The NBA has transitioned into a completely different league than what it used to be. A good example of this is the style of play for the Golden State Warriors, which is full of 3 point shooters. The champs surprised everyone last year during, and this year they are crushing the competition. It’s mostly due to the elimination of the mid-range jumper, which has been classified as the lowest percentage shot you can take in the NBA. While the numbers point to this and it may be true, what the analysts seem to forget is that it depends heavily on your personnel. Having a team full of shooters like Shaq taking 3’s is going to be entirely different than a team full of Curry’s. And with the almost automatic fouls that big name players get, everyone seems to be living lavishly off of their own Jordan Rules.
Because of the success of teams that have the correct personnel to pull off the attack the basket/3 point shot game, a lot of copycat teams have tried to adopt the philosophy, ruining their franchises in the process. A good example of this is the Washington Wizards. At their core about 2 years ago, they were a fast athletic team with two big men in Nene and Gortat that could match up with any front court. They even managed to take the Pacers to the limit in the playoffs. After that year, rather than solidifying their success based on their style, they chose instead to adopt the philosophies of the more successful regular season teams. In the end not only did they have a horrible year, but they regressed so much that this year makes them look like they have never played basketball together.
On the other side of analytics is the woeful Philadelphia 76er’s that continually try to recreate the formula that made the Oklahoma Thunder a super team. By tanking and drafting high, the 76er’s management is in the lottery every year, and often trade away their top 10 picks after 2-3 years if they don’t show promise. Currently Jahlil Okafor is their biggest star as a rookie, with upside that could be phenomenal if nursed properly-except that recent reports show his frustration with playing on a team that has only recorded 1 win this season. That win came against the lowly Lakers, and was more of a mercy win from the soon to be retired Kobe Bryant than it was an actual win. Okafor has shown on court and off court immaturity directly related to losing, and will more than likely be on the trading block in a few years if he doesn’t opt out of his contract.
Analytics can be a powerful weapon if used properly like the Warriors do. But there are no analytics needed if you have a top 5 player that can lead a team to victory.
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