Tuesday, February 28, 2012

5 Quick Questions With...Dean Oliver - Director, Production Analytics at ESPN

Dean Oliver is one of the world’s foremost leaders in sports analytics.   Mr. Oliver is the author of Basketball on Paper, a book which is widely considered to be the handbook for basketball analytics.  Has passion for sports and statistics is not limited to basketball, however.  Since arriving at ESPN in February 2011, Oliver has already made an impact by developing the Total QBR – the most detailed evaluation of NFL quarterbacks from statistics to date. 

Prior to his time at ESPN, Oliver worked in the front office of the Denver Nuggets as Director of Quantitative Analysis and as a consultant for the Seattle Supersonics.  During his time in the NBA, Mr. Oliver assisted the coaching staffs and management by using his statistical analysis to evaluate players and trades, assist with free agency, salary cap management, and financial issues, and applied his information to advance scouting reports, defensive quantification and game plan development.  His ability to extract an extraordinary amount of information from statistics and apply them to the game of basketball has helped increase the use of statistical analysis throughout NBA front offices.  To learn more about his work, please visit www.basketballonpaper.com

The Tampa Bay Rebels sincerely appreciate Mr. Oliver taking the time to join us for “5 Quick Questions.”

How long have you been using stats to evaluate basketball players?
Since 1984 or so.  It got a lot better a couple years later, then even better in the early 1990s.
When you worked for the Denver Nuggets, your title was Director of Quantitative Analysis. Can you give us a description of what you did for the organization?
If there was a decision to be made that could be helped using analytics, that was my job.  This could be on personnel issues - trades, draft, free agency, contracts - or it could be on coaching issues.  On the coaching side, it was often more on what tendencies opponents had since our coaching staff had a very good understanding of our team.
Why have we just recently heard about an increase in teams using statistical analysis as a key factor in player acquisitions and free-agent signings?
It's been happening over the course of about eight years now.  It comes in waves and the wave is a bit broader right now, as fans of the approach spread to other teams.  I think that spread of advocates has helped make it more widely known.
How important should statistical analysis to professional basketball teams?
Doing without it is highly risky.  There definitely are different levels of analytics, with varying grades of sophistication and integration within decision-making, though, so having a token analyst or having people who aren't as good can also leave you behind.  On the other hand, there are some very smart people in basketball that I've met who I feel understand how numbers see the game, even if they don't see the numbers.
Do you have to have an extensive background in statistics in order to make them work for you as a basketball coach or executive?
I think you want to have a good background in statistics, databases, and basketball.  Without any one of those, it is a hard job to do.  Having coached and played and now worked extensively as a scout and in the front office, I know really well the questions that can and cannot be answered with the data we have.  I also know what data is more or less reliable. It takes time and experience with all sides to really understand that.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rebels Sign Center Matt Kendrick

Matt Kendrick

Height: 7'0"

Weight: 245 lbs

Position: Center

College: Saint Leo University

Previous Team: Sokol de Antofagasta (Chile)

The Tampa Bay Rebels have announced the signing of Matt Kendrick for the upcoming 2012 Florida Basketball Association season, which will begin play in May.  After practicing with the team earlier this year upon his return from Sokol de Antofagasta, a pro club in Chile, Kendrick was able to secure a spot in the roster.  The seven-footer will look to make an immediate impact for the Rebels.
Kendrick has been on the Rebels radar for a while.  "I had a chance to see Matt play during his senior season at Chamberlain High School and I could tell that he had the chance to be a special player.  We kept an eye on his stats and development while he was at St. Leo, knowing we had a legitimate pro prospect on our hands.  Once he began playing professionally, Coach Rojas stepped in and was able to bring Matt onboard," said Andrew Phillips, the Rebels Director of Scouting. 
When asked about the signing, Coach and GM Fernando Rojas said, "I spoke with his father who told me he was in South America playing professionally. Once he came home, he came to our practices and played well in our exhibition game against Palm Beach. He is an up and coming player, but I was most impressed with his positive attitude and professional demeanor. If he keeps improving he will definitely be part of our international tour.”
Kendrick said, "I recently met Coach Rojas and right away I found out he knows many international players I played with when I was abroad. He also coached internationally and knows many players and agents overseas; I know playing for the Rebels will help me getting another international job."