When sports are discussed, it's usually mostly about skill. Basketball, like other sports, is seen as a brawn over brains environment. Lately the NBA has been more of "geek central", however, with teams being more involved with numbers and statistics to help them achieve success.
One of the many examples has been the San Antonio Spurs throughout the years. For example, the Spurs relied on the corner 3-point shot when it was viewed as the "hardest shot in basketball" that you shouldn't focus on the offensive end, but now other teams are following.
The reason why others are following suit is because statistics are backing up San Antonio's method of madness here that the corner 3-point shot is the most efficient shot on the court. Teams now want more statistics to help them out, so the perfect place to be was at the recent MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference and this year, Spurs G.M. R.C. Buford spoke at the event.
He also gave us insights on why head coach Gregg Popovich likes the stats and there's an interesting note by Peter Dizikes in his article for the MIT News Office that may shed light on San Antonio's success this year.
“[Popovich] got interested when the data supported him,” said Buford, who also made clear that the Spurs have used analytics to try to upgrade their defense this season.
The Spurs have seen an improved success this season on the defensive end while running more on the offensive end with more possessions. While many may point to certain players being a huge factor for the Spurs' re-emergence on the defensive end, the team has been consistent with their whole rotation when the team has been healthy.
It seems the Spurs are again making breakthroughs in basketball, even in the numbers game. The balance they've had and the successful "tweaking" of game plan for Popovich has proved to be successful as the team is still contending for a title while their "Big 3" seem to be aging (or in the case of Tim Duncan, getting younger).
The stats have also seemed to help Pop tweak his coaching while not sacrificing his philosophy on the court of being a defensive minded team to put the game away. If the Spurs keep this trend up, we may see them in contention even when the "Big 3" and Popovich walk away from the game.