Communicating basketball analytics (its a hard thing but once it works… IT WORKS!)

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Many times I get asked how or in what time frame; for how long… can basketball analytics work?

Well, fact of the matter is that it’s a tough business being a consultant in a niche space where teams/clubs often already do a lot with video analysis or try to scout opponents but more times than many fail at the point that video gives you either a detail or too an broad overview of what your team or your opponent really does or is after.

There is a reason why owners or executives in the top league in the world (the NBA) have been using analytics solutions for decision making. While I pitch to any potential client I intend to work with I always state this fact and to the point that a successful club culture can allow for not just good habits of personnel but an overall improved club culture too.

A majority of the time while on the road with teams I spend I end up taking about 20 minutes per training session to talk with players, coaches and usually spend a dinner meeting with GMs on how to best handle things in terms of workflow.

Explaining how numbers in a game can work in the favor of your personnel is all about setting goals that are clear and doable. Its a tough start whenever the process begins and till the habits set in. Once the personnel get into the habit of doing things night in night out its an overall struggle for both players and coaching staff. A lot of coaches usually are motivators and try to rally their players to stay focused. Its seldom that coaches point to numbers such as turnover ratios, assist rates or possessional value per 14 seconds during a full timeout. To single out your starting point guard to actually distribute the ball more efficiently will almost never work till he understands what efficiency really is. Its therefore being able to make sure that communicating to the whole group the simplest yet the most effective way will prove the best result.

Say, once a team sounds the alarm bell and they need to bring in a guy like me (or me) its usually due to the fact that statistics have brought attention to the results at the end of the game but they need further insight to shed light on how to improve on their decision making, which is a major part of what the analytics I work up help provide.

I am a follower of the methodology Dean (Oliver) has taught and has written about in “Basketball on Paper”. I take the practical approach and not just spill stuff on the fly.

  • I study game footage (like a scout)
  • take trips with the teams I work with
  • follow the dynamics of how the staff communicate with players (both under pressure as well as in social environments)
  • study the Head coach and interaction with the assistant coaches
  • try and understand what the club executives are after
  • try NOT just to prepare for 3,4,5 games for a team to win but instill the habit to win what I have learnt from years on end from different scenarios

Just before the pre-season began I was busy doing client retention calls and I got a call from a potential client that was a former opponent for one of the teams I did some work with while I began with Advance Pro Basketball. They had been keeping tabs on me and were finally in the head-space to be able to make use of my services. Apparently their management had changed and both the assistant coaching staff and the GM in charge of the team wanted transparency as well as clear communication while being able to produce results that would benefit the pro-team in the long run. In Europe, its a given fact that adjustments to personnel usually happen on a season by season basis, so being able to work this the same group of players usually is a stretch but overall working with the management team of a club is a solid deal. Teaching them how to keep a bunch of guys not just happy but satisfied so they return is one hidden KPI, I have throughout the season with clients I know that can manage things (this usually means about 7-8 clients out of the 10 something I work with).

I am on purpose not giving any club names nor revealing coaches names due to NDA’s I sign with clients. Yet one point I underline during negotiations is that transparency to me is a critical aspect of how I work. That being said, I don’t mean transparency in terms of the service production I offer, it’s about the way my clients should potentially be taking care of themselves during the learning stage of the consultancy. We all know that there are endless ways teams do business, signing players with hidden parts of deals of cash or bonus issues they face with personnel. These are all a part of the game. Player agencies also are one end of the business that play a part in what personnel lands with a team. The bigger the agency the bigger the push they make towards getting them on a favorable team. Once everything is said and done and the roster is set-up and we have a good bunch of guys it falls on the coaching staff, the players and the management of the club to be clear in their goals.

Out of all of my clients this season only one has dropped out of playing pan-European level competition and honestly I think its a good thing for the growth of the club and their goals for next season.

In terms of my workflow I generally do not need to be on-site with teams all the time. I take the meeting approach with the coaching staff and management of the clubs once I brief them on how my system works. Usually the first quarter of the season however usually are road trips to see the dynamics and how much of numbers and analytical solution injection can be done.

Having a team that has high basketball IQ is lovely but lets face it, the kind of clients I love are the ones that are hungry to win and that know little of how to prepare for an opponent. It goest without saying that underdog teams in Europe are always hard to play against and it commonly happens that opponents with huge budgets undermine or even take it to the level of disrespecting such teams. Its fine and dandy to me cause they are the ones that can get out played.

Some time ago Dean did a nice interview and it took me back to the teachings he shared and how much I still make use of it these days still.

The fact that I have played at a high level and can draw from the practical and also parallel that in the methodical and make sure the quantifiable work I offer to clients and eventually making it all relatable is in part where my success has taken me so far.

Having just listened to the interview with Dean; it made me think on getting on soundcloud and doing a number of episodes talking about what I do and what I have been through to shed some light on how the consultancy I do works really.

#advprobball

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