On Last Night’s Inside the NBA, Charles Barkley responded this Daryl Morey tweet in the video above:
Morey, of course, is the GM of the Houston Rockets and a mentor of sorts for our own Sam Hinkie. Barkley doesn’t really care for Hinkie either. But it’s this exact type of thing that makes me laugh until my insides hurt whenever someone suggests Sir Charles should be in an NBA front office. On the subject of analytics, Barkley said:
“I’m not worried about Daryl Morey, he’s one of those idiots who believes in analytics … I’ve always believed analytics was crap.”
But the thing is, Charles’ anti-stat viewpoint here is missing the mark, as many of the anti-stat people do. Analytics supporters don’t believe that you don’t have to watch the game at all and just need to see the numbers. They just believe that advanced stats can help you see things that you may not pick up on or notice when using your eyes alone. No one — and I mean no one — thinks you can completely ignore basketball minds and instincts. But the eye test isn’t everything, just like analytics aren’t everything. The Sixers are a prime example of this. Without having first-hand inside info on how they run their practices, I would venture to guess that they keep advanced metrics on all of their players, pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in their games, and work on those. That’s how Brett Brown and his staff turned a team expected to be the worst ever into a team with a dozen wins at the All-Star break. They’re not great, but they’re playing extremely well against expectations. And that is what analytics gets you.
Even Al Morganti, whose opinions I’m generally indifferent towards, doesn’t get it. [Editor’s note: That’s Jim. I still love you, Al, and my grand mom still has the picture of you and her as the wallpaper on her flip phone.] In his recent piece for PhillyVoice, he wrote:
“We are led to believe that Hinkie’s staff is working harder than any other staff in basketball in scouring the world for talent, when in fact it is easier than ever to keep track of worldwide talent by simply formatting a Google search.”
That is so far outside both schools of thought that I don’t even understand what point he was trying to make. The point is that you can’t keep track of worldwide talent just by Googling. Trust me, I’ve tried, and I still can’t get a real grasp on what kind of player possible future-Sixer Kristaps Porzingis* is. The analytics people don’t ignore instincts and tape and they shouldn’t just format Google searches from their iPhones either. I will never understand the hubris associated with refusing to get as much evidence and analysis as possible. It’s just baffling in the modern sports climate. Hell, Scott O’Neil told us a story about Hinkie missing MCW’s Rookie of the Year acceptance so he could scout Dario Saric in Turkey (42:00 mark).
But you know what? Maybe Sir Charles should be a GM somewhere. Somewhere in the Eastern Conference that’s not Philadelphia. That should help our odds.
*I have literally just learned how to say his name without pausing so I’m just going to cram it into conversations from now on.