By Stephen Shea, Ph.D. (@SteveShea33)
Editor’s Note The purpose of this post is to offer some ideas about applying these analytics to what you currently do and improve how you evaluate your offensive execution. You probably won’t be able to apply all of this, but hopefully you can use parts of it to help your players understand and measure how you want your team to play on offense.
I have included the tables as a way to add context to the points that Dr. Shea makes.
NBA offenses are evolving. The increased reliance on 3-point shooting gets the most fanfare, but there is more to it than that. Teams are restructuring lineups and redesigning plays in hopes of improving all facets of shot selection, counterattacking with speed, and moving the ball faster.
When analytics assess offenses, it’s always a question of efficiency. Efficiency is the ultimate goal, but it relies on both good strategy and proper execution. And execution requires talent.
Dr. Shea has coauthored two books on the subject of utilizing analtyical data in basketball. You can find out more about both books by clicking on the links or images of the book covers below.
How does one evaluate scheme independent of efficiency? Doing so would be a means to better understand if recent Brooklyn or Philadelphia squads were adapting to the modern game even when their efficiencies were below average. In other words, it would be a way to see if these teams that were thin on talent were “playing the right way.”
At the other end, there are almost certainly talented teams that aren’t keeping pace with recent trends among NBA offenses. It’s the best teams that have the least incentive to change. Said another way, desperation tends to precede innovation.
But talent can override a suboptimal offensive design, and so, efficiency metrics blur systems’ flaws.
We look back at the last three NBA seasons, and with a heavy reliance on spatial-tracking data, offer ways to assess shot selection, ball movement and counterattacking. In the end, we aggregate these markers to see which offenses have been the most progressive.
Shots at the hoop, from behind the arc and at the free-throw line are the game’s most efficient. The analytics are clear that teams should be building rosters and offenses with the intent of shifting a greater percentage of their shots to these attempts (where shots include trips to the free-throw line). To measure shot selection, we can look at just that—the percentage of a team’s shots that come from at the hoop, behind the arc or at the free throw line. (Again, a trip the free-throw line for two or three is considered a “shot.”)
Note that we’re looking at FGA and not FGM. This is a measure of shot choice and not efficiency.
Not surprisingly, Daryl Morey’s Rockets have had the three highest seasons in the last three years in regards to this metric. (All seasons are listed in the table below.) The highest such percentage was the 2017 Rockets at 84%.
Teams are trending towards better shot selection. After the Rockets, the next five highest seasons in this metric came from 2017. Six of the bottom seven came from 2015.
The league average has risen from 63% in 2015 to 65% in 2016 to 67% in 2017.
The NBA’s abolishment of the illegal defense rule allowed NBA teams to help off the ball. Help defense limited the efficiency of isolation-driven offenses. The three-point line together with stricter whistles on physical play on and off the ball have provided an offensive counter-strategy. Teams that space with 3-point threats and quickly swing the ball force defenses into rotations that will free up a cutter to the hoop or a catch-and-shoot opportunity on the perimeter.
Shot selection metrics helps in the understanding of offensive spacing, but don’t directly get at ball movement. Two modern metrics constructed on spatial-tracking data do.
Seconds per touch is the average amount of time a player holds the ball before passing, shooting, drawing a foul, or turning the ball over. Quick ball movement leads to a lower average seconds per touch for the team.
In this metric Golden State is king. They’ve had three of the four best scores over the last three seasons.
The worst team in 2017 was Toronto. DeMar DeRozan doesn’t do much for the Raptors’ shot selection or ball movement.
Ball movement is good, but it’s often the specific action of stringing two swift passes together that generates great opportunities.
Secondary assists occur when a team makes two quick passes to a made shot. They are the so-called “hockey assists,” and an indicator of smart and rapid ball movement on offense.
Secondary assists per game are presented with seconds per touch in the table below. Golden State had the three best seasons. Beyond Golden State, this is an area where San Antonio, Atlanta and Boston scored well.
(Secondary assists are linked to efficiency. It would be better to use secondary assist opportunities—two quick passes to a FGA—but this is not publicly available.)
It’s easier to score when the defense isn’t ready. Teams that can get out in transition will be rewarded with better opportunities.
Leicester City shocked the English Premier League with a counterattacking style in 2016. While not quite as shocking, Golden State has been the NBA’s equivalent in terms of scheme.
