The NBA has one of the most demanding competitive schedules of any professional sport. After summer league and preseason play comes 82 regular season games, the play-in tournament, and then the playoffs, meaning teams who advance deep into the postseason could conceivably play close to 100 games in a single season. Top players also have national team training camps in the summer, along with international tournaments such as the Olympics, FIBA Basketball World Cup, and more.
The high volume and density of games is only one piece of the player readiness puzzle in the NBA. The demands of travel take a heavy toll, too, with disrupted practice and meal schedules, the circadian rhythm chaos caused by crossing time zones, and compromised sleep quality and quantity all impacting players.
NBA teams have turned to Smartabase to keep a close eye on every member of their roster as the season progresses. While each organization has their own nuances of working or analyzing the data to give them a competitive advantage, there are common use cases across every team.
Take player readiness. On every NBA team, for a given game or practice, the performance staff must answer, “which of my players are ready to go today?” In this article and the accompanying video, we’ll show how Smartabase is used by NBA teams to support Player Readiness.
PLAYER READINESS: DATA INPUTS
The ability of an AMS like Smartabase to integrate with multiple external devices and platforms enables NBA teams to consolidate inputs on every facet of player readiness in a single, centralized location. Here are several examples of how integrating technology inputs with an AMS improves player readiness in pro basketball:
GAME & PERFORMANCE STATS
Every NBA arena is outfitted with cameras that feed ball and player movement data into the league-approved Second Spectrum system. In addition to providing the usual box score numbers like points, rebounds, assists, and so on, a smart camera system allows teams to capture in-game performance stats like the number and duration of accelerations and decelerations, average speed on offense and defense, and distance. This enables the performance staff to evaluate each player’s individual game-by-game loads and cumulative load exposure in competitive play over the course of each road trip, playoff series, and other timeframes, which helps inform minutes played and other selection decisions.
A large percent of NBA teams use Kinexon Perform to monitor individual player and team loads during practice. Having access to standardized load monitoring stats for the number of sprints, jumps, changes of direction, and other measurables makes it easier to assess total load on a daily, weekly, monthly, and season-long basis, which can inform overarching squad preparation decisions as well as individual programming changes. To make practice and game load data more usable to performance staff, an API between Kinexon and Second Spectrum ingests game data and normalizes it, helping to close the gap that used to exist between data sets from the practice court and those captured during competitive play.
One of the most crucial components of player readiness is return to play from injury and illness. Multiple NBA teams also use IMeasureU for this kind of load monitoring. While upper body injuries do occur in the NBA, players are far more likely to hurt their legs. Wearable sensors enable sports scientists to track the load and intensity being placed on players’ left and right legs. Doing so allows them to find the sweet spot between exposing a player to sufficient training and overdoing any phase of their rehab. It can also highlight overuse of one leg and underuse of the other.
In addition to amassing objective data that can be analyzed in Smartabase, it’s also useful to bring in subjective load monitoring information that players self-report. Smartabase serves up a post-workout questionnaire to each player via a mobile device. In just a few minutes, they indicate rate of perceived exertion (RPE) for each practice and weight room session, how well rested they are, soreness level, and so on.
Most NBA teams use Hawkin Dynamics’s HD Force Plates or VALD’s ForceDecks to do readiness testing on their players. For the purposes of availability, force plates can be useful to identify when an individual’s readiness is compromised. If countermovement jump scores drop off precipitously or show a steady decline over several days or weeks, it can indicate that a player is struggling with neuromuscular fatigue. They might need more rest, to reduce their overall load, or both to remedy the situation. Such systems can also pinpoint a left-to-right asymmetry that can predispose an athlete to overuse injuries on their dominant side or overcompensation on the other.
