Evan Wasch Rumors
“I’ll just say that from a data perspective we’re not seeing any evidence of that increased physicality that we’re hearing about,” said Evan Wasch, the NBA’s Executive Vice President of strategy and analytics. “So, for example, the number of personal, non-shooting fouls is actually up slightly. That’s inclusive of plays on the perimeter, handchecks, etc. And we’re not seeing an increase in incorrect non-calls, or so-called missed calls, in our game review data, which you would expect to see if defenders were committing more fouls that were going uncalled. So again, we’re monitoring it, and listening to feedback, but we’re not seeing any direct evidence in the data of that so-called increase in physicality.”
For the 2021-22 NBA season, the league is looking forward to getting back to normal. And for the seventh year, the duties of making the NBA schedule were entrusted to a team led by Tom Carelli, senior VP of game schedule management, and Evan Wasch, executive VP of basketball strategy and analytics. Carelli first started at the NBA in 1990, working with the league’s network broadcast partners before transitioning into scheduling full time. Wasch has been with the NBA since 2011. Together, the tandem spent time with The Athletic to discuss a variety of subjects related to the upcoming season’s schedule, with Carelli specializing in arena availability and national television and Wasch specializing in the analytics of the schedule, back-to-backs and travel. “Luckily, we have the help of this computer, a very powerful computer system that is literally revealing billions of possible schedules,” Wasch says. “It only shows us the ones that best meet the objectives that we set into it. … That’s the first draft, and then we iterate from there.”
The NBA also color codes potential back-to-backs in terms of potential miles and airport/hotel access between cities. The metric denotes green for regularly accepted, standard back-to-backs; yellow for an increased difficulty but still acceptable; and red for unacceptable and prohibited. “What we did a number of years ago, really when Tom and I started this process, is we went to color code every single potential back-to-back that there is, based on not just how many miles between the two cities but how difficult it is to get out of one,” Wasch said. “A great example is, historically, there were a lot of Portland-to-Denver back-to-backs scheduled, and teams just kept telling us how unbelievably difficult that was. Because it turned out that it’s a long flight, you lose an hour of time, the Denver airport is far from downtown, altitude, all that. So now that’s coded as a red back-to-back in our system, and the schedule won’t allow it.”
The national television part of the schedule is the backbone of the regular season. A source of optimism this upcoming season is that the league had a good problem of trying to maximize the breakthrough teams from the 2021 postseason. Exactly half of the league (15 teams) is scheduled to have 10 or more nationally televised games next season. “We probably have more marquee-type teams, I would say, to put into national TV windows than we’ve had in the years that I’ve been doing this,” Carelli said. “We have a lot of teams that are going to be exciting teams, are going to be teams that people want to watch, the players that people want to watch. A team like Atlanta and a team like Phoenix for example, who going into last year, probably wouldn’t have been in that basket. But now, you know, are going to be playing games on Christmas and featured in a lot of our tentpole games and featured in national TV games.”
When Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James said the person who created the play-in game should be fired, Evan Wasch’s phone began lighting up with calls and texts. Wasch is the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball strategy and analytics. He recently told Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes that he is not the play-in game inventor. It is an idea that predates his time at the NBA, and several people contributed to the idea. He is more like the curator of the play-in format, and despite James’ wishes, Wasch – or anyone else – won’t be fired. At least not for the play-in game idea.
More important than Koonin proposing the change, though, is that Evan Wasch, the NBA’s senior vice president of strategy and analytics, said the league was open to such an idea — as well as others that could reshape how the NBA’s regular season plays out, as well as when it does. “We certainly have no issue with reconsidering the calendar,” Wasch said. “To Steve’s point, you have to think about the other stakeholders. They need to get more comfortable with the Finals in August, rather than June, where traditionally the household viewership is a lot lower.”
“It’s a space we’ve dabbled in casually the past few years,” said Evan Wasch, the NBA’s head of basketball strategy and analytics. “There was some appetite from teams and broadcasters to explore the connected basketball. What we’ve done is try to put forth a plan that ultimately leads to a connected basketball down the road.” The league is interested in how the smart tech can provide data for fans during game broadcasts, such as ball speed and rotation, accuracy, shot arcs, etc. A chipped ball could more accurately identify when a ball went through a hoop. Timing and accuracy of calls could be improved beyond what the human eye can detect. Goaltending, tips, out of bounds, did the ball hit the rim, and possession accuracy all theoretically could be bolstered. “There are new metrics for fan engagements that could be pretty powerful,” Wasch said.