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Nets analytics-driven strategies impress even veteran Blake Griffin

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Brooklyn Nets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

In his interview with TrueHoop this week, Mike D’Antoni lamented that he didn’t have adequate analytics during the “7 Seconds or Less” era in the early 2000’s when he and Steve Nash revolutionized the game.

“I’ve told Steve a thousand times—we didn’t go far enough with our approach because we didn’t have analytics,” D’Antoni told Tom Haberstroh. “Everybody was killing us about how we were playing. Too many threes, they said. Live by the 3, die by the 3, blah blah blah. If I hear that one more time, I’m going to throw up.”

The Suns success, of course, took place during the infancy of analytics as a tool for coaches, GMs and players.

Now, as Nash’s assistant, that’s no longer a problem. The Nets have fully embraced analytics, perhaps as much as any team has. It’s as much a part of their culture as performance or development ... and they’re all integrated. Ask Blake Griffin, who’s been around for a while.

“These things are here to help us. So if you use analytics the right way, it absolutely is helpful,” Griffin said in a virtual talk with about 1,000 students attending STEMDAY, a team-sponsored event aimed at using basketball to encourage science, technology, engineering and math. “I think we do do that. There’s a lot of information out there, but you have to find what’s most useful to you, to your team, and utilize it like that. So I’m definitely a fan of analytics.”

One thing about the Nets and analytics that Griffin noticed was its real-time application.

“It can be anything from a play that we might’ve messed up or a play we just ran that we feel we can get something else on it,” Griffin said, as reported by Brian Lewis of the Post. “I’ll … watch my clips, just to see if I had a bad turnover, if I missed a shot. Or even if I made a shot, sometimes you just want to take a different look at it, because from a different perspective you can see things a little more clearly. Sometimes when you’re in the game and everything’s moving so quickly, you miss things.”

Indeed, the Nets aren’t just dealing with issues abstractly. Logan MacPhail, the Nets director of scouting analytics, sits not far from Nash on the Nets bench, armed with an iPad and real time data. (MacPhail is part of the four-generation sports family that includes two Hall of Fame New York baseball executives.)

Nash will then use that stream of data and MacPhail’s input to draw up plays on another iPad, which at least in Nets World has replaced the white board. As Lewis writes, MacPhail will work with the coaches pregame, postgame, halftime. The Nets also develop their own internal apps.

“It’s great. What’s really cool is Nash uses an iPad to draw up our plays. He has this software where each player has a little thing and you can move the ball around,” Griffin noted. “Then once he does, he can hit play and then it’ll actually do it for him, so you can watch it on the screen. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that. I thought it was pretty cool that all this technology is being used more in games in real time.”

MacPhail represents just one part of the Nets analytics effort. Glenn DuPaul, who the Nets hired at the end of the Billy King era to run analytics, has a different role. He along with scouts and the team capologist are consulted about how free agents, trade targets and draft prospects would fit into the Nets system.

“Around the draft, trade, free agency, when we’re looking to acquire a player, giving our scouts or general managers information on who we should target, who we should require, why we value them,” DuPaul told NETSTEM. Indeed, DuPaul will provide Sean Marks with a range of salary projections on a potential free agent using comparative data.

And if necessary, the data can be exchanged between HSS Training Center and scouts in the field, DuPaul said. Referring to MacPhail, DuPaul noted, “when we have a scout out at the NCAA Tournament game he’s interacting with, with some of the stats we’ve built to input information on players that might someday become a Net.”

The Nets have among the largest analytics staffs in the NBA, including those assigned to develop apps, integrate video, etc. The iPad, everyone on the team knows, is your friend.