Several other systems commonly found in NBA facilities can help the S+C coach, athletic trainer, and other staff identify movement dysfunction that, if left uncorrected, can increase a player’s injury risk. The NordBord from VALD supplies strength and imbalance data regarding the hamstrings, a muscle group that is often injured in pro basketball. VALD has also incorporated the functionality of a previous product, the GroinBar, into its ForceFrame system, to assess each squad member’s hip abduction and adduction and any disparities between the two. An imbalance can suggest a greater risk of a groin muscle strain – another issue that causes NBA players to miss games. KangaTech’s KT360 allows coaches to collect accurate and reliable measurements of players’ isolated neuromuscular strength, endurance, and control, which all contribute to their readiness.
The stressors that playing professional basketball places on players is not merely measurable by external load. Heart rate variability (HRV), resting heart rate, respiration rate, and other metrics can help fill in the gaps in the full picture of NBA players’ readiness. Teams use the Oura Ring, Polar devices, and the Apple Watch to obtain such wellness indicators, which can be consolidated with the other data detailed in this section to make more precise choices around availability.
While there’s no substitute for the experienced eye of a veteran S+C coach, velocity-based training (VBT) tools can augment this by objectively measuring players’ power and speed in the weight room. If their output falls outside of a predetermined zone or fails to meet a velocity target, they get an audible alert. When the system reports a continual drop-off, the coach can then cut short the set, reduce the number of reps, or end the session to avoid a drop-off in movement quality and make sure that they’re not pushing past the individual’s limit for that particular day. After a session, coaches can view 1 RM reports, force/velocity profiles, and other information that can indicate a decline in power that might signal that a player’s readiness has declined. GymAware is the most widely used VBT system in the NBA.
NBA teams also use strength and conditioning software like TeamBuildr to create, implement, and monitor training programs. An integration between Smartabase and systems like TeamBuildr allows coaches to view players’ metrics – such as total reps and work, average power, rep completion ratio, and overall volume – alongside data from VBT, load monitoring, and other systems so that they can avoid overtraining players, while keeping them ready to perform on game day.
NUTRITION & HYDRATION
NBA players’ nutrition and hydration status is a key component of their overall readiness. Using smart scales during daily weigh-ins can help a team red flag any significant swings in bodyweight or BMI, and also help them rehydrate adequately. This can be particularly useful after playing a lot of minutes in a game or completing a long day of pre-season camp, both of which can lead to excess fluid loss that’s shown by reduced weight. Some younger players can also come into the league underweight, so weighing them daily can help the S+C coach add body mass gradually, even as they’re helping the individual get stronger, faster, and more durable.
NBA teams utilize Smartabase to supplement objective data obtained from smart scales with subjective nutrition and hydration information that players self-report. If someone’s eating or hydration habits are sub-par, the performance team can work with them to correct this before it becomes detrimental to performance or readiness.
PLAYER READINESS: METRICS & ANALYSIS
To be consistently available for practices and games, NBA players must build up and sustain enough load tolerance without becoming overloaded. To assess this, teams look at mechanical load and intensity, high speed running, and other metrics that measure external load. In addition to looking at individual weight room sessions, practices, and games, they also evaluate cumulative data points such as total active time and number of games played.
Players are much more susceptible to injury when there are jumps in intensity and volume, so NBA teams use Smartabase to watch out for spikes in acute-to-chronic ratios and anomalies in Z scores. Tests that evaluate reactive strength index (RSI) and eccentric duration are solid measuring sticks for readiness versus fatigue. Some common metrics that NBA teams collect from the systems and devices previously mentioned and analyze via the AMS include:
- Mechanical Load
- Mechanical Intensity
- High-Speed Running
- Total Active Time (game minutes)
- Total Games Played
- Acute/Chronic Ratio
- Z Scores
- Eccentric Duration
PLAYER READINESS: REPORTING
As we shared in a previous post, data only becomes usable information with context, and information only contributes knowledge and wisdom when it’s communicated in a useful and actionable way.
This is an area where Smartabase shines, thanks to its visualization capabilities. The sports science staff needs access to detailed information to perform detailed analysis, but the coaching staff and professionals like the S+C coach just need quick-hit overviews that enable them to guide the team more effectively and make prudent, real-time selection decisions based on players’ current availability and readiness.
