Daryl Morey, co-chair of the MIT Sloan Sports Conference, has been at the forefront of the analytics movement in the NBA since he got hired as general manager of the Rockets in 2007, and everything about Houston's roster the last few years reflects Morey's analytical background. Things like building a roster around a superstar – James Harden – that prominently shoots 3s, layups, and free throws; leading the NBA in 3 point attempts per 100 possessions; and turning his D-League affiliate (Rio Grande Valley Vipers) into a basketball version of Pinky and the Brain's mad scientist experimental lab by shooting 45 3s per game, are all analytical based decisions that Morey has taken the lead on.
In fact, almost everyone on this Rockets' roster can be explained by analytics: Chandler Parsons' emergence was Morey's understanding in the value of 2nd round picks, Jeremy Lin's unique contract was his belief in point guards that get into the paint, and the Omer Asik and Dwight Howard signings were Morey realizing that he had to defend the paint on the other end (though in Howard's case, being a top 10 player outright was admittedly a bigger factor). Even the bench, with its plethora of 3 point shooters and slashers, was created with analytics in mind. Everyone's place on this team can be accounted for with advanced metrics. Except for Patrick Beverley.
Beverley, for the season, is shooting 39.7% from the field (not good) and 36.4% from 3 (acceptable), doesn't get into the paint much, and hands out less than 3 assists per game. However, the reasons Beverley is playing nearly 32 minutes per game for a top team in the Western Conference is because what he excels at can't be quantified. And that's being a thorn in the side of the other team's point guard.
The two most recent examples of Beverley being a professional gnat are the games against the Clippers and Warriors. In both games he fouled out late in the game and only had 7 points combined, but he made life hard for both Chris Paul and Stephen Curry. Against Paul, Beverley held CP3 to 5-of-13 shooting for the night and did everything possible to get Paul to fight him. In fact, after the Clippers-Rockets regular season games, which have been intense, I'd bet a pretty penny that a playoff series between LAC and Houston will result in at least 2 confrontations due to Beverley being pest. It's just what he does.
Curry, on the other hand, managed to go 8-of-15 against Beverley, but it took overtime for Curry to get off those 15 shots (compared to the 18 shots he averages per game) and led to Hardwood Paroxysm posting this video. Watch Beverley, #2, the whole time:
His job the entire Golden State game was to make Curry work harder than normal. Beverley picked him up full court a lot of the game, never let him get more than arm's length away, and basically set up a tent inside his jersey for the evening. At the end of that game, Curry looked gassed and Beverley deserves the credit for that.
Advanced metrics do an excellent job of quantifying a player's offensive value but still lacks on the defensive end, particularly on the perimeter. We've learned that 3 pointers and layups are good to shoot and bad to let the other team shoot, but we haven't totally figured out what kind of impact the things Beverley does has on a game. Often, guys like Beverley generate coach speak such as, "he does the dirty work," "he's old school," or "he plays the game the right way," and other cliches that I'd imagine make Morey bang his head against a wall.
As someone in Morey that believes strongly in the importance of advanced metrics, it makes little sense that the Rockets rely so heavily on someone like Beverley. And yet they do. They need him. They need him to annoy Chris Paul and Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook in the playoffs. They need him to earn those two extra possessions per game just by being around the ball like a moth to a flame.. And they absolutely need him if they want to win a title.
At some point in May or June, Patrick Beverley is going to catch a pass for an open 3 in the 4th quarter of a critical playoff game and he's going to let it fly. And when that happens just know that whether or not it goes in will have nothing to do with analytics and everything to do with Beverley being one of the biggest pains in the @$$ in the league.