The Detroit Pistons made a major addition to their front office by poaching Sammy Gelfand, 31, away from the Golden State Warriors to head up the organization’s analytics efforts, according to The Athletic.
Gelfand has been called an “analytics guru” and was labeled the “left side of Steve Kerr’s brain” in a recent New York Times profile.
Gelfand has been with the analytics department in Golden State for the past five season. As head of analytics he was responsible for compiling pre- and post-game reports and was extremely influential on strategy, lineups and more.
The NYT profile by Marc Stein from the NBA Finals is a great read, but I’ll pull out some of the most illuminating pieces of info as we think about how Detroit could benefit from Gelfand’s addition.
Gelfand has a keen enough eye that he actually has a spot on the bench
The Warriors’ coaches lean on him for his in-game video skills and statistical support to such a degree that Gelfand occupies a seat behind their bench during home games and whenever he travels with the team. Although this is the N.B.A.’s analytics age, Gelfand’s vantage point is an extreme rarity.
Pistons might actually ... pass the ball
Gelfand got some prime TV time when the superstar Curry, recovering from a sprained knee, insisted on sitting beside him during multiple first-round playoff games. But his claim to fame during Golden State’s four-season run of roaring success might be his role in helping the Warriors establish 300 passes as their nightly team goal.
For reference, the Pistons’ averages in the Stan Van Gundy era (rank): 272.3 (26), 263.3 (29), 278.5 (24). 299 (17).
A peek inside his process
In these N.B.A. finals, Gelfand spends two hours after every game assembling a report that leads off with a variety of passing numbers and proceeds into more specific breakdowns, such as how the Warriors fared in post-up situations. He reviews plays after timeouts, two- and five-man lineup combinations and plus/minus numbers, and evaluates the team’s defense and rebounding. He will also tack on any personal observations gleaned from assembling those numbers.
He then fields a stream of individual requests from Kerr and his assistants leading up to the next tipoff, while compiling a preview report that highlights opponents’ tendencies and lineup combinations for both teams. Kerr has been known to seek out Gelfand in the final hour before tipoff in search of one more easily digestible statistic to help slam home his pregame messaging.