When Golden State gets possession, they counter fast. In 2014-15, 36% of their offense came between 2 and 9 seconds on the shot clock. That led the league, where the average was 26%. In total, the Warriors outscored their opponents by 1062 points (or 13 points per game) in that stretch of the shot clock. In the rest of the time, they were outscored by 229 points.
When teams attack fast, it also means that they usually get a shot up before all their players get down the floor on offense. This has the added benefit of providing good position for preventing opponents’ transition. The offensive and defensive strategies complement each other, and the teams that execute it well will get out and score quickly while forcing long and difficult halfcourt possessions on their opponents.
A good measure of the extent to which a team attempts to counterattack is how fast they move on offense relative to defense. The table below displays the average speed of a player for the given team divided by the average speed of a player on defense only for each team.
Modern Offensive Strategy Score
The four statistics detailed in the previous three sections are not independent. Rather, the ideal modern offense will get out in transition with quick passing, and in doing so, create open looks from favorable locations.
We standardized the four statistics and then summed them. The result, which we call Modern Offensive Strategy Score (MOSS), is displayed below.
| Sec per
With all of the talent in Golden State, the intelligence in their offensive design is often overlooked. They have been playing a progressive style of basketball for several seasons, and they’ve blown out the field in MOSS.
The Lakers under head coach Byron Scott appeared oblivious to how the game was evolving, but new coach Luke Walton, hired from Golden State’s staff, has caught the team up in a hurry.
Tom Thibodeau hasn’t had the same impact in Minnesota.
MOSS is constructed with a focus on scheme over execution, and so, it should not correlate with offensive efficiency. In fact, as discussed above, it’s often the least talented teams that are the most innovative.
To understand if this modern playing style is effective (to teams other than Golden State), we have to compare teams to themselves.
NBA offensive rating is trending up in recent years. Across the league, it has risen from 105.6 to 106.4 to 108.8 in the last three seasons. MOSS has been trending with it. Average MOSS has gone from -0.50 to 0.10 to 0.40.
Among the 30 NBA teams, 25 saw an improvement in ORtg from 2016 and 2017. There were 17 teams that saw an improvement in MOSS, and all of those saw an improvement in ORtg. This means that among the 13 teams that saw their MOSS decline, 5 saw their ORtg follow.
Among the 17 teams that saw an improvement in MOSS, the average change in ORtg was +3.1 points per 100 possessions. Among the 13 that regressed in MOSS, the average change in ORtg was +1.3.
As the game evolves, it can be helpful to have means to assess the extent to which organizations are keeping pace.
MOSS indicates that Golden State, Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, Brooklyn, and Houston employ progressive offenses, even if some of those teams don’t yet have the talent to capitalize.
About the Author, Stephen Shea
Stephen Shea is an associate professor of mathematics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH. He earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, and a B.A. in mathematics from The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. His mathematical expertise and publication record is in the areas of probability, statistics, dynamical systems, and combinatorics. For years, he has been applying his abilities in these areas to study professional and amateur sports.
Stephen is a managing partner of Advanced Metrics, LLC, a consulting company that provides analytics solutions to basketball and hockey organizations. At Saint Anselm College, he runs a course on sports analytics. His sport writing has been featured in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, Psych Journal, the Expert Series at WinthropIntelligence.com, and the Stat Geek Idol Competition for TeamRankings.com.
Stephen has coauthored two books on the subject of utilizing analtyical data in basketball. You can find out more about both books by clicking on the links or images of the book covers below.
This post was written by my partners at Hudl.
Regardless of what coaching style you use, there are valuable stats to help you track performance. We have some suggestions on which numbers you need to keep an eye on.
One of the most important traits any coach must have is the ability to adapt. Thanks to graduations, transfers, and injuries, rosters look very different from year to year, and some can drastically change in season.
Coaches have to be able to roll with the punches and tweak their approach based on the talent on the current roster.
That being said, at their core, all coaches have a style, a philosophy that shapes almost every decision they make. Some coaches want to get up and down, sprinting up at all times and hunting fast breaks at every opportunity. Others prefer to slow it down and play at a more deliberate pace.
Regardless of what type of style you employ, there are stats that you should be monitoring to ensure your team is operating at its peak.
