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How Can Movement Analytics Predict NBA Player Performance?

NBA teams and analysts have used Player Efficiency Rating (PER) for many years to create a more nuanced picture of player performance, mostly for two reasons: 1) because PER accounts for positive and negative contributions, and 2) it can be applied to specific scenarios, such as results against certain opponents, first-half and second-half performance splits, and so on.

But no matter how granular PER tries to get, it can’t pinpoint the most granular performance factors – those that help explain why a player is a better defender in the second half or why that player had a very poor second half last night, in particular.

Sportlight’s LiDAR technology has that capability because it produces hyper-accurate data detailing the player’s actual physical performance. For example, it can precisely measure jump height on the player’s 3-point attempts to find correlations among fatigue, time of game and accuracy – an analysis that’s much harder if jump height is being “eyeballed” by a coach in real time or using game film.

So think of it this way: LiDAR helps explain the tiny building blocks that result in the larger structure that PER describes.

For franchises, the genius of player performance analysis is in determining what to analyze – how to arrive at insights, rather than just raw data collection. But often a desired analytic is hampered by the inability to gather the data to test the hypothesis. Your assistant coach might have a hunch that a jump-shooter gets off shots quickest when he receives a pass at chin-height, or toward his shooting-hand side, for instance. But without the space-and-time measuring precision of LiDAR technology, the coach can only suspect, not prove.

And in the heat of the game, LiDAR can provide hard data – like reaction times to certain situations – that can tip off a coach to player inattention, fatigue or susceptibility to injury. These are insights that have value to a franchise all the way from up in the front office to down on the floor at crunch time.

No game on earth combines so many large and swift athletes in such a small playing space as the NBA does, or so strenuously challenges the eyes of coaches and trainers to discern what’s going on in real time. Now franchises and their personnel have the technology to meet those challenges.

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