View Full Version : NBA scouting and statistics in the digital age

11-19-2009, 10:08 PM
This article is from the Denver Post (http://www.denverpost.com/nuggets/ci_13820152?source=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dp-sports-nuggets+%28Denver+Post%3A+Sports%3A+Nuggets%29), so it's Nuggets-centric, but since 26 teams in the league use the same company, hopefully it will be of widespread interest.

Synergy provides basketball scouting for digital age
By Patrick Saunders
The Denver Post

Nuggets advance scout Chad Iske has the NBA at his fingertips.

With a few strokes on his laptop keyboard, Iske can:

Find out exactly how many times a game Lakers guard Kobe Bryant posts up, and how effective Bryant is from that spot.

See how often the Mavericks run a blindside pick to free up Dirk Nowitzki at the top of the key.

Break down data to determine how successful Suns guard Steve Nash is when he drives left, whether he's more likely to shoot or pass in that situation, and whether he's more likely to go to the rim or pull up for a jumper.

But Iske doesn't simply get raw statistical data. He can also pair the data with video clips of every player and every play. And it's all available online within half an hour after each game ends.

The service is provided by Synergy Sports Technology. It is basketball scouting for the digital age, and 26 of the NBA's 30 teams use Synergy. The company even offers a way for a team's coaching staff to prepare a set of video clips that can be downloaded to an iPod and given to players.

"It's very efficient, and it takes a lot of the legwork out of it for us," said Iske, who has been with the Nuggets for 11 years. "The change is amazing. When I first got here, we didn't even have enough VCRs to go through tape. Now we can go to our laptops, click on Synergy's website, and we get the information we need."

Synergy Sports Technology is the brainchild of CEO Garrick Barr, a former high school teammate of Paul Westphal's at Aviation High in Redondo Beach, Calif. Barr worked as the Phoenix Suns' video coordinator for 11 years. He was constantly tinkering with technology.

"I started out thinking I would be a coach, but right away I got involved in the technology side and found that technology was having some seismic ripples in the sport," Barr said.

In 1998, Barr founded Quantified Scouting Service, which logged virtually every possession of every NBA game in order to provide data on offensive tendencies. That was just a baby step on the way to Synergy Sports.

Sensing there was a burgeoning market for high-tech scouting, Barr branched out and began his company in 2004, envisioning a system that would capture every play on the court and make it available for analysis. His first customer was the Miami Heat. By 2005, five teams, including the Nuggets, were on board.

"What's the first thing a coach does after a game? He checks the box score," Barr said. "Why did this team lose? Did it give up a bunch of offensive rebounds or did it shoot poorly? With our video box score if that's what you want to call it you can click on those seven offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and see exactly why you gave up them up."

Going beyond the box score is the key to Synergy's success.

"Stats and data are great," Barr said. "But coaches, scouts and GMs want to see the video to verify what the stats seem to be telling them. They want to see the nuances of the game."

Synergy uses freelance "loggers" who chart every NBA game, logging each play so it can be paired with video.

Synergy also logs college and international basketball games. All told, there are nearly 100 "loggers" around the world. That enables Synergy to dissect not only NBA games, but provide scouting reports on players for the NBA draft.

During the season, video technology can mean the difference between winning and losing.

"I can watch the Lakers' offense for the last five minutes of a close game and see what their tendencies are during those last five minutes," Iske said. "Or we can pull up all of their plays after timeouts and see what their most effective plays are. So I can grab Chauncey (Billups) after a timeout and say: 'Hey, watch out, they love to flare Derek Fisher out right after a timeout. Or they love to try a lob to (Andrew) Bynum after a timeout.' "

It's not that Iske couldn't figure out all of that before, but it would take hours to assemble. Now, his scouting reports are up to speed.

"This is so much more efficient than in the past," Iske said. "I can go to the website and find out exactly what they did, and how they did, in all of their close games. I don't have to go digging through old tapes and find out, 'Oh, shoot, we don't have that game.' "

When Barr first pitched his idea to NBA teams, he was met with some blank stares, partly because some general managers and owners didn't quite grasp his concept. But when he started describing his product as "a video Google for basketball," his company took off.

"It's almost instantaneous information and it's proven to be something the teams just can't live without," Barr said.

Kobe Bryant/offensive profile

(Through Monday's games)

Play type Pct. of scoring Shooting pct.
Offensive rebounds 2.6 5-for-10 (50%)
Cutting to basket 5.4 14-for-16 (87.5)
Using teammate screen 4.9 2-for-16 (12.5)
Isolation 20.2 18-for-52 (34.6)
Pick-role, ball handler 5.2 1-for-6 (16.7)
Spot-up shooter 4.7 7-for-18 (38.9)
Post up 39.4 49-for-108 (45.4)
Transition offense 10.9 21-or-31 (67.7)
Hand off 0.5 1-for-2 (50)
No play type 6.2 3-for-4 (75)

One more related article from nba.com:

NBA dives headlong into new era of statistical analysis (http://www.nba.com/2009/news/features/john_schuhmann/10/23/stats.analysis/index.html)

11-19-2009, 10:12 PM
thats pretty cool.

11-19-2009, 10:17 PM
I wish we could see similar offensive profiles for more players. 82games' are pretty good, but much less detailed.

11-19-2009, 10:17 PM
I wonder which 4 teams don't use their website.

11-19-2009, 10:27 PM
I wonder which 4 teams don't use their website.

27. Memphis 3 8 .273
28. New York 2 9 .182
29. Minnesota 1 11 .083
30. New Jersey 0 12 .000

? :shrug:

11-19-2009, 11:04 PM
And people still claim that modern day scouting doesn't have an impact on the complexity and difficulty of modern day defense...

11-19-2009, 11:41 PM
I wonder which 4 teams don't use their website.
I was always under the impression that only a third of the league employs advanced stats, but these probably fall under scouting metrics, in which case I cant imagine why you wouldnt. Every coach watches game tape with their coaching staff so its not like they dont look at the same plays, and the actual use of the data of those plays should seem pretty straight forward right, weighing actual values to those plays is entering the realm of apbr and that figure I mentioned consists of 6 playoff teams, the thunder and I forget who at the moment. But it wouldnt suprise me if the Lakers were one of those teams that didnt, I know they have their own methods and dont publicly employ any apbr-centric statisticians.

11-19-2009, 11:44 PM
I wish we could see similar offensive profiles for more players. 82games' are pretty good, but much less detailed.

"I use it virtually every single day," said Nets coach Lawrence Frank. "It's like having a video coordinator for every single game.

I miss the days when synergy was open to the public, now you gotta know someone who knows someone to get in, I had my chance and blew it.

11-19-2009, 11:59 PM
I wonder if they give betting advice

11-20-2009, 12:04 AM
No play type 6.2 3-for-4 (75)

telling stat

11-20-2009, 12:08 AM
No play type 6.2 3-for-4 (75)

telling stat

That's probably just included so the percentages of all play types add up to 100%, even though a few plays don't fall under their classification system.