We, at Hudl, picked out a few coaching styles and listed some stats that, when linked with video, are great barometers for team success.
This coach doesn’t care if the final score is 12-10 – he/she just wants to win. The team succeeds by suffocating the opposing offense, rebounding every miss and slowing things down on the other end.
- Defensive rebounding percentage: Limiting opponent possessions is critical, and every offensive rebound allowed is just another chance to score. The more defensive rebounds you gobble up, the fewer opportunities for the offense.
- Deflections: Steals are the flashier stat, but sometimes a deflection can be just as important. Getting a hand on the ball can screw up an offense’s rhythm or force them into uncomfortable situations.
- Opponent free throw factor: Trips to the foul line result in free points. By limiting fouls and trips to the line, you force the offense to score points in live action, not alone at the charity stripe.
- Also consider: opponent points per possession, opponent second-chance points, charges taken
While Mike D’Antoni and the Houston Rockets took this philosophy to a new level this year, he wasn’t the first coach to promote fast breaks and 3-pointers. This coach looks to push the ball at every opportunity and values shots at the rim and from behind the arc much more than those in the midrange.
- Effective field goal percentage: Unlike traditional field goal percentage, which counts every shot the same, this stat gives added weight to 3-pointers, which makes sense considering they’re worth more.
- Transition points: This includes any points scored within eight seconds of a defensive rebound or opponent turnover. It’s a great way to track if your team is running at the rate you want.
- Turnover percentage: Playing fast is going to result in a few turnovers, but you’ve got to keep your squad’s miscues in check. This stat goes beyond just your team’s number of turnovers by adjusting for your increased pace.
- Also consider: free throw factor, points in the paint, player VPS, points per possession
Nothing comes easy against this coach’s team. Each made basket is quickly followed by all five players instantly jumping into a press designed to slow down the opposition’s offense and hassle them into mistakes.
- Opponent turnovers: Possibly the No. 1 goal of any press is to get the ball back. This stat tracks how many miscues your opponent coughed up.
- Plus-minus: Checking out how your team performs with certain units on the floor can help you find which players are best-suited to run your press together.
- Points off turnovers: Opponent mistakes can lead to easy offensive opportunities. This stat tracks all points scored on the possession immediately following an opponent turnover.
- Also consider: opponent turnover percentage, field goal percentage
What’s the rush? This coach is content to walk the ball up the floor and use the clock to his/her advantage. These teams aren’t ever going to lead the league in scoring, but they keep the turnovers down, play solid defense and limit opposing transition points.
- Opponent offensive rebound percentage: Nothing drives this coach battier than seeing the opponent get extra possessions on offensive boards. This number will keep you in touch with how strong of a rebounding club you have and help you identify good rebounders that might need to see the court more often.
- Assist/turnover ratio: Smart, crisp passes and error-free play are the key to any slow-tempo offense.
- Points per possession: These teams may not light up the scoreboard like their uptempo brethren, but this stat takes pace out of the equation to give a better overall view of offensive efficiency.
- Also consider: effective field goal percentage, VPS, points in the paint, turnover percentage
There are other coaching styles out there, and it’s certainly possible for a coach to employ traits from a few of the above strategies. Regardless of your system, there are stats that can help define performance or identify leaks. Each stat is linked to corresponding video, so finding the solution to your team’s struggles is only a click away.
We make it easy and help you track your goals so you’re always up to date on how your team is doing in certain areas. And if you don’t have time to track the stats yourself, let our team of professional Assist analysts do it for you. Insights for any coach are just waiting to be found.
Knocking off the champs won’t be easy. But as the rest of the NBA works to construct rosters to dethrone Golden State, here are some trends they should be monitoring.
Last July 5, Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors, joining a 73-win juggernaut and causing nationwide declarations that the 2016-17 season was simply a byproduct of getting Golden State back on top.
The campaign provided its share of epic moments and historic individual performances, but it ended the way many predicted it would 11 months earlier – with Durant hoisting both the Finals and Finals MVP trophies, and the rest of the league wondering how on earth it could catch the Warriors’ budding dynasty.
In Durant, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, Golden State boasts four of the league’s top 20 players, all of whom are under 30 years old and, assuming Curry and Durant re-sign (why wouldn’t they?), under contract for two more seasons. Barring a major injury or unforeseen circumstance, the Warriors aren’t going away anytime soon.
