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Hoopshabit compares Rockets to the 2000's Oakland A's

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Clips/Roxfan, May 27, 2019.

  1. Clips/Roxfan

    Clips/Roxfan Member
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    by Christopher Jeter

    Much like the “Moneyball” A’s, the Houston Rockets’ rigid adherence to analytics has brought them great regular season success and playoff failures.

    It’s been two weeks since the Houston Rockets fell to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals.

    In that time, much of the talking head rhetoric following Houston’s defeat has revolved around James Harden‘s perceived choke job.

    However, the most incendiary take didn’t emanate from First Take or Undisputed, but from former All-Star David West‘s Twitter page.



    As expected, this drew plenty of head-nodding from former players like Nick Van Exel and Eddie Johnson, along with legions of fans who echo the same resentment towards advanced numbers and their role in basketball strategy that bubbles under the surface of pundits like Charles Barkley, Paul Pierce, or Stephen A. Smith’s analysis.

    While ignoring the irony in some of these statements — West had played for analytics-friendly clubs like the Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, while Van Exel was a member of those early-2000s Dallas Mavericks teams that introduced fragments of today’s pace-and-space game — the theory that a strict adherence to analytics did the Rockets in (or Harden’s lack of a “clutch gene”) is a misleading one.

    Sure, the two teams representing the Eastern and Western Conferences in this year’s NBA Finals, the Warriors and the Toronto Raptors, didn’t shoot as many 3s as the Rockets; they ranked ninth and 11th, respectively, in attempts per 100 possessions this year. But given the number of triples the average NBA team takes nowadays, it’s safe to say that this debate has been settled.

    Despite West’s flippant, derisive view of advanced stats, his tweet inadvertently raises some legitimate questions about the Rockets’ dogmatic devotion to their style of play. Can they win a championship using a stat-driven, isolation-heavy offense?



    The answer is probably yes; if Houston’s shortcomings truly lied in their offensive rigidity, then they would’ve lost in the first round to the Utah Jazz, a team that moves the ball around just as much as the Warriors do.

    If fluidity was truly the best policy, then the Denver Nuggets — who ranked seventh in passes per game this year, per NBA.com — would’ve made quick work of the Portland Trail Blazers — who ranked 26th in the same category — in the second round instead of falling in a thrilling seven-game series.



    Houston’s current predicament mirrors another pro sports team defined by its relationship to analytics and repeated postseason failures: the early 2000s Oakland Athletics.

    If you’ve heard of or read even some of Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game or, at the very least, saw the movie adaptation starring Brad Pitt, then you probably know the gist of the story. The A’s and general manager Billy Beane, hamstrung by owner-mandated salary constraints, built a string of playoff teams by exploiting oft-ignored stats to mine as much value out of otherwise forgotten players.

    To be clear, those Oakland teams possessed a wealth of stars — Jermaine Dye, Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Jason Giambi (who won the American League MVP with the A’s in 2000), Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson — but, much like the Rockets and their love affair with 3s, the A’s calling card was their organization-wide mission to draw walks and get as many runners on base as possible.

    How determined were they? Well, prior to Beane taking over as GM, his predecessor and mentor, Sandy Alderson, once instructed each of the team’s minor league managers to ensure that their respective clubs were either at or near the top of their league in walks to the point where he threatened to fire one manager if the bases on balls didn’t go up.

    The point, of course, was to establish an organizational culture. Considering that Oakland finished no worse than fourth in walks to go along with three top-five rankings in on-base percentage between 2000-03, you could say that the players got the message. Of course, it’s easier to buy in when it leads to wins.

     
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  2. Clips/Roxfan

    Clips/Roxfan Member
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    However, this reliance on sabermetrics didn’t lead to much postseason success in the Bay Area. In those aforementioned four seasons, Oakland was eliminated in the Division Series. Of those four playoff exits, three of them were administered by MLB’s traditional big spenders: the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees (the other was courtesy of the overachieving Minnesota Twins).


