SBD/October 28, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Embracing Advanced Analytics Movement With Strong Backing From Adam Silver

Silver, who becomes Commissioner on Feb. 1, is a strong analytics proponent
The NBA opens its season tomorrow, and the "information surrounding the game has never been as rich, detailed or impactful," according to Rick Maese of the WASHINGTON POST. It is "not like the Moneyball divide that split much of the baseball world; most in basketball have embraced detailed statistical analysis." One of the movement’s "most ardent backers is incoming NBA commissioner Adam Silver, whose interest in analytics dates from his days as a law student" at the Univ. of Chicago. Silver said, "Clearly now, throughout the league, there is a cross section in terms of how they value it, but I think there is a sense now from every team that at least it’s a factor, in considering lineups and considering players, and some teams use it more than others." Maese noted, "Roughly three-quarters of the league’s 30 teams have full-time staffers charged with dissecting numbers -- most have clunky titles, such as Senior Quantitative Analyst, Basketball Information Coordinator or Manager of Basketball Analytics." Teams regard "much of their philosophy as proprietary." They "won’t say how many data analysts they employ, what metrics they value most or how they use the information." The average NBA game is "decided by just a couple of points, so even the smallest edge is still an edge." The league for the first time this season will "station cameras in the rafters of all 30 arenas to help produce more data than ever before." In short, "everything on the court can now be quantified." The NBA begins this season with 21 GMs "who never played the game professionally." Fourteen of the "past 15 GM hires have been non-players, and most are widely praised for embracing analytics." The new crop of execs "are salary-cap savvy, highly invested in technology and devour all types of data" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/26).

WATCH YOUR EVERY MOVE: The WASHINGTON POST's Maese noted data firm Stats will use the rafter-located cameras "to quantify and analyze every movement of every game throughout the entire season." Fifteen teams last season "independently paid for cameras stationed above the court to track their players' movements." The NBA in the offseason "took the lead and made the push to outfit all 30 NBA arenas with SportVU technology." Every team will "receive a base package of data and analysis, and some will pay for a deeper dive and more video integration." Teams will have access to the information "almost in real-time" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/26). In DC, Michael Lee noted Silver has "embraced new technologies with a keen interest in how a data-driven approach will affect fans." Silver said, "One of my big pushes over the last several years is about making more of this statistical data available to our fans. Because there increasingly seems to be a real hunger by our fans to get deeper into the game and in many ways, we’ve lagged behind other sports, certainly baseball." He added of brokering a league-wide deal, "We arranged for teams to get a basic set of data, but then it’s up to the teams if they want to supplement the basic package with additional data and of course, it’s left to the teams to decide what’s the best way is to crunch that data. And that’s called proprietary information that they view as highly confidential and don’t necessarily share with anyone else" (, 10/27).
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