Charles Barkley ripped analytics, calling them “crap” and saying they “don’t work at all.” For good measure, he added those who use analytics “never got the girls in high school.”
Of course, he’s not backing down.
Barkley, via Richard Deitsch of Sport Illustrated:
“I think more people agree with me who know basketball than disagree,” Barkley said. “I’ve had at least four or five NBA coaches call me loving what I said. I saw Mark Cuban said something. I also saw a couple of coaches say analytics are a small part of it but a big thing is what Charles said is correct.”
“People like for Charles to be honest unless he says something different from them,” Barkley continued. “People like you as long as you as agree with them. But that doesn’t bother me.”
First, here’s what Cuban said on KRLD-FM 105.3, as transcribed by The Dallas Morning News:
He’s half right; the Mavs have been using analytics since the day I bought the team. The fun story behind that is I took graduate level statistics at Indiana University, and after I graduated, never thought about it again, and then after I had bought the team, I’m watching Jeopardy and who should be on but my old stats prof. And then a month later, we’re in Indiana playing against the Pacers, and who should be in the stands screaming “Hi” to me, my stats prof, Wayne Winston. I met with him and pretty much hired him then. We started using advanced plus/minus to help us, and it started to help us quite a bit…it eventually helped us come back from a 2-0 deficit in the playoffs against Houston, based on what the numbers said. Putting JJ (Barea) in the mix in the championship run had a lot to do with analytics. What happens is when a couple teams are using it, you have an advantage, but now that everyone is using it, that advantage is pretty much gone, and that’s where analytics has gotten to now.
I fail to see the half of Barkley’s rant Cuban agrees with, despite the Mavericks owner’s opening line.
Barkley called analytics useless. Sure, the competitive advantage of using analytics has diminished as all teams adopt them. But if any team stops using them, it would be at a significant disadvantage. That’s hardly useless.
Besides, teams use analytics – like all tools – to varying degrees of success. Nobody claims the Spurs lack a coaching advantage with Gregg Popovich because every team has a head coach.
I also wonder whether Barkley was referring to current NBA coaches.
I’m not sure Hollins’ thinking has changed – and using statistics along with other information is the right way to go – but his rhetoric clearly has, and that’s emblematic of the NBA’s evolution.
There are certainly still people in the league who agree with Barkley’s line of thinking, but their ranks are shrinking. Increasingly, it’s former coaches who think like Barkley and have fallen behind the times.
But if Barkley knows four or five current NBA coaches who agree with him, more power to him. He’s not interested in learning from anyone who disagrees with him, anyway.