Partway through the 2018-19 season, just months before his Toronto Raptors would go on to win the franchise’s first NBA title, coach Nick Nurse had a problem.
Kyle Lowry, Nurse’s All-Star point guard, was in a shooting slump — and no one could figure out why. Nurse, an analytics-driven coach who also ran dedicated shooting camps as something of a specialty in his early coaching days, searched for quantifiable explanations.
“I went and looked at the data,” Nurse told FiveThirtyEight. “To see if there was anything I could see that was different in this 10-game slump he was in versus his history.”
But what was the data Nurse wanted? His staff wasn’t breaking down Lowry’s last 10 box scores or shooting charts; hell, they weren’t even looking at his shots from those actual games.
Instead, they were using the Noahlytics Data Service, a proprietary program designed by a company called Noah Basketball. The system uses high-quality motion tracking cameras positioned on or above the backboard of a standard basketball hoop, tracing the ball as it enters the basket area while also noting the shooter’s origin on the floor to allow for uniform “straight-on” analysis with every shot. Through detailed measurements of the ball’s arc, its depth in the basket and its left-right alignment on the cylinder, players and coaches alike get exponentially more detail about a shot — or set of shots — than raw make-or-miss notations could ever tell.