We live in a world where every step, dollar, click and calorie is being tracked. We can’t even walk down the street without our smartphone setting off a GPS signal that track where we were and where we are headed for anyone that cares to see. Subsequently, we analyze all of these statistics one way or another and take steps to change certain aspects of our businesses or personal lives to increase the ROI on the product or service we’ve purchased.
This concept is now being played out in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks, owned by tech guru and eccentric billionaire, Mark Cuban.
This season, Mark Cuban has built his Dallas Mavericks team around player analytics that were collected over the course of the 2013-14 season using SportVU cameras that were installed in every arena in the NBA. SportVU cameras tracked the movement of every player that stepped on the court every night in every city. They tracked the speed in which a player traveled down the court on fast break opportunities, the speed in which a player drove the lane for a layup past a defender, the amount of touches each player had in the front-court, field goal percentage from catch-and-shoot opportunities and even the length of time that a player had possession of the ball while on offense, showing if point guards are facilitating the game at a faster speed and getting more players involved in a pass happy offense or if a certain player is being a ball hog. If you can think of the statistic, the SportVU cameras tracked it.
Using all the data compiled by the NBA, Cuban and Team President & General Manager, Donnie Nelson, signed free agents that ‘play well together’ as defined by the statistics and analytics that were gathered. All the newly signed players fit into the Maverick’s new ‘analytical plan’ and enabled the team to stay under the salary cap and not accruing a tax for going over. The creation of this team is what now amounts to the NBA’s version of ‘Money Ball.’ (Some of the statistics that were captured can be found at stats.nba.com.)
The traditional NBA game is changing. Players are becoming bigger, faster and stronger than they ever were and at a more rapid pace. Being able to tap into a resource to track the mobility and skill level of players in specific situations can take a team on the cusp, over the hill. The modern game of basketball is being evaluated with a modern approach, however, without a classic coaching philosophy and team comradery, all the technology could be for naught. Like all businesses, there is more at play than just analytics. Teams still require players with other traits; honesty, awareness, good character and leadership, all things that a camera can’t track.