Visualizing Basketball Player Tracking Data

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Back in March we attended our first MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. We were fortunate enough to meet up with the awesome guys over at STATS who were showing off their revolutionary player tracking system. We recently reconnected and they were kind enough to lend us some of the data. We created a interactive display that animates the location data re-creating the game in navigable 3d space.

The interface was created in processing using actual game data from a game between the Mavericks at Rockets from the 2010/11 season. In addition to parsing the player, ref and ball movement data in a navigable environment, we added a dynamic heat map to track player location over time and highlights for the locations of first possession and shots. We also had some fun creating an augmented reality version of the interface (it’s at the end of the video).

Truth be told, we didn’t even scratch the surface of the data STATS is collecting and reporting on. In addition to tracking the location of each player and ball throughout the game, STATS has reports on everything from contested rebounds, touches, closest defender, time of possession per player, average speed, distance traveled and a whole lot more.

It’s not hard to imagine a much more advanced version of our interface using STATS’ data to allow you to search across every game for every play that meets whatever statistical event you desire. STATS really represents a whole new level of what’s possible to track and we think they will ultimately shape the future basketball metrics, particularly on the defense side which has been historically lacking.

We posted a stripped down version of the tool for you to play with. You can navigate using the mouse and arrow keys. You can also go to predetermined positions by typing 1,2,3 or 4. Enjoy!