Lakers plan staff move to beef up analytics operation

LAS VEGAS – Lakers executives have long defended their use of advanced statistics, disputing the public perception that the 16-time NBA champions are behind the times.

The organization, however, is taking steps to strengthen the analytics side of things, with plans to create a position for a staff member to facilitate better communication between the basketball staff and those crunching the numbers.

Assistant coach and advance scout Clay Moser is expected to transition from the bench to the front office in a sort of liaison position, which previously did not exist within the organization. A team spokesman confirmed Monday that the move is in the works.

The responsibilities of the role have been among those heaped upon assistant coach Mark Madsen. The plan with Moser, however, is to facilitate a pipeline of ideas with a basketball person in the front office.

Moser has been with the Lakers since 2011, when Mike Brown hired him as an advance scout. Before that, he was an assistant coach for the D-Fenders and Reno Bighorns of the Development League, as well as an advance scout for Cleveland, Orlando, Sacramento and Golden State.

Team officials felt that statistical analysis got lost in translation between the two branches of the organization, with statistics employees sometimes failing to understand the practical complications of making certain adjustments based on numbers, and the coaches not appreciating the value of the stats.

In February, ranked the Lakers 113th out of 122 professional sports franchises for their use of analytics, and grouped the organization among just three “nonbelievers” league-wide, along with the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks.

Around that time the website published a story with a headline that asked, “Are the Lakers stuck in the stone age?”

ESPN reported that the Lakers employed six full-time analytics staffers, including four who focused on data from the in-arena SportVU cameras.

The external view of the Lakers analytics operation was only made worse when free agent LaMarcus Aldridge was reportedly underwhelmed by the Lakers’ basketball presentation, and subsequently wowed by Houston’s use of analytics in its pitch.

Coach Byron Scott has been especially resistant to analytics.

Madsen provided Scott with a weekly breakdown of advanced statistics, but in the middle of last season Scott said those numbers had never influenced a basketball decision.

He said he listens to the information when its brought to him, but that he is “still just old school.”

The disconnect became apparent in February when Mitch Kupchak told KSPN/710 that analytics are “of most use to a coaching staff.” Scott, however, said he had no use for them.

“I think we’ve got a few guys who believe in them,” he said. “I’m not one of them.”