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Why We Fear The Sixers Use Of Analytics

By Ray Boyd

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Analytics has become a buzz word in town ever since the Sixers hired Sam Hinkie. The last regime certainly did not embrace it and therefore it is still somewhat of an unknown to many supporters of the team.

Analytics supporters have been coined as "nerds," by analysts, most famously former Sixer Charles Barkley who ranted about NBA executives who use analytics being "a bunch of guys who ain't never played the game, and they never got the girls in high school."

Right now it seems like you either fully support analytics or you vehemently oppose.

The fear seems to be the unknown. Opponents often ask for the names of successful franchises that use analytics.

ESPN released a study on analytics that ranks teams throughout the four major sports that utilize a number based approach to build their teams and sustain their success. While the Sixers may be the new poster-child for the approach, some of the best teams in the NBA, and sports overall, rank very high on the list.

ESPN listed four NBA teams as being "All-In," on the strategy: Mavericks, Spurs, Rockets and Sixers.

If you are opposed to the approach, it is pretty easy to take shots at a Sixers team that would be overachieving to win 20 games. However, the other three teams that are "All-In," are all currently playoff teams in the superior Western Conference.

The Spurs are the reigning NBA Champions and the Mavericks defeated the favored Miami Heat to win a title in 2011.

Perhaps teams like the Spurs do not face the same level of scrutiny because they are not as well-known for their use of analytics.

"Quietly, the Spurs have been leaders in applying and integrating analytics for years," the ESPN piece noted. The Spurs' famously fluid style of play comes in large part from the wisdom provided by the numbers. The Spurs get into their offense quickly and relentlessly seek out open shots from the 3-point line and at the basket. No team has attempted more corner 3s than the Spurs over the past decade, and under Gregg Popovich they've also excelled at taking away 3-pointers and shots at the rim, forcing opponents to the midrange."

Analytics are about finding the best situations that you can put your players in to succeed. The use of probability is not something that is put in place of having talent. It exists to supplement your talent and get the most out of the players you have.

What really stands out about the breakdown of NBA teams is the overall success of the tiers. Of the before mentioned "All-In," teams, three of the four are currently in the playoffs.

The other breakdowns were "Believers," "One Foot In," "Skeptics," and "Non Believers."

The "Believers," list included the Hawks, Cavaliers, Warriors, Grizzlies, Thunder and Blazers. Six of the eight teams that received that designation are currently in the playoff picture.

Three of the nine teams that received a "One Foot In," designation are currently not in the playoff picture. Three of the six "Skeptics," are not in the playoff picture currently and only one of the "Non Believers," is currently in the playoff picture and that is the eighth seed Brooklyn Nets.

The other two teams with a "Non Believer," tag were the Lakers and the Knicks.

The study also listed the Sixers as the number one user of analytics in professional sports.

The stigma surrounding the strategy seems to stem from a fear of the unknown. Now there seems to be a strong case to show that analytics is not some thrown together strategy for nerds. It is something that successful franchises have employed and won rings because of.

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