NBA teams, and allocation of resources

I was perusing the APBRmetrics board, and this question came up by Crow:

Suppose somebody went to a team (or a forum…) and suggested adding 100 people to basketball operations (across all sub-departments / disciplines) above team current or NBA average. I’d guess you could do that for $10-15 million a year. How many GMs and owners would even consider it? Has any done it to that scale? Why not on trial basis and then judge value? 50 adds? 25?

My response:

Similar to what I’ve mentioned before – these teams are, theoretically, billion dollar companies. Having such an insanely small (relative) amount of paid salary going out to basketball operations & analytic departments seems pretty short sighted to me. A quality full TEAM of analysts/basketball people of varying approaches and abilities working with the gm, coaches, & has to make for better decisions. A single bad decision (let alone MANY bad decisions) can cost teams many, many MILLIONS of dollars. Putting these decisions in the hands of a couple people (think, Vlade Divac being one of a couple) – with maybe some input from some scouts & maybe a little input from an analyst – just seems SO risky long term.

One example, the Dallas Mavs (luv ya Mark, don’t unfollow me or cross me off your possible future hire list) & the Rajon Rondo debacle. The time of their trade for him, I died (as a fan) a little inside. I knew it was a horrible trade for the Mavs, just horrible. I told everyone who would listen how I felt- just not a ton on Twitter for, honestly, fear of losing said billionaire follow I previously mentioned. Would a team of quality analysts and basketball people have traded for an expiring Rondo contract (while the possibility of resigning him would have been tied to an almost max offer – think about that, offering a MAX contract to Rajon Rondo) – and to get Rondo give up Jae Crowder (! – already a poor man’s Draymond Green, but the Mavs hadn’t fully figured that out yet), Brandan Wright (also very underrated, but more in a post box score stuffer way than Jae), Jameer Nelson, a FIRST round pick, and a 2nd round pick? Remember – they did this at a time when the Mavs offense was #1 in the league in efficiency by a solid margin.

I know, the Mavs also got Dwight Powell. Yay.

The assets the Mavs gave up in that trade will probably cost them many, many millions of dollars over the next number of years. A more depleted roster, a roster that will be tough to rebuild with those future draft picks gone. Would a team of analysts (honest analysts who aren’t sycophants) allowed that trade without screaming at the top of their lungs “please, PLEASE, no!”? Just in this one case – spending greater resources in basketball operations would have SAVED the Mavs millions in lost revenue (ie, lost wins) the next number of years.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Boston Celtics probably have put more focus and money into basketball ops and their analytics department than the Mavs or most other teams.

Main point, teams need to WIN games. Having much greater amounts of salary paid to a sales department (trying to sell tickets & get sponsors) than an analytics team devoted helping with proper roster construction, game planning, and player usage (help keep players fresh & avoid injuries) makes little sense to me.

My final point – maybe I’m wrong. Maybe many of these teams are already putting, say, more than $10 million a year into their analytics department? Maybe they are spending more money on analytics than they are their sales department? Honestly, these are mainly (slightly educated) assumptions I am making, from what I’ve been told by others (some more in the know) and from what I see (media reports).

If that already twice mentioned certain follow reads this – I bet there’s a chance I may get lambasted in DM if my assumptions are off. That’ll be interesting. Hell, if ANY NBA admin DM me (there are a number who follow) – I am ALL ears. If better info is presented to me, I’m more than willing to add any future illumination or clarification to this write up if need be.

But, if that is true (teams are spending way more resources on basketball ops than I assume), my 17 year draft model retrodiction results are even scarier. One guy with ZERO financial resources, using only college box score data (ie, a fraction of info available to teams), can project players that correlate to real future NBA success (tested historically) MUCH better than actual NBA teams of GMs, coaches, scouts, and analysts can? How is that possible?


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