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NBA D-League to begin using wearable analytic devices on players to track in-game performance

Feb 14, 2014, 7:47 PM EDT

d-league all-star

NEW ORLEANS – The NBA held its annual Technology Summit on Friday, where players, owners, and captains of industry get together for off-the-record panel discussions in front of a large audience covering a variety of topics.

The most entertaining discussion this year covered advanced statistics, and featured Charles Barkley, Rockets GM Daryl Morey, Mavs owner Mark Cuban and others in a spirited conversation about the volume of data available and how best to use it.

It was also a timely topic, given the news that the D-League will be upping the stakes in this area by having its players wear devices during games that will provide additional data for coaches, GMs, and even team health professionals to process.

From the official release:

“The small devices, which weigh one ounce, are worn by players under their jersey with either a small disc attached to their chest, or inside an undergarment pouch located between the shoulder blades.” …

“During games the devices will be beneficial for maximizing player performance and health by generating individual player data on cardiovascular exertion, musculoskeletal intensity, fatigue, rate of acceleration and deceleration, number of jumps, and distance run and direction, among other things.” …

“As the research and development arm of the NBA, the NBA D-League is the perfect place to unveil innovative performance analytic devices in-game,” said NBA D-League President Dan Reed.  “The revolutionary data captured gives teams a new opportunity to maximize on-court productivity while optimizing player health and peak player performance – key elements to player development and team success.”

Almost two-thirds of the league’s NBA teams use these devices during practices, but it hasn’t been elevated to in-game use just yet.

The SportVU cameras that are currently installed in all 29 arenas track a whole host of additional data, and are obviously an incredible tool for coaches and talent evaluators. But the wearables could be a game-changer on the health side.

Imagine a player whose data before an injury shows levels of cardiovascular exertion and jumping ability at a consistent point during peak periods of activity. After the injury, if a player is not yet back at 100 percent, a team can see exactly how far away he is from being all the way there, and the data will quantify it in specific numbers by detailing those areas of sub-par performance.

Members of the panel disagreed on how best to use advanced analytical data in terms of player evaluation. But it would be hard to argue that information geared toward ensuring a player’s long-term health would be anything but beneficial to everyone concerned.

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