grantland article on big data and the nba
Old 02-06-2014, 02:32 PM   #1 (permalink)

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Default grantland article on big data and the nba


On the quest for the perfect analytical device, the first discovery should always be the inescapable fact that there is no perfect analytical device. There is no singular metric that explains basketball any more than there is a singular metric that explains life. It’s hard not to improperly elevate the role of “big data” in contemporary sports analyses, but romanticizing them is dangerous. Data are necessarily simplified intermediaries that unite performances and analyses, and the world of sports analytics is built upon one gigantic codec that itself is built upon the defective assumption that digits can represent athletics.

Still, the reality in 2014 is that Adam Silver’s NBA has cameras in the arenas measuring every player’s every move. These stationary drones in the rafters are beaming gigabytes of potentially vital intelligence back to video rooms and practice facilities across the league. Whereas just a few years back acquiring good data was the hard part, the burden now largely falls upon an analytical community that may not be equipped to translate robust surveillance into reliable intelligence. The new bottleneck is less about data and more about human resources, as overworked analysts often lack the hardware, the software, the training, and most of all the time to perform these emerging tasks.

Despite all that, in the hands of talented, well-equipped statisticians, SportVU data is indeed awesome in terms of its potentially massive contribution to understanding the league we all cherish. In Kopp’s words, “We are just scratching the surface, and it takes a lot of work just to get to the point to begin advanced analyses.” The NBA’s big-data possession is just getting started, and everyone is rooting for a slam dunk that benefits teams, athletes, media, and most of all, fans. But that’s not guaranteed, and in the words of Parker, we just have to make sure we “make the right play in the end.”
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Old 02-06-2014, 03:12 PM   #2 (permalink)

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He links to their Sloan paper, too. And the Sloan paper says that the Harvard statisticians will be publishing an academic paper detailing their statistical methodology.

It's conceptually similar to what the Raptors have done internally, if you remember this Zach Lowe piece from last year. But being able to apply it league-wide will be huge.
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Old 02-06-2014, 04:17 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Grantland said Portland drafting Damian Lillard at #6 was a mistake.
Lillard was recently invited to all 5 All-Star events.
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