August 20, 2022

The Golden State Warriors are now one game away from winning the NBA Championship – but to get there they’ve made adjustments throughout the playoffs, with major help from a huge database.

why is it important: As professional teams increasingly rely on technology to improve their performance, finding specific insights from a sea of ​​data remains a challenge.

How it works: In addition to gameplay footage, the Warriors also capture every shot a player takes in practice, even those taken during warm-ups, through a system called NOAH, which uses facial recognition to match each shot to a player.

  • The system detects if missed shots were too long or too short, even measuring if shots made were a bit shorter or longer.
  • Another system called Catapult collects player biometrics.
  • The team feeds all this information into a huge Google Cloud database. (Google Cloud is a team sponsor, although Lacob said the Warriors started using it before the trade deal was completed.)

The big picture: All of that data was invaluable during the playoffs. The Warriors are where they are despite a few blistering losses along the way. In each case, the team was able to turn the tide the next game and avoid back-to-back losses.

  • Warriors executive vice president Kirk Lacob said analytics made possible by the team’s cloud-based data store helped identify specific player advantages and trends, though he declined to comment. go into details.
  • Pabail Sidhu, Warriors Director of Basketball Analytics and Innovation, added, “The intersection of math, knowing the Xs and O’s of basketball, and communication is powerful. I can aggregate and accurately calculate large datasets to answer real-time questions posed by our coaching staff, and offer insights that give us advantages on the pitch.
  • Klay Thompson, meanwhile, turned to a different technology to get out of a shooting slump – watching a video of himself on YouTube.

Between the lines: Lacob has been working to get to this point for years, having hired Sidhu in 2017 to create a data operations effort when it was a new concept.

  • “I even told him at the time, ‘The first few years are going to be tough. I’m going to ask you to do a lot on your own.’ “
  • Early on, before the Warriors were even a playoff contender, Sidhu and Lacob could identify that a poor defensive streak came down to a specific rotation issue leaving opponents open for 3-point corner shots.
  • These days, Sidhu has a whole crew to work with, plus a brand new stadium full of sensors, cameras, and other technology. “Now we can contextualize a lot more player rotations, roster changes,” Lacob said.

Some players have gravitated new tools more than others. One of the most enthusiastic adopters of the technology is veteran Andre Iguodala, which is not surprising given his interests in technology.

  • “He’s still playing there at 37 – that’s not a mistake,” Lacob said, adding that he was also one of the more skeptical athletes, wanting to be sure he understood exactly what the technology could and could not help.
  • Steph Curry is also always up for anything that can give him a new edge — or a new mountain to climb, Lacob said. “His team is doing a great job of continuing to find new ways to challenge him,” Lacob said.
  • For younger players, Lacob said shot-tracking technology can help identify who, for example, could be a promising three-point shooter with a little help.

Yes, but: All of this data can be a double-edged sword, says Lacob. “There’s definitely a point, for many, where you get paralysis by analysis,” Lacob said. With so much data, “it’s very easy to get lost or see false prophets.”

And after: Lacob said he would like to see more player biometrics accessible without forcing them to wear a device.

  • “I would love to see things become less portable if that makes sense… more things that don’t affect a player,” he said.