By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
This year, there will be six small military-grade cameras high in the rafters above the Barclays Center court, tracking every movement of the Nets’ players and their opponents.
These cameras made their debut in four NBA arenas (Dallas, Houston, Oklahoma City, San Antonio) for the 2009-10 season. By last season, the cameras were being used by half of the league’s teams, and last week the NBA announced that they would purchase cameras for the rest of the league.
The cost of the cameras is about $100,000 per year, and yes, it’s interesting to say the least that the Nets were willing to shell out nearly $4 million in luxury tax penalties to sign Alan Anderson, but not willing to fork over $100k to gain a technological edge on their competition.
While most teams are pretty secretive about how they use their data, the Toronto Raptors opened their books to Grantland’s Zach Lowe last year. Using the SportVu data, they re-constructed every defensive play, and added five “ghost” players who performed each defensive action in an ideal fashion.
The value of this is almost self-explanatory. The coaching staff can have a precise understanding of who is or isn’t executing their defensive scheme, and they can turn around and show the players exactly what should have been done.
The Raptors also constructed a “ghost” offense, and their analytics team concluded that the Raptors needed to shoot more three-pointers (threes are more efficient, in terms of points per shot, than anything besides a dunk or a layup).
At present, we have no idea how the Nets will use the cameras, but the mountain of data they assemble might be useful in determining how to best keep everyone involved in the team’s offense, or how to defend when Kevin Garnett is off the floor.
It’s interesting to note which other teams did not adopt the SportVU technology. Of the Eastern playoff teams, the Heat, Pacers, Bulls, and Hawks were not using SportVU. It seems not to have hurt the two-time defending champion Heat, or Indiana’s #1-ranked regular season defense. In the West, the Memphis Grizzlies reached the conference finals without the help of SportVU cameras.
For all the hard work the Toronto Raptors have put in, they won 34 games last year, and failed to make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. Of course, it’s possible that the payoff for the Raptors will come in the future.
Last year’s playoff teams that used SportVU were the Knicks, Celtics, Bucks, Spurs, Thunder, Warriors, and Rockets.