From an article in the Indystar:
Wayne Winston and Jeff Sagarin have just one NBA client for their basketball evaluation system, WINVAL. But it's the right one.
The Dallas Mavericks, who visit Conseco Fieldhouse tonight, have paid an annual six-figure fee for the service since the 2000-01 season. It so happens they have the NBA's second-best record since then, behind only San Antonio, and have the best record this season.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban helped inspire development of the system during a conversation with Winston when the Indiana Pacers played at Dallas in March 2000. Cuban was well aware of Winston's combined interest in math and sports because he had been a student in Winston's statistics class at Indiana University in 1981. Cuban wondered if there was a statistical method of evaluating talent beyond box scores and other obvious tools.
Winston and Sagarin don't claim full credit for the Mavericks' success but believe they have contributed.
After Sagarin crunches the numbers, Winston prepares a daily report for the Mavericks that is e-mailed to Cuban, coach Avery Johnson and assistant coach Del Harris.
"The first few years, they didn't listen much, but now they listen a lot," Winston said.
As proof of that, Winston had to interrupt an interview earlier this week to check an e-mailed question from Harris 90 minutes before one of their games.
"I'm a stats proponent, though I'm always careful to say statistical analyses are a tool, not the tool," Harris said. "We find (WINVAL) most often helpful in confirming some opinions that we're formulating subjectively, and also there are times when a statistical analysis will cause us to look in a direction that we might have overlooked."
The Mavericks listened during last season's playoffs when WINVAL determined that Marquis Daniels -- who was traded to the Pacers in the offseason -- had fared poorly in his matchups in games against San Antonio. He was held out of Game 7 in the second-round series against the Spurs, which Dallas won in overtime.
Daniels was back in the lineup in the third-round series with Phoenix, scoring nine points in the first game.
Winston believes WINVAL can explain why the Mavericks are thriving this season despite some questionable offseason moves. The acquisitions of Austin Croshere and Anthony Johnson from the Pacers have not worked out as they hoped, and they lost Daniels' 10-point average. But the improvement made by Devin Harris has negated that.
Last season, WINVAL rated Harris as a poor defensive player. This season he is the league's best defensive guard and sixth-best overall defender. He showed proof of that in last week's win over the Pacers in Dallas, when he shut down Jamaal Tinsley in the final period.
"Devin Harris has been amazing," Winston said. "He's figured it out."
Once again Cuban using technology, what a surprise. I know a lot of people don't like him. But I don't understand why more teams aren't open to try these sort of things. It's not like they can't afford it.
Looks like Avery might be right when he says Devin is the best defensive guard in the west. Or maybe he got it from winval!