SportVU has changed the way we measure basketball performance. BallinEurope’s Emmet Ryan spoke with the man leading the technology’s charge, Brian Kopp, to find out how its all-seeing eyes are changing basketball.
Statistics and performance analysis are nothing new to team sports. The long-standing problem for analysts has been breaking down individual performances with relatively limited data sets. To paraphrase Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy, anaylsts try to picture clusters of information as they move through the computer. What do they look like? Shots? Tackles? The performance analyst community kept dreaming of a world they thought they’d never see. And then, one day, SportVU arrived.
The technology, now owned by Stats Inc in the US, was developed by former members of the Israeli Defence Forces for soccer. Basketball however has been the sport where the visual technology has come to the fore.
The SportVU team installs computer vision cameras in arenas and stadia. The current NBA season was the first time an entire league agreed to have the system set up. Six cameras are installed in the rafters of each arena in the ceiling. The system tracks the x-y co-ordinates of the players and the x-y-z co-ordinates of the ball 25 times per second. The cameras capture video and data. Algorithms in the software tell the cameras what to track and what not to track. From there SportVU creates new data algorithms and analysis to turn that raw co-ordinate data into usable information for teams.
“We can enhance data they’re already using,” said Brian Kopp, vice president of sports solutions with Stats.
Before if a player won a rebound off a missed shot, teams couldn’t differentiate based on context. SportVU is changing that. “Now we can tell you, if there were a lot of people around, was the rebound in traffic or was it uncontested, how much ground did you cover to get that rebound, how many chances could you have had at rebounds versus how many you came away with, a lot more context around rebounding,” said Kopp.
“Another example for that category is passing. Right now assists only counts the successful passes that led to a successful basket. Now we capture every single pass, even those that you missed the shot or the pass that led to the pass that led to the basket. Teams can get a lot more context around passing the ball around versus the tally mark of just the successful assist.”