So how does the rest of the league cope? It’s not enough to simply accept Golden State’s dominance and hide under a rock until the stars age or break up. The rest of the NBA is searching for counters.
Though they fell 4-1 in the Finals, the Cavaliers may have shown at least a few cracks in the Warriors’ formidable armor. Cleveland actually outscored Golden State by 12 in the Finals’ last three games, and had a few more Cavs shots found their home, this could have been a very different series. After our team of Hudl Assist analysts broke down the Finals, we found some trends that should leave the rest of the league at least semi-encouraged that the Warriors don’t have the NBA in a headlock for the next few years.
It’s obviously not easy to do, but the Warriors can be scored on inside. The Cavaliers scored 46.4 points in the paint per game in the Finals, and none of David West, Zaza Pachulia or JaVale McGee are strong rim defenders (they’re also all free agents). With key players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston also entering free agency, not to mention Durant and Curry, the Warriors have a lot of priorities to address, and adding an elite rim protector likely won’t be possible.
Green and Durant are both above average weakside defenders capable of challenging shots, but neither is a great rim deterrent. If there is one place to attack Golden State’s elite defense, it’s in the paint, and that’s just what the Cavs were able to do. Look again at those final three games, during which Cleveland outscored the Dubs 146-133 inside.
Consider also that the Cavs averaged nearly 25 free throws per game and put up an impressive .27 free-throw factor (FTA/FGA), a mark that would have ranked 12th in the NBA during the regular season.
It’s easy to get caught trying to play the Warriors’ game as they rain 3-pointers, but that’s falling directly into their trap. The Cavs tried that at times to disastrous results. Sure, they dropped a Finals-record 24 triples to help win Game 4, but that clearly wasn’t sustainable. Check out Cleveland’s shot chart from the rest of the Finals.
When the 3-pointers dried up, the Cavs found some success getting inside. The problem is that they didn’t do it enough, and Golden State was savvy enough to take advantage.
Go Small or Go Home
Playing multiple big guys is a nice wrinkle against most teams, but it’s fatal against the Warriors, even when Steve Kerr isn’t deploying his vaunted Death Lineup. The Warriors are just too quick, and asking a big, even one with quick feet and a good change of direction like Tristan Thompson, to stick with Durant or Klay Thompson just isn’t fair.
Lineups that included both Thompson and Love were outscored by 12.6 points per 100 possessions in the Finals, posting a -12.6 net rating. The Warriors scored 1.3 points per possession during those 72 minutes.
The solution isn’t simply to go small – no team in the NBA can roll out as strong an undersized lineup as the Dubs. You need to find a mobile, athletic big who can hold his own on a switch (not an easy task) and roll him out there with four capable wings. The Cavs yielded just 1.001 points per possession with Love on the floor and Thompson off, and allowed just 1.1 points per possession with the inverse. When the two shared the floor, the number skyrocketed to an untenable 1.4. Yikes.
With Thompson guarding Green, Durant basically starts salivating when Love picks him up on a switch.
Cleveland’s best high-usage lineup in the series was Kyrie Irving/James/JR Smith/Love/Richard Jefferson, which posted a plus-minus of +4.7. Love and Thompson are both great players and form a tremendous front line in most matchups. But the Warriors murder units like that, and any team hoping to topple the champs needs to consider sticking with one big at a time.
James was an absolute monster in the Finals, averaging a triple double and tossing up a casual 33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists per game. Irving too was spectacular, averaging 29.8 points on 47.2 percent shooting. Love chipped in 16.2 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.
Cleveland’s biggest problem was that, after Smith (11.8 points) the supporting cast fell apart. Thompson (plus-minus of minus-30) was a mess offensively, Kyle Korver (minus-20, 31 percent shooting from 3) and Iman Shumpert (minus-15, 23.5 effective field goal percentage) went ice cold and Deron Williams (2-for-16 in the Finals) was a wreck. The Cavs built their bench out of again veterans and it backfired at the worst possible time.
Nothing symbolized this more than Korver’s wide-open miss at the end of Game 3, a brick that essentially sealed Cleveland’s fate.
As great as James, Irving and Love are, they cannot go it alone against a team as high-powered as the Warriors. They needed more help, and Cleveland’s bench just didn’t have it.
