We’ve talked about this a few times recently — new high-tech Sports VU cameras are going into all 29 NBA arenas this year. These cameras track every movement on the court by every player and send them to a computer for processing that opens up a world of potential data. You can measure and compare just about anything. Who is faster in the open court with the ball, John Wall or Russell Westbrook? How well does Stephen Curry shoot with a defender three feet away from him? Two feet? Off two bounces rather than catch and shoot?
It’s a wealth of information and the biggest question is how teams will digest it and turn it into game plan actions they can use.
Shane Battier, a guy known for using advanced stats more than most (remember the Michael Lewis piece when Battier was in Houston about how he covered Kobe Bryant?) told Cooper Moorhead of Heat.com it will take a while for this information to trickle down to the players.
“It’ll be fascinating. I still think it’ll be a while before you understand what makes Tony Parker different from John Wall in the open court. You’ll have the data, or closeout speed or thing that you measure . . . it’s really infinite, the things that you can measure. It will take a while to trickle down to how players learn the game. Guys have a pretty good understanding of what’s a good shot and what’s a bad shot now, but no one is teaching that in youth basketball. They’re still teaching the same old. It’s going to be a while until that trickles down to the grass roots level and a coach understands this is what you need to do to make it to the next level.”
Do you think at this point it’ll be important for players to educate themselves on the new stuff? To understand how the league perceives them.
“It’s an edge and players always look for an edge. Be it they work a little harder in the weight room to get a little stronger, whether they take 100 extra jumpers a day to get an edge on their jump shot… It’s just another edge, another way to get ahead of the competition. But obviously you can make more money the more edges you have.
“It’ll take time for someone to take the data and make it digestible for players to understand, ‘OK, this is what I really need to work on.’ The game is not changing. It doesn’t change the way it’s understood, described and analyzed. The game is still going to be the same, it’s just going to be a different nuance.”
How teams use this data is going to be key and the 14 teams that already had it in their building had a leg up. For example, the Toronto Raptors already have a program in place that tracks where they want their defenders to be (as ghosts on the image) vs. where they were during a specific sequence.
The question then is how to use it as a teaching tool?
Most players (like most people) are visual learners — don’t tell me to force Kobe left into pull up jumpers, show them video of guys that did it and were successful that way. Those images have a bigger impact.
It’s going to be fun to watch this unfold over the next five years, and beyond.
By the way, go read the entire article where Battier talks about his golf game and shooting slump in the Finals.