Sports illustrated put out a gushing piece about Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey in its December issue (the one with Andrew Luck on the cover) and while the article doesn't really cover too much new ground or say anything about the GM that will change your life, it does offer some additional facts about the inner-workings of the Rockets front office.
Most notably this little snippet:
In addition to the team's proprietary databases and evaluation systems, which Morey is hesitant to discuss publicly, the Rockets were the first NBA team to install SportVU, which is based on Israeli missile-tracking technology and uses tiny webcams installed in an arena's rafters to record the X/Y coordinates of each player 72,000 times a game. This leads to an ocean of data that allows teams to determine, for example, how many dribbles a player takes in a game or how efficient a shooter is when a defender is four feet away versus one.
Jesus Christ did you guys know this?! BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING! BIG BROTHER IS ALWAYS WATCHING!
Can't you just imaging Morey in this darklit command center in a press box that doesn't show up in the Toyota Center's blue prints pacing around the room eating a Chik-fil-a sandwhich yelling at his subordinates,
"Adjust the angle on that image!"
"There's Dwight, give me a wide on him on monitor 1"
"GODDAMN IT HINKIE JUST DO WHAT I SAY!"
The Rockets must be sitting on terrabytes upon terrabytes of all sorts of useful metrics we've never even heard of, not to mention all the cleavage pics and bald spots that must come from such an apparatus.
The article is a great read and certainly worth your time. It covers the specifics of the Harden deal and retreads some ground about Chuck Heyes and Rafer Alston but it really got me wondering about this SportsVU stuff.
Here's an article from FactsCoDesign that talks a lot more about this technology
Apparently 10 teams in the NBA have installed this technology. Of those 10, four made it to the playoffs last year. One made it to the finals, the OKC Thunder. This means that the Rockets had access to a wealth of information in acquiring James Harden. And while the Rockets can only chart home games at the Toyota Center, a sharing agreement allows the Rockets to mine the data of the nine other teams who employ this service.
The evaluation applications from this software can be endless, Daryl Morey is probably in front of his laptop right now with a bottle of Jergins and a calculator trying to figure out if Harden makes more shots with his beard neatly trimmed or at full Brawn scruff. But as with all data, its not what you get but how you use it. I really wonder what kind of edge and how much this technology has influenced the bevy of trades that Morey executed.
I do wonder what else we can use it for during Rockets events.
Like, which peanut vendor has the best arm in isles located closest to the equator?
Which beer vendor spills the least amount of alchohol in the stands?
Is Clutch the Bear better at walking across the stands after starting a wave or doing Gangnam Style?
I have to find out.