Golden State is clearly a team built around stars, but they also got meaningful contributions from Iguodala (+51), Livingston (22 points in the paint), David West (+20), Ian Clark (53.1 EFG) and Pat McCaw (+8) in this series. Even if their studs were slumping or in foul trouble, they had reliable pieces to fall back on, something the Cavs clearly lacked.
A team built solely around a few stars isn’t enough to topple Golden State. Even with James and Irving at the height of their powers, the Warriors handled the series with relative ease. Check out the shot chart for Cleveland outside of James, Irving, Love and Smith, the one role player who held up his end of the bargain.
That group posted a collective 0.87 VPS, canned just 10 of its 47 (21.3 percent) 3-point attempts and turned the ball over on nearly 15 percent of their possessions. Their inability to provide value submarined the superhuman efforts of the team’s stars.
Constructing a team to stop the Warriors monster is obviously a tall task. Despite some free agency concerns this offseason, Golden State appears poised to be the title favorite for the next several seasons. But the Finals showed some ways in which the Dubs might be topped. The Cavs weren’t able to top full advantage of those cracks, but with some savvy offseason moves, maybe some team might.
These numbers are the types of insights that help coaches and front office personnel make critical roster decisions, and they’re available to you with Hudl. You can break down the numbers yourself or let Hudl Assist do the work for you. Either way, you’ll have access to numbers, charts and trends that bring new life to the game.
Shot charts show you where an offense excels and struggles, and pairing them with video allows for valuable insights.
The best way to craft an effective offense is to get your best shooters launching from where they’re most efficient. Chasing that data led to the creation of the shot chart, as coaches often had assistants charting makes and misses from the bench or while watching the video afterward.
But relegating a shot chart to a piece of paper is exercising only a fraction of its ability. Hudl allows you to craft nearly any shot chart for your team or an individual player based on shot type, quarter/half and zone breakdown. You can call up your own shot chart or see how opponents have done against you, exposing holes in your defense.
Video Brings Shot Charts to Life
Shot charts are taken to a whole new level when connected to video. With one click you can call up all shots from that specific area, saving you the time of having to hunt through game video and find specific moments. It’s an edge that the nation’s best programs have fully embraced.
“You can go back and watch all the times they were in the corner, all the times they’ve taken runners, all the times they’ve had a hook shot in the paint,” Kevin Cullen, the Director of Information Technology for Duke basketball, said. “You can look at that right away and see not only were they 4 for 5, but here are the four times they made it and the one time they didn’t.”
If a post player struggles from one block but excels from the other, call up video from both spots to see what he or she is doing differently. Tired of watching your opponent rain 3-pointers from the corner? Check out the video and find the holes in your rotation.
Click the play arrow to see the short video
You can’t put a value on that,” Ryan Fretz of Clyde High (Ohio) said. “You really can’t. Just to be able to click on that and look at what type of shots he’s taking, you stick it right in the scouting report – 75 percent of his shots came off a down screen. Three of his 10 shots were catch-and-shoot, the rest were all taking it to the hole. It allows us to get that edge, to know what the guy is going to do before he gets the ball.”
Shot Charts Provide Clarity
Our minds simply aren’t capable of being completely objective, especially in the heat of battle. That’s something Chris Horton, the women’s coach at Lone Oak High (Texas) realized, but going through shot charts after the game brings things back into balance.
“When you’re in the games, you’re just in the flow of things,” he said. “My assistant coaches see it and we talk about who’s doing what. But in terms of what particular areas they’re scoring from, it’s hard to see until afterward. When I can look at the chart and see what’s going on, I’ll click on the specific area and that’ll pull up video.
“If I’ve got a girl that’s having trouble scoring inside, why? What’s she doing? It helps me coach them. It helps me big picture with offensive design, but it also helps me help them. I’ll go into each individual area and I’ll pull up the video. It helps me as a team concept and it helps me individually. I’ve had them start looking at their own stuff.”
Scout Like a Pro
Shot charts aren’t limited to learning about your own team. Use the data to find out where your opposition tries to get shots and craft your defense to keep them out of those spots. If there is an area where your opponent struggles, try to get them in that space more often.
Christian Selich, the women’s coach at Millington High (Mich.) has found great value in scouting opponents through shot charts and brings a TV into the locker room a few times each week to lay out the game plan to his players.
