Basketball analytics

Basketball analytics; stats or video?

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In the past few years, we have experienced an explosion in the use of basketball analytics. The increasing availability of basketball data is transforming the way basketball is played, promoted, and managed.

But many people confuse advanced basketball stats with video analyzing software. It’s not the same. Those are two different things.Basketball analytics

End result or play type?

Most of the statistical data that is tracked in basketball is based on the end result of plays. Was it a made basket or a miss? Was it assisted? Who grabbed the rebound? Video software focuses on play type statistics, which breaks down what happened on each play to produce the end result. In other words, advanced basketball statistics is about WHAT happens, while video software statistics explain HOW it happens.

Francisco Alfier, an analytics expert of the Los Angeles Clippers, also mentions factors like projected future performance and player market value:

We are talking about two different things: Video software is a product for qualitative analysis in order to see how a team plays tactically, or a player has developed his intangibles. Advanced stats, on the other hand, are necessary to understand whether a team or a player is able to convert. They give you the best depiction of efficiency. Advanced stats and deep basketball analytics are the only way to project future performance of players. They are the only tools able to assign a market value ($) to an NBA player based on his performance.

Output or esthetics?

Some video software provides a plethora of statistics such as speed and distance covered by the player. This could be an important factor in a sport like soccer, where players often sprint over a longer distance. But is it relevant to basketball? What matters most? How a player shoots his free throw, or if he makes that free throw? Who cares if a player has crazy ballhandling skills if he can’t beat his man or convert?

Sample size

The bigger the sample size, the more accurate the data, and the easier it is to draw conclusions. Advanced basketball stats will tell you how effective a player is at grabbing offensive rebounds, while video software can tell you how and where he does that.  Does he grab the rebound with one hand or both hands? On the left side, or right side? Contested or not contested? On the high-, medium-, or low post? But is this really important? In the NBA, every team plays at least 82 games. In college, and the rest of the world, however, that number is often limited to 20-30. How many times per season does a particular player grab an offensive rebound, with one hand, that is contested, on the low post on the right side? Is it enough to draw conclusions?

Different stages of scouting

Video software cuts and tags every event on the court. Collected data is synthesized and classified according to a range of indicators. For example, play types, player behaviors, and game situations. It is great for tactical game preparation or the detailed evaluation of a specific player (for example a draft prospect). But when you are searching for patterns, or use criteria, then it is more important to be able to filter, rank, and compare. Dejan Vidicki, an agent who works for Court Side, says the following:

Agents and professional teams are approached around the clock by players who send them their high light videotapes. But nobody watches those tapes. Because, the first stage in the selection and evaluation process is filtering, ranking, and comparing the statistics and resumes. After the number of candidates has been narrowed down, the filtering continues. This time with a deeper look at advanced basketball stats. Teams and agents will only start to watch video when the number of candidates has been narrowed down to a handful. In other words, watching video is the LAST stage. Not the first.

Basketball analytics is cheaper than video software services

In the NBA, there is a player tracking camera system. When this was first introduced, every NBA team paid between $ 75,000 and $ 100,000 annually for this service. Now, there are cheaper alternatives but the costs still run in the thousands. That’s an amount that not every team outside of the NBA can afford. For them, data-driven basketball advanced stats could be a much cheaper alternative.


As a rule of thumb, at the younger levels, video software is primarily used as a player development tool to help the young player reach the next level. Coaches in the higher levels use video mainly as a tactical preparation tool for the next opponent, and as a set play presentation to the team. Video software focuses on play type and HOW something happens.

Advanced basketball statistics, on the other hand, come handy when you want to search, filter, and rank things. They focus on the CONVERSION. The end result of an action.

So, it is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Although there is definitively some overlap between advanced basketball stats and video software. They are both part of basketball analytics and best used in conjunction. It is not a matter of choosing one over the other. See them as two good neighbors. On the website of the Basketball Database, you can find advanced statistics and key facts on every league, team, and player in the world.

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