The NBA, A-through-Z: The eye in the sky

The free agents have just about all been signed up. The NBA is down to a series of Instagram photos from moving yachts and crossed fingers from worried teams hoping their players stay safe in the summer off. There’s nothing going on, save for that clock on the wall that is ticking down to the 2013-14 season.

And it’s moving SO SLOWLY.

This is why we’ve decided to pick 26 things we’re looking forward to in 2013-14. Or, at the very least, 26 things that intrigue us as we wait out an offseason that feels like it has thousands of miles left to cross before we can get to Halloween and opening week. Because there are 26 letters in the alphabet – you guessed, NBA A-through-Z.

We continue with the eye in the sky.

Apparently the cameras utilized by your friendly local cable outlet, or in-house scoreboard crew, are not enough. The NBA has decided to foot the bill to install STATS LLC’s SportVU camera setups in each of the NBA’s 29 arenas. Fifteen of the league’s 30 teams already utilize the technology, but in a move to even the field and shore up the league’s scouting, the NBA itself has moved forward to install the technology in time for the 2013-14 season.

Grantland’s Zach Lowe, who wrote the breakthrough introductory column on SportVU earlier this year, broke the news on Friday:

Exactly half the league's teams used the STATS LLC SportVU cameras last season after a trend-setting half-dozen had them installed for the 2011-12 season — or even earlier. The cameras record every movement on the court — of players, officials, and the ball — several times per second, so that subscribing teams have been able to track the positioning of players in new ways.


Subscribing teams have used the data to get at some of basketball's deepest questions — how many players should crash the offensive glass; where missed shots actually fall after hitting the rim; the best strategies for defending various players in the pick-and-roll; how each player should approach transition defense in specific situations; and many, many others. The possibilities, big and small, are basically endless. Reports released by STATS include information on how fast players run, how often they dribble, how far they run during games, which players touch the ball at the elbow most often, and which players drive from the perimeter to the basket most often.

Lowe went on to mention that the $100,000 price tag was the sticking point that stopped 15 other teams from signing off on the technology prior to this summer, a ridiculous notion when you consider the sheer amount teams pay players; some of who fail miserably to live up to those salaries because of poor scouting.

That certain profitable teams (*ahemCHICAGOahem*) wouldn’t immediately gravitate to a relatively cheap way to leap ahead in terms of scouting and analysis, waiting for the NBA to foot the bill for them, is borderline astounding. The sheer amount of data that the SportVU cameras will provide should be sending some front offices over the moon, but it’s also possible that some front office and/or coaching staffs might ignore the new information.

And we’ll watch those franchises fall behind. Or, at best, watch as they fail to utilize their rosters in the most suitable and efficient ways possible.

In his report, Lowe also mentioned the prospects of being able to use SportsVU information during actual basketball telecasts, which is a fascinating prospect that will only make fans like us smarter about the game we obsess over. The idea that we can still glean new things to teach us about the game we love, some 122 years after Dr. James Naismith hung up the first peach basket, has us giddy in anticipation.