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Charles Barkley doesn’t believe in analytics, uses current Rockets team as his primary example

Aug 28, 2013, 12:19 AM EDT

Newly signed Houston Rockets player Dwight Howard during news conference in Houston Reuters

Charles Barkley is good at his job of being an NBA analyst for TNT primarily because of the lack of filter he has when giving us his thoughts. He’s paid to have strong, sometimes silly opinions. But unlike other television personalities, Barkley isn’t engaging in any kind of schtick — he’s telling us what he thinks and why, and doesn’t care if we agree or not.

Barkley appeared on a morning radio show in Philadelphia to talk about the Sixers, and didn’t have very many complimentary things to say about the team’s new GM, Sam Hinkie, or the way the organization handled its offseason.

The Rockets caught some shrapnel because Hinkie worked under Houston GM Daryl Morey before coming to Philadelphia, and Morey is known for having a strong background in analytics. Barkley isn’t exactly a believer in the advanced statistics movement, and took a shot at the Rockets when explaining why.

From CBS Philly (via TrueHoop):

I have a problem with the way the Sixers are running their organization right now. Listen, Howard, you know I don’t believe in that analytical crap. If LeBron James couldn’t spell cat, I want him on my team. I always tell people, give me a dumb guy that can really play. Don’t give me no smart guy.

The guy [Hinkie], he came from Houston. When did Houston get good? When they went out and paid James Harden all that money and [Omer] Asik, and now they went out and got Dwight Howard. That’s got nothing to do with analytics, that’s got to do with paying really good players to come to town.

It is a bit ironic that the face of the advanced statistics movement did everything possible to add legitimate star talents to his roster via trade and free agency, which as Barkley correctly noted, has nothing to do with analytics.

But getting to the point where the Houston roster was even capable of adding the likes of Howard and Harden from a salary cap standpoint was 18 months in the making, and consisted of a series of brilliant moves from Morey that required belief in a long-term vision.

There’s no question that advanced statistics are part of the league now, and will only impact the game more as the years progress. But it does take superstar players to compete at the highest level, and credit Morey for not only realizing that, but also for being able to put together a plan to bring two of those elite talents to Houston, and then executing it to perfection.

  1. mrlaloosh - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:29 AM

    Hey Brett, you and Morey should get a room.

  2. antistratfordian - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    >not taking analytics seriously


  3. Distinguished Male - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:16 AM

    I don’t know why people think believing in superstars and believing in analytics are mutually exclusive. The players with the best analytics tend to be superstars. Morey wanted harden because his numbers had been ridiculous in OKC. Howard is always one efficient mofo, advanced stats wise. So yeah, nothing wrong with going past the eye test to see what kind of picture advanced stats can paint for ya.

  4. nflcrimerankingscom - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:25 AM

    getting player’s whose true value is more than the max is a part of analytics, Borkley.

  5. adoombray - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:09 AM

    I’m with Mark Cuban on this one. The more teams do the “analytics / tanking” thing, the less successful it is going to be. yeah, you’ve got Houston and you’ve got OKC who did well managing their assets, but for every team like that, there is a Charlotte that has been “rebuilding” since they got there, you’ve got Cleveland perpetually stuck in top 5 lottery, you’ve got David Khan’s reign of “gathering assets” – much like Isiah Thomas legendary ineptitude in New York… I could go on, but you get the idea.

    The bottom line is, I can understand a team like Atlanta accepting that the team has hit their ceiling and wants to rebuild, but if that was the plan they should have moved Smith and got some value in return. As much as people love that buzzword “analytics”, *herm edwards voice* YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME. intentionally sucking just gets you a lottery ball. This isn’t the NFL where you get a guaranteed slot based on your record. It’s all chance. there is no secret formula to it. it’s dumb luck to keep overpaid GM’s on a steady paycheck for 3-4 years with no expectations.

    • Kurt Helin - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:24 PM

      Analytics is not just about being bad to be good, that is simply a strategy. Analytics about finding value players. Stars are a part of that — why do you think Morey went hard after Howard and Harden? Because he knew he needed them to win. But where analytics is more helpful is in finding valuable role players that fit your system, also is seeing which lineups work better than others.

      And Cuban’s Mavs use a lot of analytics.

      • spursareold - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:33 PM

        “But where analytics is more helpful is in finding valuable role players that fit your system, also is seeing which lineups work better than others.”

        See: Spurs, San Antonio

        They specialize in dumpster diving other team’s young castoffs like Danny Green, Stephen Jackson (first go around), and Malik Rose, and turning them into rotation quality players.

        Player to watch this year: Jeff Pendergraph. They wanted him and went after him early in FA. They paid him about $2M a year, about 1/3 of the average NBA salary, and he’ll probably drop a 16 PER number, above average. You can put together a pretty good roster if you pay guys below the average salary, and they produce above the average PER of 15. That leaves you room to pay 3-4 guys 8 figure annual contracts without breaking the bank.

    • ddarqwon - Aug 30, 2013 at 5:45 AM

      I think you fail to understand the concept of analytics. It has nothing to do with tanking as you suggest.
      It is about identifying undervalued players and perceiving value beyond the superficial in highly valued players.

      It’s interesting that you mentioned Cuban because he himself just recently hired another one of Morey’s underlings to run the Mavs.

  6. saint1997 - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:11 AM

    That line about wanting LeBron even if he couldnt spell cat is a classic

  7. kingwithringz - Aug 28, 2013 at 5:56 AM

    Barkley makes alot of sense at times. Love him and Kenny Smith.

    • adamsjohn714 - Aug 28, 2013 at 8:57 AM

      This isn’t one of those times. He is easily the most watchable guy talking about the NBA, though.

