Q&A: Mark Cuban

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Saturday, February 14, 2015 with No comments
Courtesy of KRLD-FM 105.3

What’s your reaction to Charles Barkley analytics debate?
Cuban: He’s half right; the Mavs have been using analytics since the day I bought the team. The fun story behind that is I took graduate level statistics at Indiana University, and after I graduated, never thought about it again, and then after I had bought the team, I’m watching Jeopardy and who should be on but my old stats prof. And then a month later, we’re in Indiana playing against the Pacers, and who should be in the stands screaming “Hi” to me, my stats prof, Wayne Winston. I met with him and pretty much hired him then. We started using advanced plus/minus to help us, and it started to help us quite a bit…it eventually helped us come back from a 2-0 deficit in the playoffs against Houston, based on what the numbers said. Putting JJ (Barea) in the mix in the championship run had a lot to do with analytics. What happens is when a couple teams are using it, you have an advantage, but now that everyone is using it, that advantage is pretty much gone, and that’s where analytics has gotten to now.
Some say Monta Ellis isn’t an analytics fit, how do you work around that?
Cuban: Just by knowing basketball, knowing your team, and knowing what you are trying to accomplish. Guys get better when they are surrounded by better players. Guys get better when they have good coaching. Guys get better as they grow and mature in the league, they realize it’s not about me and it’s about winning. It really didn’t matter what the analytics were because we knew that we could make him better. You use analytics as a way to identify guys, and you use the eye test to confirm or not whether they can be an asset to your team, and vice versa, you use the eye test to say this guy looks good, but then you see in the numbers if you are missing anything. So they have to go hand in hand.
What’s the tiebreaker?
Cuban: Talking to the players. Talking to Tyson, talking to Monta, talking to Dirk, you played against them, what are the things I don’t know about them? What can they do to help our team? Then you talk to your coaches, and then you watch film, look at the numbers and see if anything stands out.
Why do you think this debate has gotten so personal between people who defend these numbers and those who say it’s the eyeball test?
Cuban: I don’t think it’s gotten that personal. Here’s where this has changed the most, the turnover of NBA owners. When I first got into the league, it was a lot of old school guys who didn’t like me, I was the young guy who had no clue what he was doing, just trying to make a name for himself. Now the old school guys have sold their teams to hedge fund guys, data driven guys, guys who understand numbers, understand investing, and understand trying to hire the best people possible in order to win. These guys are much smarter in that area, and because of that, they bring in GMs who are data driven, as well.
With Barkley’s approach, could he be a good NBA GM?
Cuban: There’s no such thing as a singular GM anymore. Basketball is so global now; it’s about who’s on the staff, and who can help you. You want as many different viewpoints as possible to bring in all the information you have available to you, and then it’s about coming together and making a group decision.
Did you know Karl Malone, back before he was drafted, wanted to be a Maverick?
Cuban: Yeah, because I played against him at the premiere club, and it killed me. I knew it, but that was before my time. I was just trying to make it on my own back then.
When are you playing Kevin Durant?
Cuban: Hey, he’s backed off; he’s not willing to play me. I don’t blame him.