Skip to content

NBA to install high-tech data cameras in all 29 arenas

Aug 23, 2013, 3:17 PM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game One Getty Images

Last season 15 NBA teams had partnered with STATS LLC to put special motion-tracking cameras that record every move a player makes several times a second. It’s a flood of information but it can be useful — the information can tell you how well a player shoots after two dribbles vs. a catch-and-shoot, then it can overlay that with a shot chart to show if the player is strong on the right or left side of the court. It can measure a player’s speed, leaping ability, where a rebound from a missed elbow jumper tends to go, pretty much anything and everything.

And now that system is  going to be in every NBA arena.

The league itself is stepping up to foot the bill, reports Zach Lowe at Grantland.

The NBA and an outside tech consultant have reached an agreement to install fancy data-tracking cameras in all 29 league arenas before the start of next season, according to several sources familiar with the matter…

The cameras cost about $100,000 per year, and the expense is one reason 15 teams hadn’t yet subscribed. Some of those teams were waiting in hopes the NBA would foot the bill, and the league has apparently decided to do so sooner than many of those teams expected. Installing the cameras in all 30 arenas will expand the data to include every game played, providing teams with a more complete and reliable data set. It also raises the possibility of the league using statistical nuggets from the cameras during television broadcasts. A few teams have used in-game data at halftime to show players specific examples of things like rebounds they didn’t contest aggressively, or evidence they weren’t running as hard as usual.

This information is great — I am a proponent of teams, GMs and coaches gathering as much data as possible from every source (cameras, advanced stats, traditional scouts, their own eyes) to help them make better decisions.

The challenge is twofold: 1) How to find useful information in the flood of data? 2) How to pass that information along to players in a digestible form?

Just like “big data” in business or the flood of stats in baseball (and increasingly football, soccer and other sports) NBA teams need to figure out how to mine this information for things they can use to both teach players and win games. Toronto has taken an interesting approach to this, but we are early in the “what do we do with this info?” phase. Some teams are far more adept at this than others.

The bigger challenge is making it work for players. While a handful of players such as Shane Battier can digest a lot of information and transform it into useful knowledge, most players do not. First, you don’t want a player thinking too much on the court, you need to get them information in a time and way that they can incorporate it and make it more natural. Second, a lot of players (like most people in the general population) are visual learners — it’s far more effective to show them video clips of what they did right or wrong, or what you want them to do, than it is to just tell them. You need to make it second nature so that if a player sees an elbow jumper being taken he moves instinctively to where the rebound is most likely to go.

It’s a process, but pretty soon teams are going to have a lot of data at their disposal.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Spurs reach deal to trade Tiago Splitter to Hawks, create cap space for LaMarcus Aldridge offer

    Jul 1, 2015, 12:03 PM EDT

    Tiago Splitter, LaMarcus Aldridge AP

    The Spurs can now offer Aldridge the chance to return to his native Texas and walk right onto a serious title contender.

  2. Report: Kobe Bryant was ‘very good’ in Lakers meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge, which went ‘really well’

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:26 AM EDT

    2015 BET Experience - Genius Talks Presented By AT&T Getty Images

    Lakers feel better about this one than previous meetings with Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard.

  3. Report: Heat, Goran Dragic agree to five-year deal worth $90 million

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:38 AM EDT

    Orlando Magic v Miami Heat Getty Images

    This was expected. But what happens with Dwyane Wade?

  4. Report: Bulls bringing back Mike Dunleavy on three-year deal worth $15 million

    Jul 1, 2015, 9:54 AM EDT

    Mike Dunleavy, James Harden AP

    Solid move by Chicago at an extremely reasonable price.

  5. Report: Cleveland Cavaliers reach out to veteran Tayshaun Prince

    Jul 1, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    Prince played better than you’d think last season, but he will turn 36 this coming year.

  6. Report: Kings aggressively pursuing Rajon Rondo

    Jul 1, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans

    Does putting Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl in close proximity to each other for an entire NBA season seem like a good idea?

  7. Report: Nets reach deals to re-sign Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young

    Jul 1, 2015, 2:12 AM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets- Game Four Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets- Game Four

    Lopez gets three years, $60 million; Young gets four years, $50 million.

  8. Report: Pacers pushing hard to sign Monta Ellis

    Jul 1, 2015, 1:58 AM EDT

    Monta Ellis Monta Ellis

    The Hawks, Nuggets and Kings are also interested.

  9. Report: Kevin Love to meet with Lakers later in week

    Jul 1, 2015, 12:13 AM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four Getty Images

    Love said he was committed to Cleveland, now he is flirting with other teams.

  10. Report: Wizards “increasingly optimistic” they can retain Paul Pierce

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards-Game Six Getty Images

    The Clippers want him, but they have other, larger concerns.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (4364)
  2. D. Wade (4208)
  3. J. Embiid (3719)
  4. L. James (3549)
  5. K. Love (3077)
  1. K. Bryant (2955)
  2. D. Cousins (2928)
  3. J. Butler (2571)
  4. T. Harris (2491)
  5. K. Durant (2365)