Talking Stats and Basketball with Philadunkia

Posted on November 30, 2010 by


Back in September I was interviewed by Tom Sunnergren of Philadunkia.  At the time, I noted that there was more questions from Tom to be answered.  And I said at the time that I would get to those questions “this week”.  Okay, I really meant “at the end of the Fall semester”. 

Today the rest of the interview has finally been posted. These questions touch upon defense, position assignments, coaching, consulting in the NBA, how receptive the NBA are to statistical analysis, and which teams “get it”. 

Before we get to my answers, first read Tom’s introduction to this interview; an introduction that I think captures exactly why many sports fans are hostile to statistical analysis.

There is a lot of resistance to stats amongst the general basketball consuming public.  Well, not stats. New stats. We love the old stats. Points, assists, points…did I say points yet.  We just don’t like people telling us what they mean.  We like the power to control the narrative and we resent it deeply when nerds with quiet certainty wrest that power away from us.  “Why don’t you watch the games?”, is the only counter we can muster in the face of their overwhelming facts.

People hate, absolutely loathe, being proved wrong.  These same people have uniquely strong opinions about sports. And those opinions come from a position of knowledge.

Sports are probably the most complicated thing that the general public understands well, and for a long time, it was the subject area where the knowledge of the average follower most closely rivaled that of the experts, the practitioners.  I’ve read a little about Afghanistan, but I obviously don’t have anything resembling the comprehension of the place that, say, David Petraeus has.  I could though, I’m pretty sure, coach or GM a basketball team better than a lot of the guys who get paid millions to do it.  A lot of people could.

So getting proved wrong about sports, a thing we understand nearly as well as we give our selves credit for, makes people crazy.  One of the most enthusiastic perpetrators of this insanity is Dave Berri.

Berri –economist, professor, author, columnist, blogger– is the architect of win score, wins produced, wp48, and a host of other handy tools for understanding the why and how of basketball outcomes. A couple months ago he answered some of our questions on the Sixers (fyi, he saw this start coming) and now he’s provided some A’s for our Q’s on some of the nitty gritty of his methods.

Berri makes us crazy after the jump…