After weeks of letting that blu-ray disc lie untouched in one corner of my shelf, I decided we'd give it a go. The movie was Moneyball. Boy, I should have watched that as soon as I bought it.
It's not the greatest movie, but I love the sabermetrics! Sabermetrics is the analysis of team and individual statistics, and used as a tool to help in making decisions, anything from player movement to in-game adjustments. That allows a low budget team to bring in affordable players that performs, making the team still a contender (think Spurs), if not at least competitive (think Nuggets). And as I finished watching it, the Memphis Grizzlies come to mind.
The Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera swore to use analytics when his group acquired that franchise. When he said that, my respect for the guy rose. One of the things I loved about another NBA owner, Mark Cuban, is his willingness to use player metrics in making basketball decisions (which led to using it against the Heat in the 2011 Finals). If Pera can do that, the Grizzlies may quickly become my second favorite team. "May".
So Pera hired famed sabermetrician John Hollinger (of then ESPN's Hollinger player efficiency rating) as an integral part of the team's analytics department. The latest collective bargaining agreement also has an effect on the need of many teams to use analytics. The new CBA greatly penalises teams that overspend. For a small market team, wisely spending that budget is everything. We watched as Pera let go of their leading scorer Rudy Gay, and basically replaced him with defensive Tayshaun Prince and some flexibility for the summer.
Of course the Grizzlies just got beat... swept by the Spurs. Who knows if they missed Rudy's scoring? Noone will ever know. And noone said a team will win a championship when sabermetrics is used; only that it allows a team to maximize the acquiring of talent given a set of boundaries (like money). Imagine the Knicks or the Lakers using analytics in tandem with their money. isn't that scary?
Of course, it is still basketball and no amount of numbers can replace heart and determination, something the Grizzlies seem to lack in the last few games. What about numbers complimenting the heart?
The Grizzlies just started. Their player movements this summer will be highly dictated by sabermetrics. If it works out, watch out for the Grizzlies.
Note that the last few champions in the NBA were characterized by the greatness of the teams and players. LeBron, Wade, Dirk, Kobe, Garnett, Pierce, Duncan. They have been great players even before they got their rings. Who knows, maybe sabermetrics was able to put their teams over the top? Or maybe just sheer greatness.
By the way, Pera means "money" from where I come from.