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Discerning Morey’s Philosophy 5.3

Perhaps the greatest misnomer regarding Daryl Morey pertains to his use of statistical analysis.  There exists an assumption by a frighteningly large majority that the Rockets general manager is guided only by stats in his personnel decision making.  There just is not any indication that this is true and the phenomenon is reflective of a general misunderstanding about the quant movement.

A typical criticism of Morey would go like this: “I guess he’s smart but I don’t know how far he can take this team because there’s more to basketball than just numbers.”

The critic imagines Morey plugging numbers into his laptop and then basing his decisions solely on the printout, to the neglect of all other considerations.  From Morey’s public comments (i.e.: he stated that the decision to draft Patrick Patterson was impacted by a feeling that he would fit with the team culture) and from common sense, we know that this just is not the case.

The same misunderstanding exists about the stat movement in general.  When met by numbers, the wary observer almost always retorts: “These numbers are useless.  There’s more to basketball than numbers…like chemistry!  Just watch the damn games!”

Morey isn’t ignoring notions of chemistry nor is he neglecting on-court observation.  He’s simply using stats to aid in the overall decision-making process.  Stats don’t supercede other considerations; they supplement.

If you’re buying a used car, you’ll take it for a test drive, but if you’re smart, you’ll do some other research too.  So why should it be any different in basketball?  If you base decisions solely on what you see, the eye can play tricks.  That’s how catastrophes like the Stromile Swift signing occur.

The numbers need not intimidate or give cause for embitterment.  They are simply a part of the greater process of diligence.  Following an era featuring such signings as the Kelvin Cato and Matt Maloney contracts, greater diligence can only be a good thing.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of www.Red94.net.

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