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No single event has played a more important role in the NBA's analytics evolution than when Rockets owner Leslie Alexander brought in Daryl Morey to run basketball operations.

It was a bold move. Morey had been a little-known VP with the Boston Celtics, where he did analytics work on the business and basketball sides, when Houston hired him in April 2006. (He wouldn't co-found the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference until the following year.) No team had previously turned over its operations to someone such as Morey. Only one other team has since hired a general manager who made his reputation in analytics. In 2013, the Philadelphia 76ers hired Sam Hinkie, Morey's right-hand man, away from the Rockets.

Morey's now regarded as the NBA's leading proponent of analytics, but the GM gives credit to Alexander, calling him "the pioneer in bringing analytics to the NBA as the first team to fully commit to using it as a primary tool in all decision-making."

Morey and the Rockets employed a staff of data experts well before most other teams had made a single hire. Despite seeing some of their top people move on, "the Rockets continue to increase investment in analytics people and systems to maintain a differentiation in this area," Morey told ESPN.com, "especially as XY SportVU data comes online and we try to stay ahead of the competition."

Earlier in February, TNT analyst Charles Barkley called Morey "one of those idiots who believe in analytics" and questioned whether advanced stats had truly played a part in the acquisition of James Harden. In fact, the trade for Harden was the signature analytics-driven move of Morey's tenure, as Houston spent years accumulating assets via "arbitrage" moves and then grabbed Harden from Oklahoma City when the Thunder hesitated to offer their sixth man a max contract. Based on Harden's per-minute stats, Morey recognized his potential to become a superstar in a larger role.

While the influence of analytics on the personnel side has long been obvious, it's only in the past three seasons that the Rockets have played the game on the court so differently from everyone else. More than any other team, with the blessing of coach Kevin McHale, they've emphasized high-value shots at the rim and beyond the 3-point line. According to NBA.com/Stats, 74 percent of their shots this season have either been 3s or at the rim, far higher than that of any other team.

Source : http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/great-analytics-rankings/story?id=29246081

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