Skip to content

The Extra Pass: Recapping the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

Mar 3, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

adam silver sloan

The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference was held in Boston this past weekend, the eighth in an annual series intended to bring the sports world and the advanced statistics community together to discuss common areas where the two fields can share and benefit from an increasingly abundant amount of raw data that measures athletes performing at the highest levels.

There were plenty of panel discussions and research presentations attended, so here’s a summary of the highlights of what went down over the two-day experience.

– Tanking and the draft that seems to incentivize it were ongoing topics at the conference, and on the basketball analytics panel Friday, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo admitted to trying to tank for a high draft pick a couple of seasons ago. However, he wasn’t exactly able to achieve his desired result.

– One of the more interesting and honest discussions came on a negotiation panel that featured a professor from the Harvard Business School moderating a talk between Rockets GM Daryl Morey and Warriors GM Bob Myers. The two NBA men were very open in discussing their personal shortcomings where negotiations are concerned, and Morey and Myers shared some unique inside information on how the Dwight Howard free agent frenzy last summer affected each of their respective franchises. (Hint: It caused Morey to actually call up Mark Cuban to try to trade for Dirk Nowitzki.)

– The most interesting research paper presented from a basketball perspective may have been the one to address the Hot Hand theory, which has been widely debunked in the past. The new research took into account information from SportVU cameras that wasn’t available to previous researchers, and the conclusion was that the Hot Hand does in fact exist, and that players believe in it and act accordingly. Perhaps not surprisingly, J.R. Smith was one of the textbook examples.

– Not everyone at the conference was 100 percent on board with advanced statistical data and its immediate implementation, at least not without first evaluating who exactly is putting it all together. Stan Van Gundy was amazing on the basketball analytics panel, and explained frankly and in detail why the data may not mean much to those actually running the team from a basketball standpoint if it’s only being assembled by statisticians, as opposed to those who are highly experienced in the game itself.

– NBA Commissioner Adam Silver appeared at the conference on Saturday, and had an extended conversation with Malcolm Gladwell about a variety of topics. The draft lottery system and the perceived issue of tanking were among the more interesting, and while Silver continues to define tanking differently than the rest of us, he at least appears to be very open to looking at ways of changing things so that losing, in any capacity, won’t be at all incentivized in the future.

Latest Posts
  1. Portland comes from 10 down in fourth quarter to win 99-92, stay alive in series

    Apr 28, 2015, 2:13 AM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Four Getty Images

    Without Mike Conley to check him Damian Lillard ran free.

  2. PBT Extra with NBASavant.com: Wizard’s defense peaking at right time

    Apr 27, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards - Game Four Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards - Game Four

    Washington’s averaged defender distance to the Toronto shooter was 3.55 feet, the closest defense any team played in the first round of the playoffs.

  3. Report: Chandler Parsons to have knee surgery, could require microfracture surgery

    Apr 27, 2015, 7:58 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets- Game One Getty Images

    The doctor will decide if microfracture is needed while doing a scope.

  4. Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith gets two-game suspension for shot to Jae Crowder’s head

    Apr 27, 2015, 7:17 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers Vs. Boston Celtics At TD Garden Getty Images

    The Cavs will be without two starters for the first two games of next round.

  5. PBT Extra with NBASavant.com: Draymond Green helped hold Anthony Davis in relative check

    Apr 27, 2015, 6:59 PM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Four Getty Images

    Davis was +35 when playing while Green sat, -55 while Green was on the court at the same time.

  6. Cavaliers’ Kevin Love out for entire conference semifinals (likely vs. Bulls)

    Apr 27, 2015, 6:22 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Four Getty Images

    He would have been key against the Bulls to help space the floor.

  7. Quote of the Day: Kelly Olynyk on Cavaliers fans

    Apr 27, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwzjymvhyzgwzgy5njixztvmzwrlzgzmymqxyza3ytg52 AP

    Olynyk finds common ground with Clevelanders

  8. PBT Extra with NBASavant.com: LeBron got his shots despite good Celtics defense

    Apr 27, 2015, 4:59 PM EDT

    LeBron James, Gerald Wallace LeBron James, Gerald Wallace

    Stats show Boston defended LeBron well, he just hit the shots anyway.

  9. PBT Extra: For how long should J.R. Smith be suspended?

    Apr 27, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers Vs. Boston Celtics At TD Garden Getty Images

    I say Smith should get at least three games.

  10. Grizzlies’ Mike Conley has surgery to repair face, likely 48 hours before timetable

    Apr 27, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT

    Mike Conley Mike Conley

    They need the swelling to go down to get a sense of his return,

  11. Report: Kevin Love seeks more medical opinions, may delay announcing timetable

    Apr 27, 2015, 2:29 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwzjymvhyzgwzgy5njixztvmzwrlzgzmymqxyza3ytg52 AP

    Cavaliers gave him a chance to wait by sweeping Celtics

  12. Two years removed from being a top recruit, Florida’s Chris Walker declares for NBA draft

    Apr 27, 2015, 12:26 PM EDT

    Tennessee v Florida Getty Images

    What does Walker’s cratered draft stock say about Billy Donovan?

  13. Report: Cavaliers stated plan to avenge Kevin Love’s injury

    Apr 27, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    If that was their plan, they executed it well

Featured video

Boston defended LeBron well, it didn't matter
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. R. Rondo (4947)
  2. C. Parsons (3895)
  3. K. Durant (3582)
  4. T. Parker (3443)
  5. K. Love (3420)
  1. K. Bryant (3409)
  2. M. Conley (3363)
  3. D. Lee (3226)
  4. P. George (3212)
  5. N. Mirotic (3108)