Charles Barkley has never been scared to speak his mind, and Thursday was no different on Inside the NBA when he ripped into phenomenon of analytics.:
Barkley did his best Michael Scott impression when referring to Rockets' GM Daryl Morey:
It will be interesting to see the aftermath from the Hall of Famers comments. The proponents of the analytical movement with come out in full force defending their modern day way of looking at the game. Brad Stevens , who I'm sure scored chicks in high school, is one of its biggest supporters and was hired because of his intelligence dealing with the advanced numbers.
We put a lot into analytics. We have a great analytics staff and I’m very excited about things that we’re working on. We feel like we’re out ahead of the NBA in analytics, but I don’t think anything has been perfected. There’s no magic formulas. You can’t just use analytics, but analytics can be of value.
I agree with 95% of what Barkley says about the topic. From what I've know as a huge fan of the game, basketball is one sport where the "eye test" holds true. On any given night in the NBA a player can get hot, and it's the most beautiful thing you will see, even if analytics doesn't say so. Give me a guy who gets buckets, grabs rebounds, drops dimes, creates turnovers and plays excellent one on one defense and that's good enough for me. Field goal % and Free throw % are two statistics, besides the basics, that I think really show how valuable a player is.
For example, if player A scores 25 points, but on 6-of-28 shooting, than how effective was he or she during the game? More likely than not, the team suffered because of the low field goal percentage. That's easy enough to understand without any additional statistical information.
Certain analytical numbers I feel are useless. Take for instance defended field goal percentage or DFG. This computes the shooting percentage an opponent has when a player is defending a shot. Avery Bradley, per the NBA.com stats page, has a DFG% of 43.2%. With that same data, Kelly Olynyk has a DFG% of 46.5%. If you were to base the value of a player on those numbers, you would think Olynyk and Bradley are similar defenders. A simple eye test would prove how false that was. Olynyk isn't in the same ballpark as Bradley on the defensive end in fact with the eye test, you can clearly see Olynyk is one of the poorer defenders in the league.
But one point Barkley misses, is that analytics does hold some value as it's an excellent resource for scouting. Especially when it comes to advanced shooting numbers. These stats, such as catch and shoot and shot clock shooting percentage stats are a great tool for a coach preparing to play against a certain opponent.
For example, Dirk Nowitzki has one of the smoothest jumpers in NBA history, shooting 47% from the field this season, but according to the data, makes only 38% of his attempts when a defender is within two feet of him. This tells the opposing coach to keep a defender in Nowitzki's jock strap all night (Do NBA players where jock straps? Very creepy question).
Looking at it in a Celtics aspect, Olynyk is shooting 50% from the field on the year, but only 39% when he dribbles the ball 3 to 6 times before attempting a jumper. This means, when playing the C's, you want to force the long-haired Canadian to put the ball on the floor, cutting his scoring down.