where advanced stats is really helping in the NBA — and helped the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs — is in finding five-man units that work well together. It helps understanding a group dynamic and what works and doesn’t. You don’t need advanced stats to tell you Dirk Nowitzki is really good, but you can use them to see who pairs best with him.
It’s another thing the Pistons could use as they have a massive rebulidng project in front of them.