I'm a big fan of Michael Lewis, I own several of his books including Moneyball and Blind Side. I read the NY Times article he wrote earlier in February on the use of sabremetrics in basketball, specifically regarding Shane Battier and how the Rockets are the Oakland A's of the NBA. In a recent interview, Lewis believed that many NBA teams will be adopting sabremetrics in the future following the Rockets lead and MLB, here is a partial transcript:
Q: Speaking of “Moneyball” and team sports, you recently wrote a piece for The New York Times Magazine about the statistical revolution coming to basketball. And you focused on the Houston Rockets and a player they’ve deemed undervalued by conventional statistics, Shane Battier. My one issue with it, compared to “Moneyball,” was that it was harder for you to make the case because the Rockets wouldn’t share a lot of the statistics they used to back up their assertions about player value. Was that frustrating to you?I'm not surprised how guarded the Rockets are about their system. In the NBA, math matters and it looks like more teams will follow suit soon. I wonder who those 7 undervalued players are -- I took a look myself roughly and came up with: Flip Murray, Kirk Heinrich, Thaddeus Young, Paul Millsap, and Rudy Fernandez, all appear to be good buys.
A: He gave me enough to do what I wanted to do — which was ask the questions. It would have been nice to know all the secrets, but I got enough. It wasn't going to be a rigorous statistical piece. They genuinely don't want people to know what they’re looking at.
Q: And I guess, since you point out that “Moneyball” contributed to the A’s losing their competitive advantage, the Rockets should be wary.
A: Right. The only reason the A's let me in is that they thought people [cared] so little ... about what they were doing. They couldn't imagine anyone would care about what I wrote.
On the other hand, this was leaking out already. The Red Sox were rapidly becoming what they are in terms of following Sabermetrics. On top of all that, enough of all the intellectual property that they seized upon was in the public domain. The Rockets have created a lot more intellectual property than the A’s ever created.
Q: Are there more Shane Battiers out there in the NBA? And how does studying the exception to the rules of NBA selfishness help us learn things about the vast majority of players who are not exceptions?
A: Yes, there are more of them out there. The Rockets have generated a list of five, six, seven players who they thought were dramatically undervalued. And there's the converse — players who do well in conventional stats who are overvalued. I think the thrust of the story is that what's going to happen in basketball has happened in baseball. A wand will be waved and a new system will be put in place on how to value players. The Rockets will tell you that everyone in the NBA is at least slightly misvalued.
In comparing the Lakers and Magic in the finals, I took a look at some of the +/- stats and Lamar Odom of the Lakers and Courtney Lee of the Magic appear to be the key players. I also find the Hollinger's Player Efficiency Rating, quite useful too.