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Interview: Philip Maymin, NYU on How Optical Analytics will Revolutionize Basketball


We discuss the emergence of Optical Analytics, its impact on NBA, challenges in integrating Optical Analytics into game strategy, the trade-off of analytical insights vs gut instinct and the impact on fan engagement.



AR: Q3. How should coaches deal with the trade-off of insights from Analytics vs. gut instinct? Is there anything that can be done from Analytics side, to make this choice easier for coaches?

Analytics vs Gut CoachesPM: Gut instinct is great for forming hypotheses. Analytics are then used to backtest those hypotheses. If the coaches can formulate and backtest new hypotheses on their own as easily as pulling up video, that would make things much easier. But if they have to sit through meeting after meeting and repeat over and over what they want, they’ll stop asking.

Gut instinct has also been a really good computational heuristic when computation and data were scarce and expensive. But now, there are better tools available. Let’s use them.

Coaches are perhaps the most adaptive people on the planet. They might have to rework their entire offensive and defensive schemes mid-season following a major trade. If there is a tool that can help them easily and quickly run objective what-if scenarios based on mountains of historical evidence, I think they would love that.

AR: Q4. Do you believe Optical Analytics has impacted fan engagement? How will it affect Fantasy Basketball?

Fantasy BasketballPM: Sure. Most fans now know how great the corner three is. They know that driving into the paint is usually a good thing. They know that some players tend to get more traffic rebounds than others. But it’s not their primary focus. I think fans are mostly engaged, and rightly so, on the truly amazing plays that the world’s greatest athletes perform on a nightly basis.

The NBA has just signed a deal with FanDuel, and Commissioner Adam Silver has recently expressed support for extending and allowing sports betting. I think optical analytics will impact both of those, in proportion to how much optical data is available direct to fans for analysis.

The second and last part of the interview is here.

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