The More You Know – In the conversation about advanced stats, much is made by writers and fans of the numbers that attempt to assess a players total value: PER, WARP, VA, RAPM and such. While those numbers are certainly a step up from evaluating players on raw figures like points per game, occasionally I get the feeling that they reflect an era of the advanced stat movement that has come and gone from the perspective of front offices. They are perhaps the MySpace of sabermetrics.
I get that feeling after reading Zach Lowe’s piece on how SportVU camera technology will change the NBA. Hidden in that article is this snapshot of the painstaking specificity with which Houston’s front office evaluates players:
The Rockets signed Carlos Delfino before last season in part because the camera data revealed he grabbed an unusually large percentage of rebounds that fell near him. That’s a nice extra skill for a wing shooter.
And suddenly we understand why it was 6’6″ Delfino–not 6’9″ Chandler Parsons–soaking up all those minutes at PF last season. But if you follow the link in Lowe’s quote, you’ll see that the Rockets (and every other team using STATS technology) have a stat for what percentage of rebounds players snatch when they are withing 3.5 feet of the ball. What’s more, three of the top five players (as of May 2012) have worn a Rockets uniform in recent seasons: Delfino, Budinger and Camby. What does this tell us about Daryl Morey & Co.?
I believe it tells us that the question of “Who’s better?” is not nearly as important to the front office as “Who does what well?” Advanced stats have largely confirmed that the players we thought were superstars were deserving of the title, and holistic stats like PER do little to tell you whether the role player who you are about to risk a few million dollars on will actually mesh with the skills of your stars. So while Value Added will probably be the subject of a new generation of beer-fueled sports debates about LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the future of sabermetrics is in finding out exactly which draft prospect is the best at shooting threes in the right corner off a pass after a high pick-and-roll in which a left-handed guard rejects the screen. If we, as fans, knew the answer to questions like that, then we would have a better idea of why guys like Jordan Henriquez and B.J. Young are on the roster.
Good On Ya – Okay guys, let me give it to you straight. At my day job, I’m a public relations guy who works very hard to make sure folks know all kinds of good stuff about the organization I work for. So when I see this video on the team’s official site showing all the good things Houston Rockets do in the community, I think to myself, “You’ve linked to almost every morsel of content that has come out about the team on their site this summer. If you don’t even mention this video, which the team’s P.R. staff has clearly put some work into, then you’re a real %@#$.”
So good on ya, Houston Rockets. Way to be examples of good corporate citizenship. Way to sign high-character players who look like they genuinely enjoy serving others who haven’t been as fortunate. Way to unwittingly guilt-trip me into telling everyone what good citizens you are. Love you bunches.
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