If you fear that the NBA is being taken over by people who just love advanced stats… well, you’re right.
Come February 1 Adam Silver will be the Commissioner of the NBA — and he loves advanced stats.
Silver was at the early days of the SLOAN Conference at MIT (almost an annual convention of the advanced stats movement in sports) and told the Washington Post he thinks it is a natural fit in the sport — and as something the fans want to see more of.
I come at it, historically at least, more from a fan standpoint. And one of my big pushes over the last several years is about making more of this statistical data available to our fans. Because there increasingly seems to be a real hunger by our fans to get deeper into the game and in many ways, we’ve lagged behind other sports, certainly baseball. There hadn’t been that same tradition, maybe, in basketball of getting deep into the statistics of our players and teams and using that data to analyze trends on the court.
And so, I was an early adopter of the [Houston Rockets General Manager] Daryl Morey [MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston]. I remember early days, at MIT, when the conference was still in a couple of classrooms as opposed to the convention center where it is now and they have thousands of people. But Daryl was one of the people, early on, that came and spoke to me and the league and said he did see a real opportunity here. Again, not just for the basketball folks to do a better job analyzing their teams, but ultimately to grow our business by creating data that was increasingly interesting to the fans.
It was Silver who helped push for the Spurts VU cameras that will allow detailed tracking of players in all 29 NBA arenas. Not all the teams loved the idea — some felt they might be losing their competitive advantage — but the reality is how teams will choose to use the vast amount of information will be different. Some teams will almost ignore all but a few things, other teams will incorporate it into every aspect of their operations (the Raptors, for example, have special programs in place to help use the information to improve their defensive understanding and positioning).
In the end, stats aren’t going to win titles — the public face of the NBA’s advanced stats movement, Daryl Morey, has spent the last few years working hard to land superstars (he got James Harden and Dwight Howard). What do you think the numbers were telling him? You still win with elite talent.
But the league is moving in the advanced stats direction and now Adam Silver is going to be out in front of that parade.