Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Hedo Turkoglu has been dominating the headlines the past few days around the blogosphere and not for the right reasons. Whether it’s been his inability to produce at a satisfactory rate vis-à-vis his hefty contract, his indifference to show up and do his best on the job, and a myriad of other things, Turkoglu has gone from being a darling with the Orlando Magic to being a vagabond with the Toronto Raptors in less than a span of 12 months. Ouch.
Rather than try to decipher what makes Turkoglu tick from a psychological standpoint, I wanted to check up on him and see how he’s been performing for the Raptors on the court, not off it. To do that, I interviewed Keith Boyarsky and Alex Rucker, two individuals that work as consultants for Toronto and perform quantitative data analysis. They’re the guys that operate behind the scenes and crunch the numbers for, most notably, Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo and head coach Jay Triano.
Keith and Alex dish the goods on Turkoglu for me, providing a unique perspective on a player that has impacted two franchises in different ways.
It’s ironic that, a few weeks after the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference took place, I’m conducting an interview with you and Keith. The casual NBA fan may not be aware of this but more statistical analysts — the diverse representation at the Sloan Conference, which included front office personnel from a bevy of NBA teams confirmed this — are being hired to serve a role with their respective franchises. Usually it’s a consulting gig but it differs from team to team, of course. Could you briefly explain how both of you joined the Toronto Raptors as consultants?
Alex: I’ve known Jay Triano for many years, having worked with him briefly at Simon Fraser University. When he became the head coach of the Toronto Raptors, he was eager to take advantage of the quantitative analysis that was becoming increasingly prevalent at the pro level. He talked to more than one analyst last summer to see what was out there and get a sense of how it could help him and his coaching staff. He asked me to put together a presentation for his coaching staff and I was thrilled to be in a position to help him out. I’d been working closely with a colleague, Keith Boyarsky, doing what I felt was some really useful and actionable basketball analysis. We took a close look at what Toronto did last year. The Raptors brought us up to Toronto for a series of meetings with coaches and management and it took off from there.
Keith: As a big NBA fan with a background in engineering and computer science, I had been working for 4 or 5 years on the side, developing a suite of software tools to take advantage of new data sources. I met Alex through a friend of a friend at Summer League a few years ago, and we started discussing the various things we had worked on, or were working on, in terms of NBA analysis. It was clear that, while we were approaching things from different angles, we had a similar overall view of the game. When Alex talked with Jay last summer, we learned that the Raptors were interested in the sort of stuff we were doing, and our relationship with the team developed from there.