And don't think Hinkie studies only computer printouts. I met Hinkie last December at the All-College Classic. He was scouting,
which could get him kicked out of the numbers-geek union.
While watching the likes of Oklahoma's Blake Griffin and Gonzaga's Jeremy Pargo, here's what Hinkie looked for.
Does he talk to teammates? Does he talk to the crowd? Does he yell back at his coach? Does his coach baby him, and if so why? If he dunks off a lob, is it because the pass was perfect, or the play was a great setup, or did the defense go to sleep, or is the guy athletic enough to dunk without any of the above?
"What we try to do is draw a clearer picture,” Hinkie said. The data "trend will continue to be a part of our business, along with the judgment of experienced basketball evaluators and the unique chemistry building that coaches can create. This is yet another piece.”
You have to say that whatever the Rockets are using, it's working. Despite losing superstar center Yao Ming to a broken foot in February, the Rockets went 55-27 and fashioned a 22-game winning streak, the second-longest in NBA history.
Major-league sports are copycatters. Expect more and more NBA teams to dive into data.
Hinkie grew up in Marlow and played every sport available. He was the kind of great-character, so-so athlete found all over small-town Oklahoma. "From a talent standpoint, I'll get you beat,” Hinkie said analytically.
Hinkie thought about walking on to Kelvin Sampson's basketball team — "the fans would have loved me” — but instead focused on school, and no one can argue he made the wrong decision.
He always wanted to work in sports, even when thriving in big business, and went to Stanford because its MBA program had ties to major-league franchises. Hinkie helped out with the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans, working on new draft policies as it pertained to the pricing of players, and eventually made contacts with the Rockets and began commuting even before graduating Stanford.
Hinkie is the kind of thinker every NBA franchise needs. I hope someone is analyzing this stuff for the Sonics. For instance, Peja Stojakovic's five-year, $64-million contract with the Hornets. That's a lot of money for a bad back, great shooter and all. Wouldn't you want someone to tell you just how valuable is Peja, just how much tread a 29-year-old with a bad health record is likely to have?
Here's what Sam Hinkie and the NBA's other stat-geeks have figured out. Data is your friend.