In the NBA, the future is now.
According to Jeff Caplan of NBA.com, eight NBA teams are experimenting with some seriously next-level technology to measure the movements of their players:
The device, called OptimEye, is roughly the size of an oldfangled beeper and athletes wear it inside their jerseys on the upper back between the shoulder blades. The device records literally every movement the player makes, accurately measuring exertions such as distance, velocity, changes of direction, acceleration, deceleration, jumps, heart rate and more.
The Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks and four teams who wished to remain anonymous are all utilizing these monitors to get a grip on whether or not their players are exerting too much energy in workouts.
Right now, the primary use for the OptimEye units seems to be injury prevention. According to Caplan, the Knicks used it last season to track Jason Kidd’s health when the guard was trying to work his way back from injury.
But with the amount of unique information the devices provide, teams can also get a handle on how efficient their players’ movements are. If the Knicks want to know whether J.R. Smith accelerates more quickly when moving to his right than he does to his left, all they have to do is slap an OptimEye unit on him and wait for the chart to print out after practice.
Currently, the NBA doesn’t allow the devices to be worn during regular-season games. But the Spurs made news when their players sported them during summer league play, and according to Caplan, Rick Carlisle’s Mavericks plan to use them during the preseason.
Nobody should be surprised by the sudden explosion of innovative metrics. These devices are the next logical step in the NBA’s hunger to accumulate as much data as possible. A handful of teams already use SportVU’s arena tracking system to catalogue each player’s precise movements on the floor.
With the OptimEye, teams can now theoretically see how each player’s body is responding to those movements.
The NBA is not alone in its embrace of new analytical methods. In fact, the NFL’s Buffalo Bills released a video explaining how they’ve been using the OptimEye units.
This is all extremely cool, and as technology continues to improve, teams are only going to get better at understanding how to best utilize their players.
And if OptimEye eventually helps the Sacramento Kings get DeMarcus Cousins to stop making faces, all the better.