Philadelphia's sports franchises have been late to the party, but the balancing point on applying modern methods to ancient crafts was reached Tuesday when the 76ers introduced a new general manager who doesn't think "quantitative analyst" is merely a synonym for "geek who never played." If you're keeping score, this makes it 2-2 in our town. The Sixers, with new GM Sam Hinkie, and the Eagles, with coach Chip Kelly, are trying different things. The Phillies and the Flyers are apparently still throwing them back just like the good old days and if they can't win the game, well, they'll win the fight. There is no guarantee that either the Sixers or Eagles will be the first among the four professional franchises to achieve the very old-fashioned goal of winning a championship - or, given the currently low bar of local expectation, even competing for one - but doing the same thing for a very long time wasn't working out for them, either. Relying entirely on analytics to make personnel decisions, or relying entirely on gut instinct, would be like building a birdhouse with only a hammer. Statistical research is only a tool, but it was an underused one until the last decade in the NBA. At the moment, more than two-thirds of teams in the league employ either an analyst or a consultant to help assess and build their rosters. It might surprise you to know that the Sixers were already among that group. They hired Aaron Barzilai as their director of basketball analytics before the start of last season. Barzilai graduated from MIT and has a doctorate from Stanford. (He also played varsity hoops at MIT, which might not sound like much, but, then again, you've never tried to solve the defense of the Babson Beavers.) Barzilai is considered an expert on relative player values and the science of draft position, but whatever contributions he made during the season were somewhat lost on Doug Collins, at least judging by the way Collins portrayed his interest. "My analytics are here and here," Collins said once, pointing first to his head and then his stomach. With Hinkie in place, and a new coach open to new ideas on the way, the Sixers are probably going to go more with the here that resides above the neck. If that gets a little wonky at times, at least the decisions will be made for a reason.
Sixers must guard against outsmarting themselves
Philly.com | May 15