Well, this is a nice surprise. On the heels of Detroit hiring advanced stats guru Charles Klask away from the Magic, Platinum Equity partner Robert Wentworth represented the Pistons at the New England Symposium on Statistics and Sports. Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe, who was a moderator for the panel on NBA analytics, spoke with Wentworth about Detroit's newfound interest in advanced stats.
Many thanks to DBB'er Kriz for initially posting this interview as a FanShot -- I wouldn't have found it as quickly as I did without seeing that. The interview has me so geeked, I'd like to highlight some of the Q-and-A's:
SI.com: Some folks were sort of surprised the Pistons had someone at Harvard this weekend. But given your background, isn't it sort of natural to look at how advanced statistics and algorithms might help your team?
Wentworth: We're a private equity firm. This is our first move into professional sports, both for the firm and for Tom Gores, and we approach this like any other investment that we make. We will really try to understand best practices and be forward-thinking as opposed to reactionary. Getting heavily into statistical analysis seems quite natural to us.
SI.com: I mean, this is what PE firms do to find opportunities and value, right?
Wentworth: Yes, to an extent. The advanced stats just ought to be a part of your tool kit. It's equally important to have really solid basketball people, and Joe Dumars has obviously been in this league for 25-plus years now. He has tremendous basketball intellect. But we're just trying to make sure we use every tool in that took box, even if it means you just do a better job at finding that 8th, 9th or 10th guy.
Choosing the right player for the 8th, 9th or 10th spot in the rotation might not seem like a big deal at first, but that's the difference between doing something stupid like trading Arron Afflalo and signing Chucky Atkins in the same summer, or giving $20 million to Jason Maxiell and trading Amir Johnson for cap space in the same year.
No one is saying that advanced stats or computers or some master algorithm will ever replace good old fashioned scouting, but having another voice in the room who's either offering or asking for empirical evidence can only be a good thing. Hacks like me will always have the benefit of hindsight to nitpick, but the more tools the front office uses, the more sound decisions they'll make that stand up to scrutiny and second guessing.