    Oakland’s setbacks to Boston and New York could’ve easily been held up as proof of analytics’ limitations in regard to team building. But, if anything, the A’s losses to those teams, who employed similar offensive approaches (for instance, that 2003 Red Sox team led the league in on-base percentage) showed that the issue wasn’t the raw numbers, but the talent putting it to use. The Yankees and the Red Sox had more capital to pursue players who could do the things that the A’s players could (particularly when New York swiped Giambi away from Oakland in 2002) and that proved to be the difference.


    Aside from the economic differences between these two teams — Houston is hampered more by the salary cap than a cynical need to stay under MLB’s luxury tax — this same principle applies to the Rockets in their attempts to dethrone the very team that shares a city (for now) with the A’s. Golden State wasn’t some relic from yesteryear that picked apart the Rockets with iso post-ups and long, mid-range 2s.



    They were simply better equipped than anyone else to beat Houston at its own game. When you have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant on your roster (even though Durant missed the last two games of the series due to a calf injury), three of the greatest 3-point shooters this league has ever seen, you can do that. Having two of the best defenders in the league in Thompson and Draymond Green to stymie Houston’s offense didn’t hurt, either.


    If you want to question whether Houston’s static offensive tendencies aren’t tenable against the Warriors given each team’s roster (though, given how close the games were in this series and the previous year’s Western Conference Finals, even that take is a bit of a stretch), that’s fine. There’s plenty of nuance and context within that debate, especially considering the role it played in Harden and Chris Paul‘s reported spat following Game 6.


    But blindly blaming analytics for a team’s shortcomings when just about every team in the league has some sort of analytics department, is inherently silly. You can critique the implementation of these numbers in regards to their effect on keeping front offices and head coaching positions primarily white and male given the history of minorities being persuaded away from advanced math and science. You could even argue how important some stats are compared to others. But clinging to the same tunnel-visioned logic that supposedly plagues the Rockets on the other end of the spectrum obstructs from the larger point.


    That point is simple: Elite talent combined with top-notch strategy leads to championships. Bill James, considered to be the godfather of sabermetrics, said it best:


    ‘‘If you have a metric that never matches up with the eye test, it’s probably wrong. And if it never surprises you, it’s probably useless. But if four out of five times it tells you what you know, and one out of five it surprises you, you might have something.’’


    Above all, advanced numbers should verify what you see while watching the actual game. They basically do a more efficient job of contextualizing a player’s production and a team’s success than more accepted metrics like counting and per game stats, no matter the sport.


    Oakland’s window eventually closed without them winning the World Series, but there’s still time for the Rockets. As long as Harden puts up otherworldly offensive numbers, they’ll be in the title hunt for the next few seasons. Maybe they’ll eventually break through and bring Houston its third NBA title.


    But if the Rockets ultimately suffer the same fate as the A’s, don’t view it as an indictment on analytics. Instead, use those stats along with the game film to reach the very measured conclusion of this team’s weaknesses that these numbers strive to point out.

    https://hoopshabit.com/2019/05/27/the-houston-rockets-are-the-nbas-version-2000s-oakland-as/
     
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  3. Zboy

    Zboy Contributing Member

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    I just came in this thread to point out that David West has always been a douche bag.

    Stop letting band-wagoners tell you how to buy a ring.
     
  4. chenjy9

    chenjy9 Numbers Don't Lie
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    Funny how they don't mention the Astros who have one of the most cutting edge statistics department in the MLB and are perennial World Series contenders. Our pitcher's coaching / development is so great BECAUSE of our stats department. They are even affectionately called the Nerd Cave and pioneered research into metrics like spin rate when getting and developing (in some cases saving) pitchers. They are also the front runners in angles on bat swings. How did the Astros get to where they were? They tanked hard and long enough to rebuild their farm system, something the Rockets have never been allowed to do to rebuild our own talent pool.
     
    #4 chenjy9, May 27, 2019
    Last edited: May 27, 2019
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  5. gotsis

    gotsis Member

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    Great article. The right way to look at it is that analytics are the reason we are able to match a much more talented team and almost win.

    Also hate moral victories, but gsw is stacked.
     
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  6. Sajan

    Sajan Member

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    Everyone's using analytics. People just hate the rockets because either they are jealous or they feel morey is a dick on twitter.
    Hell...the world is using artificial intelligence and data to work SMARTER.
     
