If you’re a sports fan and a stats geek, then you need to hop on a plane and get to the 12th annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (SSAC) in Boston this weekend. The SSAC is the premier venue for discussing sports analytics, technical advances, statistical analysis and businesses. It’s also the largest student-run conference in the world, bringing together super-smart students from more than 170 different schools, as well as representatives from more than 80 professional sports teams in the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, and Premier League.
SSAC is renowned for panel discussions featuring some the industry’s biggest personalities, competitive advantage talks, sports exhibitions and impressive interactive events like last year’s eSports ProAm tournament and drone racing. At this year’s event, hundreds got in line early to hear from former U.S. president and Chicago sports fan Barack Obama, the first day’s featured speaker.
Another exciting element of this year’s SSAC is a new (and newfangled) app known as: Bhostgusters: Realtime Interactive Play Sketching with Synthesized NBA Defenses. Named for the “ghosts” of NBA players it creates on an electronic white-board, Bhostgusters offers a high-tech alternative to the average NBA coach’s frenzied, heat-of-the-moment drawing up a play and hoping for the best.
The app models how “real NBA defenses respond to various offensive actions.” By combining “recurrent neural networks” (machine learning for non-engineers) with player tracking data from all 1,230 NBA games of the 2016-2017 season, coaches can see the likelihood of their best-laid-plans succeeding — or failing.
Bhostgusters considers every aspect of a team’s defensive strategy including screens, switching, boxing out, defensive set, strength of team, and even player fatigue. The best part is that coaches can diagram a defensive set on an electronic whiteboard and see how “the opposition is likely to respond.”
Coaches can also edit plays to see how things could happen if a different pass were made, or a different screen set. Because the algorithms run in real-time, Bhostgusters delivers instant objective analysis for every defensive scenario. Who even needs coaches anymore, right? Every NBA team could do what my Golden State Warriors did earlier this month and just hand the whiteboard to a player on the team.
(To see the Bhostgusters app in action, click here. And if you want to design and develop the next revolutionary app like Bhostguster yourself, then consider getting some training and launching a career in IT. Speaking of which, the only thing sweeter than a cool new app is the deals that you can get on IT training from TestOut CE. If you missed our Presidents Day Sale, then you missed out, big time. But don’t let that cramp your style — our training is so good that even paying full price is a steal!)
If you’re a roundball fan who enjoys fiddling around with various “counter-factuals”— and we all do — then this app will consume you. You’ll be able to support your passionate (some would say deranged) what-if hypotheticals of Utah’s rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell posterizing an opponent, or Steph Curry dropping a 40-foot trey to ruin Houston’s season.
Information technology is making everything better. No longer are data analytics the sole purview of the front office. Technology is now courtside! The only thing better at predicting the outcome of NBA season than Bhostgusters is Dub Nation — we all know that, come June, our beloved Warriors will yet again be hoisting another championship banner!
About the Author — Kyle Orton is a sales account manager for TestOut Corporation. He has a business management degree with an emphasis in marketing from Brigham Young University. He is married to Jill Orton, the love of his life, and they have five children. If Kyle could have dinner with with any five current Warriors players four of them would be Steph Curry, and the fifth would also be Steph Curry. Kevin Durant would be the honorary sixth man, but he would have to sit at the folding table in the TV room with Kyle's kids and Klay Thompson. Draymond Green didn’t even get told about the party, much less invited to it, and Nick Young and Zaza Pachulia are like, “Where did Steph go? Anyone know what happened to Steph? Guys? Man, nobody ever tells us anything.”