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Learn about analytics before you rip Sixers' hire

Sam Hinkie, expected to be introduced as the Sixers' GM today, is part of the analytics wave. But don't hold that against him.

Sixers new president of basketball operations and general manager Sam Hinkie smiles during an introduction to the local media at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Sixers new president of basketball operations and general manager Sam Hinkie smiles during an introduction to the local media at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

IT ALWAYS makes me laugh when a fan will come up to me or send an email and call a player a word that I can't print. Or when an email says the same thing about me.

Disagreeing with the way a player carries himself on the court or not liking an opinion a writer presents is perfectly fine and always welcomed here. But when it comes to personal attacks, that's where the opinions get laughable. Most fans don't know a player even a little bit besides what he or she does on the field or court or ice. Same with a writer away from the computer.

So I'm going to practice what I believe: I am not going to say that analytics is a way for people who don't know much about sports to make them look as if they do. Being pretty ignorant to the varied components that make up the new way of the NBA, it is at the top of my study list for the offseason. So to bash it before learning about it isn't the way to go.

Perhaps the lesson will wow. Maybe it won't. Admittedly, my perspective is that of someone who isn't a huge stats watcher, but rather relies on the feel of a game and how players change the pace of a game with actions that don't show up in statistics. The first story I read explaining the subject was more than 10,000 words long.

In Sam Hinkie, the incoming president of basketball operations and general manager, the 76ers have a new person as the face of their franchise who is as much ensconced in analytics as owner Josh Harris is in hedge funds. Considered one of the wizards of the new wave of the league, Hinkie had made a name for himself in Houston as assistant general manager. The Rockets made some key moves, won 45 games and secured a playoff spot in the West this season.

But is Hinkie ready to be the face of the franchise? One executive in the league, admittedly not a huge fan of analytics but becoming one the more he learns, said of analytic experts: "Analytic guys are the ones who look at their shoes when they are talking to you. A personable analytics guy is one who looks at other people's shoes when he is talking to you."

Which begs the question: How is Hinkie going to hold up under the scrutiny of the fans and media in Philadelphia? At just 35 and never in control of an organization - he was under GM Daryl Morey in Houston - Hinkie is entering a city that doesn't have a low basketball IQ. Should the Sixers start poorly, should the new coach come under fire, should Hinkie get criticized for his handprint being on all those scenarios, does he have the basketball moxie to make fans believe he can get the organization through it? Not having spoken to Hinkie yet, that's impossible to gauge. He will be introduced at a press conference this afternoon.

One definition of analytics is: "The field of data analysis. It often involves studying past historical data to research potential trends, to analyze the effect of certain decisions or events, or to evaluate the performance of a given tool or scenario. The goal of analytics is to improve the business by gaining knowledge which can be used to make improvements or changes."

That brings to mind a scene from the movie "Jaws 2." While the police chief is out in a boat trying to hunt down the killer shark, he asks his deputy how to get to a certain point on the water. When the deputy informs: "About 10 degrees off the starboard bow. You take . . . " Chief Martin Brody, played by Roy Scheider, replies: "Don't give me that [bleep]! Just point!"

I wonder if players will have the same type of reaction should they get overloaded with numbers. But the bigger question is: Now that Hinkie is in charge, who will he look to as his head coach? Will it be another analytical guy so that they're on the same page, or will he look at an old-school type of coach, to get some kind of balance between numbers and developing the young players?

Evan Turner has been the main subject of fans' ire for the 3 years he's been here, and many times rightfully so as his on-court demeanor can sometimes make you want to pull out your hair. But if you took your child to a game and tried to get a player to sign an autograph or say hello, Turner would be the first to put an arm around a kid's shoulder, engage in a conversation and be able to form young smiles in a heartbeat.

Many probably don't know that about the Ohio State product. To say he is an unprintable word for his actions on the court is ignorant. Similarly, dissing analytics before knowing as much as there is to absorb in a summer crash course is wrong.

Today on, you can download a copy of our e-book that commemorates the Sixers' 1983 NBA championship run.