NBA Scouting in the New Normal

Any other year, players, agents and NBA scouts (teams) would be right in the thick of events for the upcoming NBA draft. Attending agent-held workouts, team interviews and preparing for the NBA Draft Combine. But this year brings a new challenge. The current COVID-19 pandemic is forcing teams and scouts to find different ways to evaluate players. Each passing day takes away another shot attempt, another high-pressure situation or chance for a face-to-face conversation about inspirations and motivations. In current times, past performance and the accompanying data remains the lone resource to make million-dollar, potentially franchise-altering, decisions. Now more than ever coaches and scouts need empirical data and to know how to interpret it. 

Traditionally, once a player makes himself eligible for the draft, teams and agents set up in-person interviews and workouts with a series of tests to reveal more about the athlete. Scouts love these meetings because facetime reveals a lot about a player both professionally and personally. And as we’re all learning from The Last Dance, it’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of the person and their background because there is much more that makes up the success of a player and a team than what shows up on a stat sheet. As we’re all aware, the precautions due to the virus limit interactions like these indefinitely. Fortunately, so much technology exists that provides valuable substitutes for interpersonal communication. Phone calls, video chats, and various social media platforms give us unlimited access to individuals and are made possible by convenient devices most of us carry around in our pockets. While it doesn’t completely compare to an in-person conversation, it gets us pretty close in current times. However, what teams can’t do right now is watch the live game situations or bring players in to run specific drills to evaluate more of their physical capabilities. 

A lot of physical traits make up the comprehensive quality of a player, but in today's game, shooting ability is clearly one of the primary skills scouts analyze. We all know a winning basketball team requires so much more than just lights-out shooters. But, as history shows and what we see in the new era of the NBA, accurate and consistent shooters help build dynasties and bring home championships (Steph and Klay, Ray Allen, Larry Bird, MJ). Therefore, a lot of effort goes into evaluating the talent of a shooter and it’s what many of these in-person experiences look to test. Box scores from games and practices can show shooting accuracy in terms of attempts and makes, but today’s current circumstances have significantly reduced the amount of data traditionally used in the evaluation process. Additionally, so much of what makes up the fundamentals of a shot can’t be measured on a stat sheet or easily picked up by the naked eye. This is why teams like to bring athletes to their facilities in order to run specific drills rather than just watch videos choreographed by the athlete or their agent. Unlike person-to-person communication, our society isn’t overflowing with capable substitutes for unbiased shooting evaluation. However, it’s a mission Noah Basketball has been working on for a while and looks to constantly improve. 

Our technology provides our partners a more detailed picture of a player’s shooting prowess. It can help identify flawed areas, player potential and just how far away a particular player is from consistently making shots. The Noah Shooting System analyzes three specific measurements: arc of the ball, shot depth and shot left-right position. By using these three key metrics, it takes the story of a made (or missed) shot and pulls out so much more detail. While we set out to help address the existing holes in player evaluation, we never anticipated the value it could potentially bring in this type of “new normal.” Even with less time and fewer in-person meetings, teams with Noah technology can track the type of data to more quickly and comprehensively understand the fundamentals of a player’s shot and potential. 

This time of social distancing, canceled events, and postponed seasons is pushing us to examine everything we do, and like most challenges, may reveal an opportunity to grow. This year will be a huge year for predictive models. A year that more than any other will force us to press the data. This time we won’t see the player in the gym and how much effort he’s putting in after a long day of workouts and interviews. Teams will have to make decisions based on a limited amount of data, and those that can best mine that data will return far more value. 

We once envisioned a world saturated with unbiased, accurate predictive models synthesizing data to help drive effective decision-making for basketball teams and franchises. COVID-19 has shown us that world is needed now and our goal at Noah Basketball is to make it attainable.  

You can learn about how the Noah Shooting System can help your team become more consistent shooters and improve year after year by signing up to attend one of our free webinars hosted weekly.