Grantland.com reports that the NBA has decided to susidize the installationof high-tech motion-tracking cameras for next season to give every NBA team access to the so-branded "SportVU" data that 15 teams used last season.
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.
The cameras cost about $100,000 per year, and the expense is one reason 15 teams hadn't yet subscribed. Some of those teams were waiting in hopes the NBA would foot the bill, and the league has apparently decided to do so sooner than many of those teams expected. Installing the cameras in all 30 arenas will expand the data to include every game played, providing teams with a more complete and reliable data set. It also raises the possibility of the league using statistical nuggets from the cameras during television broadcasts. A few teams have used in-game data at halftime to show players specific examples of things like rebounds they didn't contest aggressively, or evidence they weren't running as hard as usual. A few more will likely do the same next season.
That's a big bill the NBA is footing, but this is really the next step in advanced metrics' evolution. The stuff is wild in terms of how much it can provide you. Basically, you'll be able to come up with hard metrics for answers to questions like
"How long does Carmelo Anthony hold the ball in isolation sets? How often do the Knicks score when he holds it over five sconds vs. under?"
"How much activity did Tim Duncan do last night? Does that meet a threshold the Spurs have set to rest him the next night?'
"How much does Jarrett Jack dribble, relative to different offensive efficiencies? In other words, is there a number of dribbles where thereafter the Cavaliers' offense deteriorates?'
It's got a lot of real-world implications and some of the data will inevitably leak beyond just Grantland to other outlets so fans can understand the game more. It's an exciting development, and another sign of the NBA's commitment to developing technology.