While each team can build their own custom views using the Smartabase Dashboard Builder, below are a few of the common reports NBA teams are benefiting from:
Current Availability Summary
Whether the head and assistant coaches are preparing for practice or getting ready to announce the lineup for the next game, they need to know who’s ready to go and who isn’t. This is the perfect dashboard to do so, providing the number of players who are available with no restrictions, those who have limited availability (usually because they’re somewhere in the return-to-play process), and those who are unavailable. A color-coded scale from bright green to red is a useful visual aid on this dashboard, which could be used by other members of the performance staff.
This dashboard also lists all members of the roster who are currently suffering from unresolved injuries (this section can be configured to include illnesses as well). Each player in this section has their headshot photo and name alongside a summary of their condition, and the number of games and practices they’ve missed as a result. If someone needs more detailed information, they can click on the player’s name and see thorough notes entered by a team physician, orthopedist, athletic trainer, or another member of the medical staff.
To complement the reports that concentrate on the day-to-day availability of each player and the roster in general, this dashboard offers a visual representation of the big player readiness picture. Subject matter experts can select start and end date ranges for availability. Once they’ve entered these values, they’ll be presented with a graphical representation of daily availability (again shown in the traffic light colors of red, yellow, and green), availability percentage, and an individual availability breakdown for each player. This report can be configured to show the entire team or the availability status of a particular player over time, making it easier to spot trends and then go back into training logs and other data to find correlations between readiness issues and external factors.
Overview of Team
The team readiness summary report provides the performance group and coaching staff with an at-a-glance view of which players are available to practice and play, those that aren’t, and the ones who will be a last-minute, game-time decision (as is often the case with an individual who’s getting ready to return from injury or illness or is dealing with a chronic condition like Achilles tendinopathy).
A traffic light color-coding system makes it easier to see players’ statuses. Red means that they’ve been ruled out, yellow indicates limited or controlled availability, and green shows that they’re ready to go. Any member of the performance team can glean more detailed information about the players’ overall readiness, with metrics on preparedness status, overnight HRV, and total load. For greater context, bodyweight percentage change, wellness score, jump height, and several other customizable fields are also available.
Individual Player Overview
This reporting dashboard provides a more granular version of the team readiness summary detailed above. The coaching staff can use color-coded sections to easily zero in on a player’s status (in or out) and their risk category (low, moderate, or high). If they need to be reminded of the individual’s recent availability, they can see a day-by-day view at the bottom of the screen that not only provides the player’s recent status, but also the reason that they were unavailable to practice and/or play (such as low back tightness) and any relevant medical notes.
The individual player overview also provides the S+C coach, athletic trainer, and performance team with convenient information on each player’s load levels over the previous 10 days, so they can watch for any spikes that might indicate compromised readiness. This is partnered with counter-movement jump (CMJ) scores, which are an indicator of neuromuscular readiness and fatigue. Fluctuations in wellness scores and bodyweight might indicate an issue that needs to be addressed.
PLAYER READINESS: TAKING ACTION
With all this player readiness information readily available in Smartabase, an NBA team’s performance staff are better informed to take swift actions around player availability.
Communication with the coaching staff is key here. The system can be set up to send notifications and alerts to specific coaches to let them know who is available and who needs to rest, and these can also be configured manually if needed in certain situations. If the S+C coach sees a player is overloaded or in danger of becoming so, they can modify their individualized training program to dial back intensity, density, and/or volume until the player’s readiness increases.
Smartabase also facilitates prescribing interventions when needed, such as prompting a player to schedule an appointment with an athletic trainer. Smartabase helps the coaching staff make better load management decisions by finding windows of opportunity to push players and when to back off. This keeps them fresh throughout the regular season and makes it more likely that they can make positive contributions when it matters the most.
Smartabase removes the guesswork from player readiness for NBA performance staff, putting everything needed to assess player readiness together in one place and enabling seamless collaboration between the performance, coaching, and medical groups and the players themselves.
OTHER USE CASES FOR NBA TEAMS