Pistons name Ken Catanella as Director of Basketball Operations


Those hoping the Pistons organization would start paying more attention to analytics are getting their wish. From a team press release:

Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that the team has named Ken Catanella as Director of Basketball Operations. Catanella joins the Pistons after spending several years with the NBA League Office.

In his role with the Pistons, Catanella will serve as the team’s salary cap specialist and direct Detroit’s analytics efforts.

Prior to his time with the league office, Catanella worked for the New Jersey Nets (2006-08) where he managed the Nets’ analytics and spearheaded the creation and implementation of their statistical scouting systems.

A graduate of Amherst College where he played collegiately, Catanella has worked on Wall Street providing analytics on stadium/arena financings for professional teams and valuing publicly traded companies.

I can’t find the specific comment, but I know reader and Detroit Bad Boys contributor Ben Gulker has made the point on a few occasions that the model for the Pistons’ front office should be similar to this. Essentially, Joe Dumars relying on his strengths, namely experience/respect among players and agents/etc., while also hiring numbers people who can say things like, “Hey, here’s some data that shows why you want to avoid paying Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva a combined $20ish million a year.”

Also (hat tip to Mike Payne), here’s an interview Catanella did with TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott in 2008 with more on his background.

I thought this line was interesting from Payne’s post:

Ken was involved with the decisions of the 2008 NBA draft, where the Nets selected Brook Lopez 10th, Ryan Anderson 21st, and Chris Douglas-Roberts 40th. Each of these players have outperformed their draft positioning, which could reflect the value of having a guy like Catanella on staff.

One of the things Joe Dumars has done pretty consistently well is exactly that — find players in the draft who out-perform their draft position (albeit usually after they’re on another team’s roster). Obviously though, minus the influence of an analytics department, Dumars has used very different methods for finding those players than Catanella may have used. I’m really interested to see how the two styles co-exist and work together.

Tags: Ben Gordon Charlie Villanueva Lawrence Frank