I had a chance to listen to part of Ted Leonsis' radio appearance on the Mike Wise Show on 106.7 The Fan while working today. Let's just say I came away incredibly, incredibly impressed.
Leonsis took a few questions about the Wizards, and the very first thing he said was that he strongly believes in analytics in basketball. He said he thinks basketball is a great sport for analytics because it has "bite-size statistics," referring specifically to per-possession stuff. When asked to elaborate, Leonsis said he had a high school coach (he was a point guard) who really got through to him on the importance of every single possession and the simple idea of maximizing what you do when you have the ball.
One thing I know is that the Wizards do not currently have an analytics department, though they do have some people who are open to it. Tommy Sheppard, the assistant GM, reportedly attended the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT earlier last month (though I think he was only there on Saturday). I do not believe Ernie Grunfeld shares that enthusiasm for analytics.
Anyway, here are some other snippets from the radio appearance:
- The most important thing for Leonsis is to take emotions out of the picture as much as possible when making a decision. "We want to look at everything analytically rather than emotionally," he said. He cited the example of Capitals GM George McPhee letting go of longtime goalie Olaf Kolzig, which was difficult, but still the right thing to do because his game had declined.
- You might remember that the first of Leonsis' 10 points to building a successful team is to ask yourself if you ever see your team competing for a championship. If yes, then devote time to it, but if not, don't be afraid to blow it up. He expounded on that today, saying that he's willing to commit serious resources, but only if you believe your team as currently constructed can win it all. If not, he said there's no shame in blowing it up. "What's the worst that could happen?" he said, adding that, while fans may stop showing up to games, fans aren't showing up for the Wizards right now anyway.
- Regarding building through the draft, Leonsis says he's studied successful teams in all sports, and found that most of them build their team primarily through the draft.
- Leonsis said that most NBA players peak statistically around age 25 or 26, saying that Andray Blatche is getting better primarily because he's getting closer to that age. He also cited LeBron, implying that LeBron is close to his peak at this point. Wise did the right thing and followed up with a question about Gilbert Arenas being 28, one which Leonsis mostly avoided except to say that there are some outliers like Michael Jordan.