      • skinsfanwill - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:23 AM

        The best episode on TNT had to be when Gary Peyton was on there. Bring him back TNT with Chris Webber. They were hilarious.

    • money2long - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:25 AM

      one thing’s for sure..if barkley has aspirations on becoming an nba GM, he’s eliminated himself from a few future positions. i can see his point though. barkley simply believes it takes superstar talent, those that can just flat out ball. however, i wonder what the analytics would say of who’s better between allen iverson and tony parker. just food for thought.

      • spursareold - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:43 PM

        Right now, Iverson has an edge, not as large as you might think, 20.9 to 19.1 on career PER. Parker has played one less season, and has two less years of 20+ PER, 7 to 9, but his book is not yet closed.

        Ask again in 5 years.

      • adamsjohn714 - Aug 29, 2013 at 8:16 AM

        PER isn’t an advanced stat. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of math and how the formula is calculated knows that it’s flawed in favor of inefficient shooters.

      • spursareold - Aug 29, 2013 at 4:25 PM

        Barkely probably considers PER an advanced stat. It’s kind of “intermediate” to me.

        If you want advanced stats for AI vs Parker, let’s go with win shares.

        AI – OWS 60.9 DWS 38.1 total 99
        TP – OWS 54.2 DWS 35.9 total 90.2, and his book is not closed.

  8. loungefly74 - Aug 28, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    at some point…you have “paralysis by over-analysis”. ask hardcore baseball fans.

    yeah, chuck is right to a certain extent…some stuff does not translate from the stats to the floor.

    • spursareold - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:50 PM

      In the Macro, EVERYTHING translates from advanced stats to the floor. If you play your best lineups constantly, and design your plays to take advantage of what your players do best on the floor, you will maximize your team’s performace, and the overall NBA game will improve. The Spurs came within 1 FT or 1 rebound of beating a team with a significant talent edge. That’s what advanced stats can do for you.

  9. ProBasketballPundit - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    James Harden’s true shooting percentage is over 60%, among the best in the league. Omer Asik’s Chicago stats say almost nothing about his ability but when you look at his rebounding numbers and defensive point per possession allowed he is one of the top centers. So Barkley, STFU. Nobody knew Harden or Asik were this good except for Houston because they actually care A LOT about advanced stats.

    • kinggw - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      Nobody knew that Harden was good? Your joking right.

      Asik is a good serviceable center in the Andy Varejao mode, but he’s not one of the top centers. He’s a great rebounder, he’s decent defensively and offensively deficient. He’s essentially the same player he was in Chicago, the only difference is that he’s played starter’s minutes last year. Does it really take advanced statistics to tell you if someone’s minutes double, their numbers increase? If Asik is so good, why did the Rockets go out of their way to acquire Howard?

      • adamsjohn714 - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:59 AM

        Because Howard is so good….. There aren’t that many players capable of dwight’s production. When you can get one, you do it. And people knew Harden was good, but few thought he would be this good. OKC clearly had no idea. He actually played a little worse for the Rockets than he did in his last season for OKC.

      • ProBasketballPundit - Aug 28, 2013 at 4:10 PM

        I didn’t say nobody knew Harden was good. I said “THIS good”. Harden had just had a terrible Finals and people weren’t sure the Thunder could win a championship with that core… now everybody acts like they were insane to trade Harden. Anyway, shut up and learn to read.

    • asimonetti88 - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      Everyone knew Harden was good, and everyone knew he could be great.

      You don’t need advanced statistics to tell you that. They back up the notion, but they weren’t the only way to tell.

      • sportsfan18 - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:44 PM

        So why did they keep Russel Westbrook and not Harden?

        Harden career FG% .441%
        Westbrook career FG% .432%

        Harden 3 pt % .370%
        Westbrook .302%

        Harden FT% .842%
        Westbrook .814%

        Harden career true shooting percentage .603% (absurdly high percentage)
        Westbrook career TS % .520%

        Westbrook has to jack up a lot of shots to score because he misses so much. For his career he averages 16.4 shots a game to get 19.9 points.

        Harden averages, so far, 10.8 shots a game for 16.2 points a game. He’s much more efficient at scoring than Westbrook is.

        The biggest reason they kept Westbrook is that this was yrs ago and Harden was still so young and they just weren’t sure what he’d become.

        Sometimes it comes down to timing as to which player you keep, how long they’ve been in the league etc…

        I think had they known what Harden would turn into, they would have signed him and let Westbrook go…

      • asimonetti88 - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:13 PM

        “So why did they keep Russel Westbrook and not Harden?”

        Probably because they had just signed Westbrook to an extension.

  10. miamatt - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Not sure why analytics and acquiring star players would be mutually exclusive. I imagine analytics make their biggest impact in terms of evaluating player performance, scouting opponents, and speculating on how players available via FA or trade might fit into your system.

    It’s not like the idea is to bring in a bunch of nerds to play for your team. The idea is to have a bunch of nerds working behind the scenes helping your team make evaluations based on science, not emotion.

  11. metalhead65 - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:03 PM

    all that metrics do is take the fun out sports. either a guy can play or he can’t I do not some stupid stat to tell that. defensive ones are the worst,how are you suppose to judge that a player should/could stop somebody? these stat geeks have sucked all the fun out of baseball or at least tried to but like Charles I do not pay any attention them.

    • spursareold - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:47 PM

      The “eye test” can fail you. You really need to know exactly what a guy brings to your team, and the advanced stats can tease that out. If you combine them with the new league wide fast motion camera system, you can essentially see EXACTLY what a guy is doing every second he’s on the floor. It tells you if he’s better at pullup jumpers or catch and shoot, and where he should and shouldn’t be shooting from, based on hard data of how he performs.

      Get used to this, folks. It’s not going away.

      • miamatt - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:22 PM

        We have a winner, folks.

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