Former missile tracking technology revolutionizing NBA stats

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People who dismiss the NBA’s statistical revolution as a bunch of nerds in front of computers with Google-like algorithm don’t get the real picture.

The reality is that a stats-loving coach who incorporates them into formulating his game plans is about to win an NBA title in Miami. The reality is pretty much every team has an advanced stats guy in house.

And those stats are going to the next level now thanks to former missile tracking technology that can literally track a player’s every move on the court. Teams are already paying for the next level of advanced statistics and the early results have wowed statheads at places like the SLOAN conference at MIT.

There’s a great story on the technology at fastcodedesign.com (go read the entire thing).

Now, SportVU systems hang from the catwalks of 10 NBA arenas, tiny webcams that silently track each player as they shoot, pass, and run across the court, recording each and every move 25 times a second. SportVU can tell you not just Kevin Durant’s shooting average, but his shooting average after dribbling one vs. two times, or his shooting average with a defender three feet away vs. five feet away. SportVU can actually consider both factors at once, plus take into account who passed him the ball, how many minutes he’d been on the court, and how many miles he’d run that game already.

A perfect example of this principle is in how SportVU can track assists. Traditionally, the NBA will award a player with the assist if they pass the ball to a player who immediately scores a field goal. It’s a human calculation, a judgment call based more on feel than science (much like a foul). Aside from clear issues of accurate counts, think about everything that generalized “assists” stat misses: What if the best passer in the world is on a team of people who can’t shoot? They’re making the correct play but getting no credit because they’re surrounded by mediocrity. But put this playmaker on a good team, and that team might excel.

SportVU can track these potential assists, and even track the person who passes it to the person who makes the assist. Now scale this level of assessment to every single skill in basketball, and our view of players could change as we know it.

The next level of challenge for coaches is to turn this data into something the players can assimilate. It’s one thing to tell a player “Kobe Bryant shoots X percent less if you force him to go left for two dribbles into a pull-up jumper” and another for a player to really grasp it and apply it in a game.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra (among others) tries to put these tips in video packages — don’t tell the player, show the player. Most of us are visual learners, if we see it we process it faster.

But the revolution is here to stay, and with companies like SportVU there is only going to be more and more data out there to mine for an edge. And teams will pay and do just about anything to get an edge.

Luka Doncic fined $10k for kicking ball into stands (video)

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Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic got ejected a few days ago for kicking the ball into the crowd, his second technical foul of the game.

That outburst also got him fined.

NBA release:

Dallas Mavericks guard-forward Luka Dončić has been fined $10,000 for kicking the game ball into the spectator stands, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Dončić was assessed his second technical foul and ejected, occurred with 3:00 remaining in the third quarter of the Mavericks’ 111-99 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 19

Players usually get fined $25,000 for throwing something into the stands. But sometimes, they get just a $10,000 fine for that, seemingly if it appears they didn’t intend for the object to reach the crowd.

Did Doncic mean to kick the ball as far as he did?

Who knows? But it seems he got the benefit of the doubt here.

Mike D’Antoni: Not right NBA wouldn’t allow Rockets to trade Carmelo Anthony yesterday

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The Rockets signed Kenneth Faried, importantly to them, before their game against the 76ers yesterday. With Clint Capela injured, Houston needed another big against Joel Embiid.

But the Rockets had to open a roster spot for Faried. Their clear preference was trading Carmelo Anthony. Failing that, they’d release James Nunnally.

Houston agreed to deal Anthony to the Bulls but couldn’t complete the trade because the league office was closed, as is the norm on weekends and holidays (in this case, Martin Luther King Day). So, the Rockets dropped Nunnally, eating the remaining salary on his 10-day contract, increasing their luxury-tax bill and costing him the opportunity to play for a team that could use him.

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni, via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I don’t think it’s right,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said of having to terminate Nunnally. “There’s ways (the league) could have facilitated it.”

What happened to the Rockets was fair in that the rules were clear and applied equally to each team.

But I agree with D’Antoni. Games don’t stop for weekends and holidays. The league office shouldn’t, either.

Teams should have more ability to change their rosters on the fly, because games come so quickly. Halting business for weekends and holidays is antiquated. This is a global, multi-billion-dollar operation now.

The NBA can afford to employ enough people who review trades not to overwork any of them. It’d create a better product and make the sport operate more smoothly.

Stephen Curry slips and falls on wide-open fastbreak, gets ball back, air-balls 3-pointer (video)

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See, the Warriors are fallible.

Though Stephen Curry‘s mishaps coming during a blowout win undercuts the point.

Jaren Jackson Jr. bullies Nikola Mirotic with dunk on him (video)

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Yes, the Grizzlies lost to the Anthony Davis-less Pelicans by 20 last night. Results like that are why there’s thought Marc Gasol could leave Memphis.

But at least plays like this Jaren Jackson Jr. dunk on Nikola Mirotic provide hope for the Grizzlies’ future.

Jackson is a skilled 3-point shooter and rim-protector. Add a mean streak inside offensively, and the rookie could really take off.