In recent years, advanced stats, or analytics, have taken on a larger role in professional sports. The revolution which began in baseball has moved on to basketball, and perhaps nothing better indicates that shift than the Memphis Grizzlies' move in December to hire John Hollinger, the former ESPN scribe who developed Player Efficiency Rating and Pure Point Rating, among other metrics, for a front-office role.
The Orlando Magic began looking into advanced stats at the request of coach Stan Van Gundy after they hired him in 2007. Van Gundy's no longer with the team, but Jacque Vaughn, Orlando's new coach, has an analytical side as well. Following Thursday's practice, he addressed the role stats play in his decision-making.
"There's a lot of numbers that a lot of people can crunch and come up with," Vaughn said, specifically mentioning "basic plus-minus."
Vaughn favors an approach that combines statistics with his own observations. "I look at 'em [the stats]," Vaughn said, "but I also base my ideals off of instinct and feel and when you watch the tape and you see where shots are coming from and who's getting shots and at what time of the game. So you can do it with numbers and feel."
Vaughn says the stats he consults are for "coaches only" because players don't show much interest in them. "Players arent concerned about... they're concerned about numbers, but different numbers [....] A little different than plus-minus and other jargon like that."
Some of Vaughn's players do have an appetite for advanced metrics, though. "Arron Afflalo has mentioned his usage rate to me," Grantland writer Zach Lowe says in an interview at Sports On Earth. "J.J. Redick has mentioned his PER and his usage rate to me."
Expect the Magic to continue using stats, both traditional and advanced, as they move forward. The team was one of several to install SportVU cameras in their arena before the season, Lowe has reported. Further, Rob Hennigan's hire of former Chicago Bulls scouting director Matt Lloyd as an assistant GM indicates the value Orlando places on analytics. Lloyd is renowned for his proprietary scouting data on professional and collegiate players.
Orlando is squarely in a rebuilding effort, but it's encouraging to know that the Magic are relying on several approaches, including advanced metrics, to work their way back to respectability.