“There are certain opponents that we know shoot well from a certain spot and this is a spot that we don’t defend well, maybe we’ll spend some extra time in practice defending this area so we’re not giving up points,” he said.
Shot charts have always been useful, but their evolution has turned them into one of the most important weapons in a coach’s arsenal. To get more information on Hudl’s stat reports, check out this blog.
Hudl picked the minds of a few athletic psychologists to find out why video should be a central part of any coach’s review process.
“Basically, we’re not great at being objective.”
This is the way Brett Haskell, an athletic psychologist at the University of Nebraska, describes the human brain’s ability to recall specific situations, and the sentiment is especially true in sports. Thanks to biases, stress, fatigue and the pressure of the moment, most athletes and coaches remember things differently from how they actually transpired on the court.
This is precisely why video review is so important. Video restores our brains with some of the objectivity lost in the heat of battle. As Texas head coach Shaka Smart told Hudl, “The tape don’t lie.”
So how exactly does a film session get our brains back on the right track, and how can you relay that information to athletes? We talked with Haskell and fellow Nebraska psychologist Brett Woods to find out.
Try as we might to remain objective, our emotions simply don’t allow it. The way we think and feel in the moment affects our ability to accurately recall it later.
“Our emotions can sometimes override our prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for evaluating performances, more of the logistics of evaluation,” Woods said. “That can color your perception of the event and your memory, your recall is more shaded by your emotional evaluation of the performance rather than the actual event that took place.”
Our memories are also fighting attribution bias – we develop an idea of how things are happening and interpret information through that lens. For example, if a point guard commits a few turnovers in the opening minutes that lead to fast breaks, a coach might carry that memory throughout the contest and think the player had a poor game, regardless of whether said player ended up with just a couple of miscues or a plethora of assists.
“I develop a hypothesis and then I look for only the information that confirms my hypothesis,” Haskell said. “If my hypothesis is that my team is playing terrible, I hone in on their mistakes and neglect the information that contradicts that hypothesis and tells me they’re actually playing OK. In situations where there is heavy emotion in the moment, that impacts that bias even more.”
This is where video can help. The ability to go back and view the game allows coaches to rewatch it in a new light. Let’s return to the above example – that coach could create a playlist of that player’s assists and turnovers to make an accurate opinion on his play. And by rewatching the turnovers, he could discern whether the turnovers were his guard’s fault or due to mistakes made by other players.
Greg Eaton, the video coordinator for the Nebraska men’s basketball team, constantly stresses this point to coach Tim Miles, urging him to check the video before making final assessments.
“A box score accuses, the film provides evidence,” Eaton said. “You had four turnovers, the kid can say “I was pressured.” The video proves you made three bad passes.”
Stats come in handy here as well. Though statistics can be interpreted in different ways, they represent concrete information that lays out what happened on the court. Statistical reports can convey trends or patterns that you missed during the heat of the action.
By checking out his point guard’s assist/turnover ratio, our coach would be able to form an unbiased opinion on his player’s performance.
Combining these numbers with video paints an accurate recap of the game, not the emotion-influenced version our mind remembers.
Once you have a bias-free account of the contest, it’s time to transfer that information to your players. Athletes experience the same attribution bias that coaches (and for that matter, fans) do, so teaching through video is critical, and the sooner the better.
“The closer to the event that you’re watching the feedback, the more effective it will be,” Woods said. “For instance, if you have an event on a Monday and you’re reviewing that video a week from then, your ability to retain that information and use it effectively is diminished because of the length between your actual performance and when you’re watching it.”
Not only is reviewing video good for your brain, but science shows it helps physically as well. The psychoneuromuscular theory hypothesizes that athletes can actually improve performance by seeing video of themselves or others.
“Basically when you imagine yourself doing things, through video or through your mind, the hypothesis is that it activates neural pathways in the same way as when you’re physically executing the skill,” Haskell said. “To a lesser degree, you’re getting physical repetitions through your nervous system even though you’re not actually executing the movement.”
It’s not just the psychologists and scientists that have bought into video – the elite athletes are fully invested as well. USA Basketball assistant director BJ Johnson said players such as LeBron James and Chris Paul devour video, studying their games to try and uncover any tendencies or weaknesses.
