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Larry Brown: Advanced Analytics ‘Don’t Work’ In Basketball

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Former Sixers coach Larry Brown joined 94WIP’s Anthony Gargano and Glen Macnow on Monday to discuss the team’s hiring of former Houston Rockets VP Sam Hinkie as their new President and General Manager.

Hinkie has a reputation of being a leader in the use of advanced analytics in both player selection and the way the team plays. Brown commented on the use of advanced statistics in basketball:

Well, any information you get, Anthony [Gargano], is going to help you, but I’m not one of those guys. Basketball is not like baseball. I’ll give you an example of this analytics —I got fired from Charlotte, we’re all aware of that. I sat down with some of those guys. They got rid of Raymond Felton because he was going to make seven million dollars and kept D.J. Augustin who was making $2.5 [million] and they told me D.J. at 2.5 [million] was better than Raymond at seven [million]. And I said if that was the case I would have started D.J. I’m not saying they’re wrong or stuff like that.

I’ll give you another example: two days ago, I’m listening to some of these NBA analysts about why Oklahoma City is struggling, and it’s obvious you don’t have Westbrook, one of your best players, you’re going to struggle. But they were saying how Ibaka was a guy that was being hurt the most by not playing with Westbrook and they said that if you look at the stats, Ibaka is a better mid-range shooter than Kevin Durant. I had to laugh, I said Ibaka takes jump shots where he is never guarded because people have to guard Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Every shot Kevin Durant takes he’s got one, two, or three people in his face.

I mean you can use that knowledge and help things, but at the end of the day it doesn’t work in basketball in my mind. I’m not saying all the information I ever got about this guy shoots better from this point on the floor, but if you rebound, if you defend, you share the ball, you have a better opportunity to win—and in the NBA, to me, the rocket science is this: acquire draft choices, get great players, have good contracts, and have a coach there that can develop young talent because so many of the teams are getting younger and younger. So you better have coaches there that can teach, rather than coaches there that can analyze whether stats mean something or not.

Brown also spoke about Josh Harris and the new Sixers ownership:

I look at this new ownership group, and they’re phenomenal. I think of what they did—they amnestied Elton Brand, they went after [Andrew] Bynum and took a risk. They’ve put their money where their mouth is. They’re working hard to succeed, but I’ll give you this silly stat. Tony Dileo probably got fired because they got Bynum right? Well Houston wanted Bynum so badly, they just didn’t have enough resources. Now think about that. Now just think about that. They tried so hard to get Bynum, and they couldn’t get him because they didn’t have the resources that probably Tony [Dileo], and Rod Thorn, and Billy King, acquired. At the end of the day, just like I said before, all these great teams in the NBA that are able to make moves, they are able to do it because they have great players, or they have great contracts, or they have draft picks, or they have coaches that develop young players and it isn’t going to change—it’s not like money ball. And the last time I looked at it Oakland hasn’t won a World Series since Finley left, right?

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