But What About Scott Brooks' Analytics? And the Children, Of Course | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

But What About Scott Brooks’ Analytics? And the Children, Of Course

Updated: April 28, 2016


So, we don’t know what we don’t know about Scott Brooks and analytics. (“No one knows nothing,” so goes one of Ted Leonsis’ favorite sayings.) We know that he’s not Randy Wittman. We also know, as Brooks relayed in his introductory presser as head coach of the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, that he attended the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference last month. That’s different.

What we also know is that analytics are a driver—one of them—of team owner Leonsis. The role of basketball math in Ernie Grunfeld’s eye is unclear, but he’s used consultants back to his Milwaukee days, a few of his top current advisors are analytically-minded, and then there’s the bare bones fact that you can’t be around for as long as Grunfeld has without adapting. Just a little bit.

So Scott Brooks is different when it comes to numbers, and we’ll check some of the quotes soon. But exactly how much those numbers will affect his decision-making may never really be a known entity. They probably do, and increasingly so, but coaches always like to go with their gut, sometimes.

We’ll conclude this intro with this brief history, even though this writer did not get to ask the coach about specific history in 2012 on this day:

The 2011-12 Brooks-led OKC Thunder’s heavily favored a lineup of Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins. They geeked up 20 percent of all Thunder minutes that season and were 6.5 points better than the other guys per 100 regular season possessions (1).

Over all 20 playoffs games that summer, the crew finished minus-5.2 over 27 percent of all minutes (2). Were the Thunder missing Harden as a third scorer (allowing Ibaka and Perkins to man the paint versus Miami), or did an over-reliance on Perkins versus a Miami team that generally played either Chris Bosh or Udonis Haslem at 5 surrounded by wings in LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, and Shane Battier doom Scott Brooks over that five-game NBA Finals?

The same starting lineup OKC used all season and playoffs consumed 24 percent of Brooks’ minutes in the NBA Finals and finished minus-17.6 per 100 possessions (3). Granted, not many lineups outside of ones featuring Westbrook, Durant, Derek Fisher, Nick Collison, and Harden or Sefolosha fared well that series; Miami was just too good.

Now, Scott Brooks is in Washington under a completely different set of circumstances. On to the quote machine!

Brooks on the “million-dollar question,” as phrased by the Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo: “Analytics.”

“I never really focused on other teams and what they do, analytically, but I’ve always believed in them. I love it. I think it gives me the opportunity to improve as a coach, and I was fortunate enough that my high school coach was also our math teacher, and he believed in numbers. He taught me at a young age how important it was to make a layups. I was 4-foot-11 as a freshman in high school, and he taught me about how to make layups over bigger guys and the angle of entry, and all the other important components. Then when my senior year in college the 3-point line came, he was the first to call me and say, ‘Hey, all you have to do is shoot 33 percent (from 3) and it’s like shooting 50 percent (from 2). It’s always been in my DNA and I love it.

“I went to the MIT Sloan conference last month and the thing that I was so impressed by—and even they made fun of each other, they called it “Jocks vs. Geeks”—but the one thing, and I didn’t know this, they are a lot smarter than me, but they all share the same passion that I have with basketball. They love the game. And I always felt, it’s not a division, it’s a group. And you will never hear me say ‘those guys,’ because we’re all in it together and I think it’s important.

“And being around their group (Wizards ownership and front office) yesterday, I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn going forward. I wanted to stay in these little virtual reality goggles that they had me in. I went through a playbook and it was really like cool stuff that I’ve never seen before. And they had it last season. And the things that Ted believes in, that Ernie believes in, I’m here to learn. I want to get better. I want to get do what’s best for our group of guys. So, to make a long answer shorter, I love it (analytics). I think it’s going to continue to develop and you just have to figure out what’s best for each player.

“One thing I do know is that you can never replace the metrics with the person, and it’s about people, it’s about players but the numbers can enhance and help them improve as players.”

Brooks on what from Sloan stood out to him:

“They had some software programs that were dissecting pick-and-roll play that was really like cool stuff, and my son’s 19-years-old and is constantly telling me this. Because he’s like all—his age group, text savvy—and he always tells me, ‘Dad, you’re not ready for this next-level thinking.’ And he reminds me of my age constantly, and my daughter’s the same way.

“At the conference it was a lot of great things that they are establishing and going to implement going into the future. But I loved my time there, and I told them I hope I don’t have to go back because it’s during the basketball season, I want to be busy, year in and year out during that time, but I loved my time spending two or three days there.”

Brooks on Leonsis and ‘The Internet’:

And of course Leonsis himself could not escape without mentioning “stats” and the “blogosphere” amongst this smorgasbord of verbal pixels and content during his interview scrum after the more public press conference announcing Brooks as his new coach.

Leonsis on #NBALife:

“In the NBA, every play you’ve got to get right. I mean everything is scrutinized. We’ve been planning over a five-year arc on building around young players and then having cap space so that we could add to the team. But they are free agents. And I underline free. Players can play wherever they want, and they’ve earned that right. So it’s up to us, especially in ownership, to create an environment, to create a destination, to have a situation where players want to come and play. And a big part of that is how you treat your people, how you treat all of the players. Because word gets around the league, ‘Is this a place that people want to come and play? How good is the city? How good is the fanbase? How good are the schools? How good is the shopping?’ All of that plays into the mix, and then it comes out to, ‘Can I win here?’ And free agents and their agents—they are just as stat-driven as our blogosphere is, they are just as stat-driven as the teams are—so they will look to see what foundational pieces are there and can they envision themselves and how would they fit here.”

  1. Per Basketball-Reference.com, replace Sefolosha in that starting lineup with James Harden in that second-most-used lineup was plus-5.6 over 13 percent of the season’s minutes.
  2. The five-man unit with Harden instead of Thabo was plus-7.6 over all Thunder playoff games in 2012.
  3. The Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Ibaka, Perkins crew in the NBA Finals: minus-4 over 16 minutes, for what it’s worth.
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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.