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Memphis Grizzlies hire ESPN NBA stats guru Hollinger

Dec 13, 2012, 6:38 PM EDT

John Hollinger

Virtually every NBA team has their own advanced stats guy, or guys. How much sway those people have varies greatly — in Houston GM Daryl Morey is one, in other organizations the stats guy is basically talking to himself —but teams generally see there is some value in advanced metrics when looking at how lineup combinations work and other areas of the game.

Now the Grizzlies have hired one of the biggest names — John Hollinger of ESPN. The Commercial Appeal broke the story and ESPN and Hollinger confirmed it on their site.

“It’s incredibly difficult to leave ESPN, but the chance to work for an NBA team and the Grizzlies’ new ownership was an irresistible opportunity,” Hollinger said Thursday.

Hollinger was recruited to the Grizzlies by new controlling owner Robert Pera and CEO/managing partner Jason Levien, who have made upgrading Memphis’ analytics department one of their front-office priorities.

Hollinger is one of the best known stats guys to the general public, and with that has come a “love him or hate him” reaction that really speaks to how you feel about advanced stats in the game more than Hollinger the person. There were always plenty of people who told Hollinger to “watch the games” but those people didn’t read or just disagreed with him — few journalists watch more games live and taped than Hollinger.

He is best known for PER, a snapshot evaluation of a player that allows him to distill most offensive stats and a couple defensive ones (blocks, steals) into a single number. Thing is, that is not really all that useful to a GM — tell them a player and they can rattle off the basics of his game. PER is not that useful to a team.

But Hollinger’s analysis of players goes well beyond PER — I used to buy his Pro Basketball Forecast every year because it was way ahead of its time in taking a look at each player, his skills and how he fit with a team (or didn’t). Hollinger’s understanding of players trends, and work with lineups will be useful to a team. Also, he comes with a system of predicting college players ability to be effective on the NBA level, something every team could use.

  1. mrchainbluelightning - Dec 13, 2012 at 6:42 PM

    Congrats to Hollinger. Good for the Grizz give him a chance to put some of his ideas to work.

  2. willardj - Dec 13, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    I agree that statistical analysis is the way to go for the new generation of basketball managing. HOWEVER, you don’t need to hire someone to handle all of the data. Thanks to the internet, this data is already free to the public. With synergy sports,, and, you essentially have the same data as these guys are using. And basketball hasn’t even come close to baseball in terms of statistical analysis. Basketball remains a sport where the stats can give you a VERY SLIGHT insight into how good the player is, but it won’t tell you ANYTHING REMOTELY CLOSE to what you can learn from hours of film study.

    If you don’t have time to do all of the film study, then yes, stats are the way to go.

    • Kurt Helin - Dec 14, 2012 at 3:04 AM

      The data that you and I can access for free is simply the tip of the iceberg. It is years behind what teams are doing because that is proprietary. We get the basic stuff only, not the stuff they really care about.

  3. cosanostra71 - Dec 13, 2012 at 7:29 PM

    If this means he will no longer be writing for ESPN, I’m all for it.

    • slowclyde86 - Dec 13, 2012 at 8:27 PM

      I guess that means someone forced you to read him, because otherwise, why care?

      • willardj - Dec 13, 2012 at 9:37 PM

        I can just imagine him right now going on ESPN and clicking on one of his articles, “Oh man this is gonna be bad…oh wow he is so wrong here… haha this guy is a joke… hmm let’s keep reading and see what he has to say here… ah no way!… that’s totally wrong!…and let’s just see how he wraps this crap piece of an article up…and wow, that article was awful! what a waste of time!… I’m never reading this a-hole again!”

        And then the cycle repeats.

  4. bleedgreenation - Dec 13, 2012 at 7:31 PM

    All I will say is this: HUGE loss for espn.

    • Kurt Helin - Dec 14, 2012 at 3:03 AM


  5. lucifershuttlesworth - Dec 13, 2012 at 7:40 PM

    creative hire by the new owners, lookin good Grizz! hope ya look at bibby’s PER from last year! (7.82)

  6. prosourcetalk - Dec 13, 2012 at 9:14 PM

    Next up, Bill Simmons getting a shot at GM somewhere

    • willardj - Dec 13, 2012 at 9:42 PM

      Simmons has a lot of knowledge about the individual players, but he knows very little about offensive and defensive strategy, coaching, gameplanning, and fitting players into a system (which is all of the stuff that goes on behind the scenes that even a hardcore fan of the NBA won’t be able to pick up). He also knows very little about contract negotiations and many of the legal and business aspects of being a GM. That’s why most GM’s are lawyers, agents, or former basketball players.

      • prosourcetalk - Dec 13, 2012 at 10:36 PM

        (I was joking. No team would ever hire him as their GM)

      • willardj - Dec 13, 2012 at 10:43 PM


  7. BigBeachBall - Dec 13, 2012 at 11:20 PM

    Slow day at the spigot…

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