The NBA season starts today, and we want to help


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Today represents the first day of the 2015-2016 NBA season, and we want to help.

Well, sort of. Over the years, CSAIL researchers have regularly participated in the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, where computer scientists and mathematicians come together to discuss research on big data and sports.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, it's the world's biggest student-run conference and one that attracts representatives from more than 80 professional sports teams and students from over 170 countries.

Here are a few take-aways that might be of assistance to players and coaches this season.

Crash the boards more on O!

In a 2014 paper researchers found that players' tendencies to get back early on defense after a missed shot, while obviously often conducive to defensive success, reduces a team’s probability of getting an offensive rebound by more than half.

The team used optical tracking data to develop novel metrics to summarize a team’s strategy immediately following a missed shot, and determine conclusively: "To Crash or Not to Crash [the Boards]?"
 

 

Let computers do the data-crunching!

Teams often employ statisticians to do the labor-intensive task of logging key benchmarking statistics. Usually, though, it's simply not humanly feasible.

Another CSAIL team created a computer program (PDF) that can automatically identify pick-and-rolls. The team used machine-learning techniques to sift through roughly 50,000 pick-and-rolls , also known as on-ball screens, which refer to instances in which an offensive player blocks the path of the defender who is guarding the person with the ball.