The Rockets are pouring a large amount of money into statistical analysis. Whether or not you think it's a wise investment probably depends upon your opinion of Shane Battier.
Battier enjoyed a wildly successful college career at Duke University, where he led the Blue Devils to one national championship and a pair of Final Four appearances. In 2001, Battier swept the major National Player of the Year awards on his way to becoming a Memphis Grizzly, when that team selected him with the sixth overall pick of the NBA draft.
Since then, Battier has averaged more than ten points a game only once, and that came in his rookie year. His career high per-game rebounding average also occurred during his first season in the league. To be sure, he is a versatile defender and a heady player, one who overcomes his lack of athleticism through discipline and hustle. You'd never label him a bust, but — in the traditional view — you'd never call him a special player either. A stat line of ten points, five boards and two assists doesn't exactly get the heart racing.
But the Rockets didn't care about those numbers. They were focused on something else entirely, something that most definitely made their blood pump a little faster. Here's a small glimpse at what they saw:
When Battier was on the court, his team
• Scored more
• Rebounded better
• Fouled less
• Allowed fewer points
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• Shot better
• Decreased their opponent's shooting percentage
In other words, he was exactly the type of player the numbers said they had to have.
"He definitely stood out in all the methods we use," says Morey. "He's someone who creates a large margin over who he's guarding. In the NBA, it's not how many points you score, it's what you do with each time down the floor. And when Shane uses a possession, it's always a high number of points are scored. And when Shane's guarding someone, not many points are scored when the other team uses the possession on the other end of the floor. When he played versus not over his years in Memphis, the team was about eight points per game better, a very significant margin."