Analyzing Analytics: Will Hinkie’s Numbers Save the Sixers

Sam Hinkie wants to bring a number based philosophy to the Sixers.

Sam Hinkie wants to bring a number based philosophy to the Sixers.

Some people may poke fun at the name of the new Sixers President and General Manager, Sam Hinkie, but do they really know much about the man?

The answer is probably no. Hinkie is a fresh face in the NBA and comes over from the Houston Rockets, an organization most Sixers fans do not encounter often. So who is Sam Hinkie?

  • Hinkie graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a 4.0 GPA and was named one of the country’s top 60 undergrads by USA Today.
  • Earned his MBA at Stanford
  • Served as a consultant for leading global strategy consulting firm, Bain & Company
  • Has experience in private equity and venture capital
  • Consulted NFL teams on draft strategy
  • Was named Special Assistant to the GM of the Rockets in 2005
  • Promoted to VP of Basketball Operations in 2007 and then Executive VP of Basketball Operations in 2010

All of these things make Hinkie an intriguing individual to lead the resurgence of basketball in Philadelphia and they are all tell-tale indicators of his claim to fame approach: Analytics.

For those unfamiliar with the term, analytics refers to using advanced statistical analysis to make decisions about player personnel in regards to both acquisitions and in-game strategy. This mindset has been well regarded particularly in baseball, evident in the film Moneyball. However, basketball and baseball are much different sports.

Former Sixers Coach Larry Brown has his doubts about a number-based approach to basketball.

Former Sixers Coach Larry Brown has his doubts about a number-based approach to basketball.

Hinkie pledges to bring the Moneyball approach to the Sixers. He said that he wants to bring a coach to Philadelphia who is like minded to him in terms of the analytic approach to the game’s X’s and O’s. This desire all but cancels out the possibility of a return of former Sixers Head Coach, Larry Brown, who voiced his skepticism in a recent interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Brown drew a distinction between the success of numbers in baseball and how it relates to basketballs.

“This is not baseball. Guys hit better during the day than they do at night. You have lefties and righties. But this is not baseball. In this league, it’s about teaching players and making them better.”

Brown said he supports player development as the key to success in basketball. Brown added that numbers can indeed play a role in evaluation but that the true measure of a player comes through when facing true adversity in a game setting.

Hinkie thinks otherwise.

Hinkie will use his analytics approach to make decisions on things such as the future of Turner and Holiday and the resigning of Bynum.

Hinkie will use his analytics approach to make decisions on things such as the future of Turner and Holiday and the re-signing of Bynum.

The new head man in Philly said he wants to use analytics to fill in the blanks where the human eye fails. Hinkie wants to take advantage of every bit of information he can to make calculated decisions on and off the court. The Rockets were a perfect example of this under Hinkie’s leadership. The Rockets took advantage of their 3-point shooting ability and led the NBA in 3-pointers attempted per game (28.9). The team was also second in points per game (106.0) just behind the Denver Nuggets (106.1).

Old-School hoopsters like Brown will cringe at the notion that a piece of paper can better evaluate a player than visual study and character analysis, but this appears to be a movement that NBA teams are undertaking. With super teams such as the Heat banking in on pure talent, franchises have to find another way to get an edge and that is what Hinkie’s approach is all about. He wants to use every resource at his disposal.

With the NBA draft just a month away, and the team still without a new head coach, it will be interesting to see how Hinkie evaluates this year’s current draft class. Another must-see phenomenon will be looking out to see if Hinkie’s numbers tell him to re-sign Sixers Center Andrew Bynum.

The say “numbers never lie.” The Sixers are about to find out.

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