The league-wide perception of the Los Angeles Lakers is that they are behind the times in regards to the analytics movement sweeping across the NBA. They are viewed as “old school”, set in their traditional ways that has brought them continuous success throughout their decorated history.
In recent years however, things have changed for the sixteen-time NBA champions. As the emphasis on three-point shots, driving to the basket and pick-and-roll action — among other things — grew, the Lakers seemed to be on board with the revolution when they hired Mike D’Antoni as head coach. Once he resigned, Byron Scott was brought in, and was virtually a polar opposite, publicly expressing a lack of belief in three-point attempts and pick-and-roll play last year.
Just a few short years ago, the Lakers had the head coach that shifted the analytics era into a new gear. And although it seems like they simply don’t care about the use of advanced statistics, that may not be the case. Part-owner and vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss sat down with Eric Pincus of the LA Times and shed some light on their talent evaluation process, which includes analytics and another major factor.
Analytics doesn’t really get to that human detail of, ‘Does he fit with this guy?’ Percentage-wise and stat-wise he does, but you have personalities, style of play, coaches that have a style of play and you have to put that all together.
Buss brings up an interesting point, which I have personally agreed with for quite some time. Don’t get me wrong, I am very pro-analytics and believe it is truly revolutionizing the game of basketball. However, sometimes too much stock can be put into numbers and not enough is put into the human element.
It was encouraging to hear that the front office uses a balanced formula of that element, combined with analytics.
As for Scott? Buss also talked about his flexibility as a coach. “He gets all the analytical parts of it,” Buss said. “He’s not set in his ways.”
This has been hinted at earlier this summer by Byron, mentioning the possibility of Kobe Bryant sliding over to play at power forward if a particular matchup permits it, allowing the team’s youth to push the tempo a bit more and space the floor, which this year’s roster could be better-equipped to do with D’Angelo Russell in the mix.
With the end of Bryant’s career looming, the Lakers are staring at the gateway to a new era not just on the court, but with their roster-building process off it as well.
You can catch the entirety of part three of Pincus’ interview with Buss here.