“Don’t just think you can go out and work on skills for a few hours,” Johnson said. “These guys spend hours, not only on the court working on their skills but also the mental part of it, which is through watching video. Dive into understanding how important it is to watch video and to watch games of yourself and other players. That’s really a key part of the development of a basketball player – understanding your tendencies and what you need to work on, but also picking up things from other players.
“Understanding offenses and understanding situations – that can only be done by studying the game and watching video.”
The top minds in both the athletic and scientific fields agree on the importance of video. But there’s an important factor for coaches to remember – like most things in life, too much of a good thing can become problematic.
This is why Maryland coach Mark Turgeon will watch six to eight hours of video in scouting each opponent but will typically show his players just 12 minutes. Overloading their minds with information can lead to diminished performance on the court.
“From a coach’s perspective, it’s important to know your athletes and how to give your athletes feedback,” Woods said. “At this level with elite athletes, you have athletes who are over analyzing every single little detail. Based on the coach’s feedback, the athlete can get too much into their head, which can be counterproductive to them performing. It’s critical for the coaches to know how to deliver the feedback while watching as well.”
Because of this, Turgeon typically doesn’t like players watching much video on their own until they become seasoned veterans. It’s important to monitor not only how much video your players are watching, but also the insights they’re gaining. You need to convey a specific message during each video session.
“You have to have a real sense of purpose when you go into video review,” Haskell said. “You don’t want to get stuck in that over-analysis or paralysis by analysis that athletes will sometimes get into.”
“Athletes need a lot of instruction on how to effectively review film so they don’t get caught in some of those thinking traps.”
Our understanding of video, recall and how our brains absorb information is still evolving and new discoveries are continuing to be made. But this much is clear – we can’t always recall an objective memory of an event, but video helps put together the pieces we might be missing.
Now that you’ve seen how important video is, get started using it. Check out Hudl Basketball and reap the benefits.
During a one-on-one interview with Hudl, Texas coach Shaka Smart opens up on coaching philosophy, video study, scouting and more. Here’s an inside look at one of the top minds in the sport.
The interview is set to begin at 10:20, and that’s precisely when Shaka Smart enters the gym. He briskly walks across the court, cordially and succinctly makes introductions and handshakes, then seats himself for the interview.
Although the morning’s practice has yet to begin, Smart’s laser-like focus is evident within seconds. The coach understands both the enormous opportunity and the burden that comes with it, and he’s zoned in on helping this new team succeed.
The head coach at Texas and leader of the USA Basketball U18 squad, Smart’s attention is on getting his team ready for the upcoming FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Chile. Gifted a roster of some of the best teenagers the nation has to offer, Smart, along with respected assistants Mark Turgeon of Maryland and Kevin Ollie of Connecticut, has a bevy of weapons at his disposal.
But the opportunity didn’t come without pressure. The Americans entered the tournament, which took place in Chile in mid-July, with a 15-game winning streak in the event and the crowns from the last three championships. Success was an expectation, not a hope.
As the interview begins and the subject turns to coaching, Smart maintains the same passion he’ll display during practice half an hour later. This is not a man who does things halfway. Smart is engaged and, like everything in his life, he dives in completely, using each second to provide valuable insights into how one of the fastest-rising coaches in the nation tackles his craft.
Comprised of some of the nation’s premier players in the 2016-17 classes, the U18 team is coming off a scrimmage with the University of Houston the night before, an effort Turgeon was quite pleased with. But you’d never know it from the tempo of this morning’s practice, which is supposed to be a simple walkthrough. Smart’s intensity seldom dips during the hour-long period, nearly half of which is devoted to full-speed work.
Everything is a competition, from full-court action to simple shooting drills. Smart never flashes anger or rage – he’s not known as a yeller – but he’s constantly challenging his players with a mixture of encouragement and demands.
“Being able to find meaning in what you’re doing is very, very important,” Smart said. “In college coaching, and this goes for players as well, we choose to be there. That’s a conscious choice. If we wake up and choose not to be there then we could. But at the same time if we choose to be there, we’re also chosen. Coaches are hired. Players are recruited. The combination of those two things, that you’re making a choice and that someone chose you to be there, it’s a really special thing, and if it’s significant to you, you’re going to have a level of motivation to work extremely hard and to make your team better. It’s about remembering the people you’re around and trying to help them get better every day. That’s what motivates me every day and makes this so much fun.”
