Today the Wall Street Journal published a story citing interviews with all of the NBA teams. Half of the teams have at least one paid "Stathead" on staff, and the winning percentage of those teams is much higher than the teams that don't designate a specific position to statistical analysis. Note the quote from my favorite POBO, and yours.
Are Statheads the NBA's Secret Weapon?
According to interviews with every team, The Wall Street Journal found that half the league's teams this season have at least one of these statisticians who helps make in-game, draft-day and trade-deadline decisions. Many of these teams are among the NBA's best. The list accounts for all six division leaders, including the Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks, who have a data analyst traveling with the team. These 15 teams that have invested heavily in statistics have combined to win 59.3% of their games this season. The 15 teams without such analysts have won 40.7% of their games, and only three—the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks—are on pace to make the postseason. Houston Rockets' general manager Daryl Morey, one of the pioneers of statistical analysis in the NBA, says more teams will soon come over to the quant side.
Of course, there are plenty of veteran basketball decision-makers who don't believe that stats are the only key to success. They'll tell you the difference in winning percentages has less to do with statistical analysis than with statistical freaks. "If you took LeBron off the Cavaliers, you could give them 10,000 number crunchers, and it wouldn't make a difference," says David Kahn, the Minnesota Timberwolves' president of basketball operations.