76ers Next Major Hire: Basketball Analyst


Sep 27, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers general manger Sam Hinkie is recorded on an iphone during a media day at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

76ers Next Major Hire:   Basketball Analyst

Admit it. You’ve already pictured Brad Pitt (the guy in Hollywood who hangs out with Angelina Jolie) hamming it up across the big screen in the movie “Moneyball”. The story was well-documented but fun to see.  It was the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to assemble a baseball team on a lean budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.

Baseball was the first professional sport to assemble a roster based on analytics, but I assert that basketball has taken the lead in professional sports in the application of statistical analysis as a strategic management tool.    Basketball offensive statistics have become embraced by any number of teams in the modern day NBA.  In the defensive side of the ball, the statistics that are available are quickly gobbled up.   The top NBA teams that have been categorized as “ALL IN” by a recent ESPN study by Kevin Pelton on February 23, 2015 were:  Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, and San Antonio Spurs.  Three of these teams are Texas based, where computer technology and business statistical analysis is as common as snow squalls off the Great Lakes in the northeast.

So why Philadelphia?

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Sam Hinkie. That’s why. The man brought his basketball knowledge with him from the Houston Rockets to the Philadelphia 76ers. While assistant GM with the Houston Rockets, Hinkie worked hand in hand with Rocket’s GM Daryl Morey to use the latest and greatest in statistical analysis and leave no stone unturned in the effort to build a competitive team. But the Rockets were already there. The 76ers are a clean slate. In tearing down the team to the very base level, the team is banking 100% on the success of basketball analysis.

While there are those who support, endorse, or even embrace the new school of thought, there are those who do not care for it one bit. One such denouncer of the latest craze is former Philadelphia 76er Charles Barkley.

So the 76ers are one of the four teams to fully invest in strategy-zing their basketball team’s future by the use of number crunching, programmers, and bean counters. And the fact that other NBA teams are wading into the field suggests that there is more to it then bandwagon mentality. It requires some reward to invest the time, dollars, and effort.

And the science isn’t yet proven. Or is it?

A research project was presented to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference entitled Counterpoints: Advanced Defensive Metrics For NBA Basketball by Alexander Franks, Andrew Miller, Luke Bornn, and Kirk Goldsberry. Boiling down their impressive research into laymen’s terms, they illustrate the use of measuring basketball defense through the use of measurable analysis. Or in their own terms from the paper’s abstract:

"“…The vast majority of vast basketball metrics developed to date have focused on offensive production. It is straightforwward to see who scored the most points in the 1985/86 season (Alex English, with 2414) or who took the most three point shots in 1991/92 (Vernon Maxwell, with 473). However, try to look up who had the most points against in 2013/14 or who prevented the most shots from being taken that year and the history books are remarkably empty…we attempt to explain defensively ability only loosely related to overall defensive ability, such as block(ed shot)s or steals…. This paper bridges the gap, introducing a new suite of defensive metrics that aim to progress the field of basketball analytics by enriching the measurement of defensive play…”"

Investigate The Latest Research In Basketball AnalyticsAdvanced Defensive Metrics For NBA Basketball

The tools for analytics are very important. It’s a new field, and the advances in tools takes the application out of the college labs and onto the court. Check out this XY Hoops graphic set to Vine

So are you hooked yet? Well the Philadelphia 76ers are hiring a professional in the field of Basketball Analytics. The position is:

"BASKETBALL ANALYSTThe Philadelphia 76ers are looking to add talented new developers, software engineers, statistical analysts, and data scientists to the team. Basketball analysts will work as a part of the front office and collaborate extensively with the entire basketball operations department including President and GM Sam Hinkie. Experience in basketball is not required; analytical talent and learning easily is. The Sixers are looking for both permanent employees and interns. Most basketball analysts will work in our basketball operations office in Philadelphia but other arrangements may be possible."

Philadelphia 76ers Official Website:  Basketaball Analyst Job Description

Its a new field. It’s a huge gamble. So it makes perfect sense that team President and General Manager Sam Hinkie is betting the house on it.   The Sixers are assembling a something very significant and long-term.   It’s no wonder Philadelphia is being so patient.   They can smell a winner baking in the oven now.

Next: Sixers Surrendered Most Turnovers in 2014-15 Season