Smart brings that same passion to his video study, something he considers vital to his success. Due to the speed of the game, it can be tough to pick up on everything happening on the court in real time.
“The saying is that the tape don’t lie, so it’s great to take the things that happen on the floor and slow them down,” Smart said. “Be able to pause, rewind and play a segment back over and over again and just learn, first of all as a coach, what some of the things are that we need to do better as a team, and then to be able to take individuals and groups of players and say, ‘Here’s an area where you’re doing really well. Keep doing that,’ and ‘Here’s another area that maybe we need to do a little bit differently.’”
Smart finds a lot of value in breaking down opponents’ video, in particular how they handle full-court pressure, a staple of Smart’s coaching philosophy.
“We like to press, so we put a lot of time into, what’s a team’s press attack?” Smart said. “Who do they have taking the ball out of bounds? Where are they going to throw it in? What’s their alignment? All those sorts of things, and video is huge for that.”
But often he likes to take in what his own team is doing, even if he’s just watching video of practice. Nothing escapes Smart’s eyes – anything less than max effort during a drill, slumped shoulders after a few missed shots, poor execution coming out of a timeout – it’s all part of his self-scouting process.
“What’s our body language look like after plays and how closely are we connected after huddles?” Smart said. “Those things are huge. Those are the building blocks of your program before you even get into X’s and O’s.
“One of the things that happens in scouting is, if you get so caught up in the other team and what they’re doing, and as a coaching staff trying to memorize every single action and every single movement they make, you lose sight on, what are the things we need to do to be most successful?”
The interview lasts 22 minutes, but not once does Smart’s focus waver. He’s clearly amped to attack the upcoming practice, but he remains engaged as he discusses some of the aspects that have helped him win 73 percent of his career games, take VCU to the Final Four in 2011 and land the Texas gig with just six years of head coaching experience.
Just like Smart’s planned-to-the-minute practice schedule, which is followed meticulously, his daily agenda is carefully constructed. Efficiency is of the essence, and any tool that can help Smart unearth critical insights while saving time is highly valued.
This is why video has become such an important part of Smart’s coaching repertoire. He credits his stint at Dayton (2001-03) with unlocking the benefits of video. Smart gained a much better understanding of which opposing coaches were trying to do and developed a knack for noticing player tendencies.
“You learn so much from seeing what other coaches do, what other teams do, what some of the great players do instinctually,” he said.
Nothing escapes Smart’s watchful eyes. If an opposing post player excels on one block and struggles on the other, he’ll bend his defense and try to force him to that spot. If he notices a player’s accuracy dips when he takes a step inside the 3-point line, he’ll encourage that shooter to watch the position of his feet and stay farther out.
“We’ll break down every single shot in practice a guy has. If our guys want to, they can see every single shot they have. We grade those shots by what we call shot quality, and we also have a shot chart that we give them that shows them where the different spots on the floor are. Then they can actually click on that spot and watch every shot they took from say, the left corner.
As the interview concludes, Smart rises, shakes hands and briskly exits to a neighboring gym where the rest of the squad is gathering for team photos.
Smart isn’t strictly business – the guy knows how to have fun. A former point guard at Kenyon College, Smart is far shorter than several of his players. He closes the gap a bit by standing on his tip toes for the photo.
Once practice begins, however, it’s back to business. Each play is expected to be executed to perfection – any slip-ups lead to a stoppage, followed by Smart calmly correcting the miscue. Turgeon and Ollie also take control for segments of practice, seamlessly passing the leadership baton as if the group practiced it the night before.
Smart’s passion clearly resonates with the players, who weeks later go on to win all five of their games by an average of 30.4 points, crowned by a 99-84 victory over Canada in the title game on July 23. That was the only game the Americans didn’t win by at least 20 points.
“The discipline to work, that’s what it really comes down to,” Smart said. “You have to be in the gym. There’s really no shortcut when it comes down to that, but there has to be a level of discipline to what you’re working on.
“You have to have a level of discipline and a work ethic to understand, ‘Here’s what’s going into what’s making me better,’ you’ve got to attack those things, whether you’re the No. 1 player in the country or someone who is fighting to get playing time on your high school team.”
Smart makes it clear that video is a key piece to his coaching process. If you want to find out what video can do for you, check out Hudl basketball.