At his introductory news conference Monday, Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas declared, “We’re going to question the norm with everything that we do.” The Wolves have lagged behind the NBA three-point revolution in recent years.
But the question today isn’t how to catch up to the pack there, since three-point shooting has become the norm. Rather, the question is: What might be the next big thing in NBA analytics that Rosas and the Wolves can unearth and exploit?
First take: Michael Rand
From a purely basketball standpoint, the game seems to be trending toward a positionless model. The Rockets, where Rosas worked for 17 years, employ two Hall of Fame point guards who often share the floor.
Part of what makes the Warriors so good is that they have four starters — Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green — who can handle the ball.
I could envision a future NBA where there basically aren’t any true centers and all five players are expected to be adept at passing, shooting and dribbling.
Chris Hine, Wolves beat writer: Then it’s a good thing the Wolves have a center who’s versatile in Karl-Anthony Towns, if he’s going to become a tall guard in this future NBA. The NBA is already trending in this direction. You hear coaches talk all the time about players needing the ability to guard multiple positions because of this.
The NBA has already nailed down the value of different shots on the floor and where its players need to shoot from in order to score. I think the next big thing is coming up with some way to ensure the mental health and well-being of players. Commissioner Adam Silver recently said a lot of NBA players are unhappy or depressed thanks in part to social media. If there’s a way for teams to keep players happy and in a good frame of mind during an 82-game season, the on-court product could benefit as well.
Rand: That’s a good thought — and obviously a challenge that extends beyond the NBA into greater society.
From a competitive standpoint, another big frontier on the analytics side is physical health and injury prevention. Like Silver’s comments, which came in March at the MIT Sloan Analytics Sports Conference, injury prevention was a hot topic at the annual meeting of the minds in Boston.
Whether it’s improved sleep, smarter training or secrets to recovery, teams and players that find an edge in this area reap benefits. Just think of how different the Wolves season might have played out, for instance, if Robert Covington and others had been healthy all year.
Hine: They did look good for a few weeks there in November! It’s hard for me to envision a radical change coming to basketball on the court.
It seems like it’s going to come off the court in rest, health, sleep and nutrition.
I’ll also be interested to see what Rosas thinks of the Wolves’ grueling travel schedule and if he has any plans to alter how the Wolves handle road trips.
Rand: If he can get them moved to the Eastern Conference, he’d be the real MVP.
Final word: Hine
I wouldn’t mind multiple trips to Miami and Chicago per season on the company dime.
More Rand: startribune.com/RandBall
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