Sitting in a baseline chair at FedExForum a couple of hours before a recent game, John Hollinger was 10 minutes into a conversation — which had turned into a discussion on the numbers that help determine whether to foul in the final seconds when up three points — when he stumbled into the whole reason he's in Memphis in the first place.

"You don't have to guess at this stuff," said Hollinger, the Grizzlies' new vice president of basketball operations and one of the pioneers of basketball's advanced statistics movement. "You don't have to go with your gut, because you can go back and find the evidence. It's not just (fouling when up three). It's two-for-ones, other situations. You can go ahead and find that evidence and make a more informed decision. And that's really what it's all about, making the most informed decision you have."

Hollinger, the creator of the advanced statistic called the Player Efficiency Rating (more on that in a bit) and a longtime contributor to ESPN.com, was hired by the new Grizzlies ownership group late last year. It was something of an unorthodox move, though stats-heavy personnel in NBA front offices aren't new. Those who champion the ability to use data to hone how we evaluate players and teams called it a milestone. Those who are skeptical of its worth — Griz coach Lionel Hollins included, perhaps — remain just that.

But let's press pause for a moment. What exactly are we talking about when we discuss "advanced stats" or "advanced analytics" or anything like that?

In a nutshell, it's using numbers that go beyond just the usual points per game and shooting percentages to evaluate players or teams. Take the PER, the stat that Hollinger created nearly two decades ago. "It's a rating of a player's per-minute statistical effectiveness," he said, and the emphasis is on the "per-minute." Where traditional stats average players' contributions per game, the PER averages them per minute. It is also adjusted for the pace of the game, and individual years are adjusted based on a league average, to facilitate comparisons between seasons and eras.