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Some NBA coaches reportedly fear, disdain growing analytics movement


Lionel Hollins went out of his way to denigrate the role of statistics in basketball, and the Memphis Grizzlies let him go.

That likely wasn’t a direct cause and effect, but it undoubtedly played a part. It’s quite possible, had Hollins been more open to analytics, he’d still be coaching the Grizzlies.

Instead, he lost his seven-figure job and has not found a replacement.

Understandably, coaches are worried – especially the coaches who, like Hollins, don’t like using numbers.

Sean Deveney Sporting News:

One veteran head coach, who asked for anonymity, said of this year’s coaches meetings: “There were guys who were just plain p***** off about it. Because what is happening is, I have to know what makes a guy tick, I have to know when one of my players can’t stand the other guy, I have to know when I can get on his a**.

“There are no numbers that are going to tell us that. When someone comes in and tells you that you ought to be listening to the numbers and letting that tell you how to coach, no one is going to be happy about that. But you have to be afraid they will just go and get somebody cheaper and tell him to follow the numbers.”

First of all, I don’t want to paint all coaches as anti-statistics. There are some that make great use of analytics and some that don’t. In a field of 30 head coaches with multiple assistants per team, not everyone shares the same beliefs.

But the “p***** off” coaches are right: Coaching NBA players takes a feel numbers don’t capture. No coach should make decisions on just the numbers.

But no coach should make decisions on just his gut, either.

Any coach who relies completely on only one method is wrong. It doesn’t matter if he relies on numbers or gut. To coach well in the NBA today, you must be willing to embrace any tool that helps you do your job better.

Jeff Van Gundy, who worked under the statistically inclined Daryl Morey with the Rockets, explains how coaches should handle stats. Van Gundy, via Deveney:

“Morey realized, I think, that there was some art to the job of coaching and it wasn’t just a number-based approach,” said Van Gundy, who is now an ESPN NBA analyst. “But I found the numbers that he presented to make you really self-evaluate.

“Let’s say they brought up a scenario, and the numbers said you should obviously do something, and your philosophy was something else. It made you sit there and analyze why you believed what you believed. I think that’s good. Now whether you changed your philosophy or not, that’s really secondary. But it did make you think.”

I suspect this is how most coaches approach it, because any that fall too far from that thoughtful middle ground won’t remain coaches much longer.

Kings pick up option on G Ben McLemore

Ben McLemore, Rodney Hood
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento have picked up the 2016-17 option on guard Ben McLemore‘s contract.

General manager Vlade Divac announced the move Saturday.

McLemore was Sacramento’s first-round pick in 2013. He averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season.

Paul George reiterates “I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot”

Paul George

In the Pacers first exhibition game of the season Saturday against the Pelicans, Paul George started at the power forward spot and looked healthy — that should be the big takeaway. He also showed off his offensive game in the first quarter, eventually finishing the night with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. He forced some shots in the second half and had some defensive challenges, but it was a solid outing for a first preseason game.

George did not see it that way, and that will end up being the big takeaway.

He complained about playing power forward during training camp and given the chance after this one game he did it again, as reported by Candace Buckner of the Indy Star.

“I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot,” George said after the Pacers’ 110-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, a game in which he started matched up against 6-foot-11 All-Star Anthony Davis.

“I don’t know if this is my position. We’ll sit and watch tape and I’m sure I’ll talk with coach (Frank Vogel). I’ll talk with Larry (Bird) as well to get both their inputs on how the first game went but…I’m still not comfortable with it regardless of the situation. It’s still something I have to adjust to or maybe not. Or maybe it’s something we can go away from.”

George sees himself as a wing, where he has played his entire career. He doesn’t like defending traditional fours, as a scorer he doesn’t like expending all that energy defending pick-and-rolls and banging with bigger bodies. He’s been clear about that.

He still needs to be open to the idea. How much time George gets at the four on any given night should depend on the matchup — and Anthony Davis is about as rough a matchup as he is going to see. Davis scored 18 points in 15 minutes, and the Pelicans controlled the paint against the small-ball Pacers. George had a hard time defending Davis — welcome to a rather large club, PG. That said, George scored 12 points in the first quarter mostly with Davis on him, he pulled the big out in space and got what he wanted.

Back to the matchups point, George will struggle defensively against the best fours in the game (most of whom are in the West). But what about the nights in the East when George would be matched up on Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn, Jared Sullinger (or David Lee, or whoever) from Boston, or Aaron Gordon with the Magic, or Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks when they play small? There are a lot of lineups the Pacers will see where George at the four makes sense.

The Pacers are transitioning from a plodding and defensive-minded squad to a more up-tempo style, and that’s going to take time— a lot more than one preseason game. However, if George is throwing cold water on the plan after this one effort, it might take a lot longer and be a lot bumpier to make that transition than we pictured.