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Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Recap 2018

Daryl Morey Barack Obama

Houston Rockets

Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Recap 2018

There were some interesting Rockets notes coming out of the 2018 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

While the big story of this year’s Sloan conference was the appearance of former President Barack Obama, there were as usual a few nuggets of information and anecdotes from the past that will appeal to Houston Rockets die-hards.

In the “Inventing Modern Basketball” panel (watch), Rockets general manager Daryl Morey recounted the words of former Assistant Sam Hinkie, who compared the passing of the ball to Yao Ming in the low post to “getting 100 in skee-ball.” Shane Battier’s post-entry passing ability was one of the primary reasons that the Rockets traded for him in 2006 and he quickly became the Rockets’ most effective weapon in delivering the ball to Yao.

Rockets EVP of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas made a relatively rare public appearance alongside a few other NBA front office executives in the panel, “Draft Day Analytics.” He shed light on one Rockets draftee that didn’t work out, Terrence Jones, summarizing that basketball simply wasn’t important enough to Jones and his development suffered as a result.

In contrast, Rosas was effusive in his praise for Clint Capela, who went from looking “terrible” at the NBA World Hoops Summit in 2014 to becoming a key part of a #1 ranked team just a few years later. Rosas remembered being surprised that Capela wasn’t drafted by Toronto, who held the 20th pick. Instead, the Raptors selected Bruno Caboclo, who was famously “two years away from being two years away.” Luckily for the Rockets, Capela fell to the 25th pick and the rest is history.

Speaking of Rockets history, this year’s conference featured Chris Bosh, the long-pursued power forward who never ended up joining the Rockets despite a couple of high profile attempts. Morey admitted that at one point the Rockets were “obsessed” with adding Bosh and his decision to remain with the Miami Heat seemed to still cause lingering regret for the Rockets GM.

On a non-basketball note, one thing that’s interesting to see at Sloan is the wide range of passions that Morey has beyond the Rockets – such as his musical, “Small Ball” and his love of esports. Five years ago, Daryl was pushing us as student organizers to include esports in the conference, but we remained skeptical. As it turns out, Daryl was ahead of his time as esports is now a major industry and the Rockets even have their own League of Legends team, Clutch Gaming.

While Morey is a man of many interests, it’s clear that nothing would make him happier than the Rockets converting their historic regular season success into a deep playoff run this summer. At last year’s Sloan Conference, Morey felt that the Rockets had their best chance to win a championship of all the years he has been GM.

This year, he must like the odds even more.

Carl Fudge is a former MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference organizer and long time Rockets fan.

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