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. NBA will not move up Finals start date; June 4 locked in for Game 1

    May 25, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    The league had been exploring moving Game 1 up to June 2.

  2. LeBron James calls for non-violence after Brelo verdict

    May 25, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptfhodazn2mxnwvmm2zknmq1mdljytayytg0mtuynwi4 AP

    Cavaliers star says he will research case further before saying more

  3. Rumor: Paul Pierce might opt out of contract with Wizards, join Clippers

    May 25, 2015, 2:59 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards-Game Six Getty Images

    Doc Rivers decided to offer his mid-level exception money last summer to Spencer Hawes instead of Pierce. He’d like that one over.

  4. LeBron James carries load, makes enough plays in Cavaliers win (VIDEO)

    May 25, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Three Getty Images

    LeBron finished with 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists .

  5. Al Horford ejected after elbow to Matthew Dellavedova’s shoulder (VIDEO)

    May 24, 2015, 9:46 PM EDT

    Al Horford Al Horford

    A trend is becoming clear: Do not mess with Dellavedova.

  6. Mitch Kupchak: Lakers “don’t have time” to build through the draft

    May 24, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    Mitch Kupchak Mitch Kupchak

    The Lakers will be picking second in next month’s draft.

  7. Lil B says James Harden is officially under the Based God’s curse

    May 24, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    James Harden James Harden

    The rapper wants Harden to apologize for stealing his dance.

Featured video

Will Klay Thompson get a little help on James Harden?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Irving (7278)
  2. K. Love (6095)
  3. D. Howard (5559)
  4. S. Curry (5304)
  5. L. James (4713)
  1. D. Carroll (4380)
  2. P. Beverley (4208)
  3. K. Bryant (4001)
  4. K. Durant (3904)
  5. M. Speights (3802)