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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.

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