The Collision of Hoops, Stats, and Technology

If you’re into any of those things mentioned in the headline, do yourself a favor and make sure you bookmark Zack Lowe’s Grantland piece on the Toronto Raptors use of SportsVU, a $100,000 per year camera-tracking system that records every movement on the basketball court during games and turns it into a series of geometric data coordinates.

Toronto has taken that data and written some interesting programs around it. For example, its program can not only recognize the action unfolding on the floor, but can also recognize the individual skill set of the NBA players involved.

So, the program can show how the play actually unfolded on the court and then overlay a ghost version of the Toronto players, factoring in their unique abilities, to see the ideal version of that play unfold as well.

For example, the video above is Jason Kidd hitting a 3-pointer off a Carmelo Anthony pick-and-roll in the first quarter of Toronto’s February 22 home win over the Knicks. The Knicks are in blue, the ball is represented by a yellow dot, and the Toronto players are colored white. You’ll also notice the Toronto ghost players as well.

Toronto is able to use this system to better determine what should have happened in a game versus what actually happened and use that information to adjust coaching strategy, understand what players are playing below their ability, etc.

It gets really interesting during a discussion of LeBron James and how he is so good that he actually outplays his ghost counterpart in real life. Seriously, just go read Lowe’s piece it’s one of the most fascinating things I’ve dug into in a loooong time.

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