  7. rockets1995

    rockets1995 Member

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    The Oakland A's biggest problem during that time was keeping their own talent.

    Losing Jason Giambi to the Yankees in FA, won a Championship

    Losing Barry Zito to the Giants in FA, won a Championship

    Tim Hudson with the Giants won a Championship

    Mark Mulder

    Eric Chavez

    Some players became Champions elsewhere, the A's I think should've won Championships,
    but hey Umpires do rig games, especially when Jeter and Yankees keep winning, New York is a big market.

    Like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Demarcus Cousins, Andre Iguodala.
     
    #7 rockets1995, May 27, 2019
    Last edited: May 27, 2019
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  8. seeingredtx

    seeingredtx Enlightened

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  9. napalm06

    napalm06 #FireBillObrien
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    "but but but they're ruining the game!" - every NBA twitter fan

    The only reason we have this perception is because Morey is so involved in analytics conferences and has become a sort of figurehead for it.

    I'm glad a sports outlet is finally reminding people of what should be common sense.
     
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  10. The Cat

    The Cat Contributing Member

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    Who plays Daryl in the 2025 movie?
     
  11. jordnnnn

    jordnnnn Member

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    He may have aged into it in 6 years
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  12. arno_ed

    arno_ed Contributing Member

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    What play off failure? We have been the best team in the play offs after GS. Of we are a play off failure every team in the NBA is a play off failure with the exception of GS. The fact that Houston could bot beat GS with much less talent is not a failure of the system. We have been the only team to actually challenge the durant warriors. Our play off play actually shows that out system Works.
     
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  13. Mkieke

    Mkieke Member

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    You lost in 7 then 6 to the greatest team potentially in NBA history and you’re a failure? Won’t waste my time with this article.
     
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  14. Akim523

    Akim523 Member

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    What? This article is absolutely spot on.
     
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  15. smp

    smp Member

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    Recap- GS uses analytics and they are loaded with talent.

    The Rockets use analytics and have less talent.

    GS wins all seven game series vs Rockets. Current score is 4-0. Rockets might go down like the A’s. Good, but not good enough to win a title.
     
  16. daywalker02

    daywalker02 Easter Egg Hunter - Tell me why? نحن عائلة
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    Executive GOAT beard. j/k.
     
  17. daywalker02

    daywalker02 Easter Egg Hunter - Tell me why? نحن عائلة
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    There is no doubt that the GSW do use analytics as well, just not every tiny part of it.

    Stationed near Silicon valley.
     
    #17 daywalker02, May 28, 2019
    Last edited: May 28, 2019
  18. REEKO_HTOWN

    REEKO_HTOWN I'm Rich Biiiiaaatch!

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    We're the 90's Knicks.
     
  19. Buck Turgidson

    Buck Turgidson Mineshaft Enthusiast
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    Completely ignores that, despite a wealth of young all-star talent, the A's failed in the playoffs largely due to their almost complete disregard for basic fundamentals like defense and baserunning. See: Terrence Long, Jeremy Giambi, etc....

    "My sh!t doesn't work in the playoffs." -- Billy Beane
     
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  20. HillBoy

    HillBoy Contributing Member

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    I saw this article yesterday. Not sure if the analogy correctly pertains to basketball. I feel that the Rockets problems aren't due so much to an over-reliance on Sabermetrics (because everybody uses them) but rather from their drawing misleading conclusions and then making flawed decisions based on said conclusions. At this point in time, this organization appears to be dead set on trying to prove that their way is THE way rather than making the necessary adjustments or tweaks to their approach. Hence the incremental fixes we continue to see from this organization (star chasing, bench coaching shuffle, etc.) that fail to bring about better results. Because of this, I feel that they (Rockets) are basically locked into a situation where nothing much will change without a major overhaul in coaching and talent aquisition. And the likelihood of that happening is extremely slim given their coaching situation (D'Antoni is on the last year of his contract), salary cap situation and Morey's construction of the team itself that has been specifically put together to execute D'Antoni's system which makes it somewhat inflexible to implimenting meaningful change. Just my 2 cents...
     
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