Blog Sports

A player’s life cycle in the NBA

NBA Insights: How wearable technology enriches performance management throughout the player’s life cycle.

MunichFeb 22, 2018

In recent years, a new trend in the NBA has emerged. Instead of focusing on drafting and trading players to compete at the highest level, many organizations have invested into resources that can help the team build and develop a strong roster. As an example, the Philadelphia 76ers started a rebuild process a few years ago, followed by poor season records for the last four years. As a result, they acquired highly valuable first round picks to build a team for the future. Although the 76ers had to invest much time and effort to address many injuries, primarily involving previously injured top round draft picks, they started to shift their focus on developing and maintaining their players’ performance by embracing contemporary methodology and technology. By creating a sustainable approach on player development, the Philadelphia 76ers challenged the status quo of how they manage a player’s life cycle in the NBA. Similar to other Professional Sporting Teams, the 76ers have invested resources into performance and load management as they pursue success.

But what exactly is a player life cycle and how can performance management benefit from innovative technologies like wearables tracking and analysing player performance?

The following concept is based on many conversations with leading experts in the NBA, but first and foremost influenced by Dr. David T. Martin, Director Performance Research & Development and his team who have attempted to personalize and refine how the 76ers monitor load on a daily basis. By sharing his ideas on performance management, pursuing the latest developments in sports performance analytics and learning from the diversity of various technologies in this industry, his team became one of the leading innovators in the NBA. Assuming that players face different stages in their careers, the idea of a player life cycle can help to identify different focus areas for improvement – for the player himself as well as for the entire team. Based on this idea, the following five stages describe player’s career transitions within the life cycle and how wearable technology can support the overall experience associated with player development.

1. Selection: Teams select players based on different criteria, for example their player profile, basketball skills, athletic performance, health & injury history, overall potential as well as their overall fit for team and of course costs. Once selected, a player will either be drafted, traded or contracted as a free agent. Within the process of player evaluation and selection, athlete monitoring can provide valuable insights for player profiling. Performance data from college games, previous NBA seasons or performance insights at the NBA Draft Combine enhances player scouting of potential roster prospects. All this information helps to assess a player’s performance – especially the specific fit to the roster and the game plan.

2. Development: Once selected, teams begin developing their players over years. The development process requires time and feedback and ideally results in the improvement of the general skill set, athletic performance and the development of the team. Athlete performance monitoring helps players, coaches and sport scientists to understand the physical demands of the game and identify both negative and positive developments over days, weeks and months. It is a powerful tool to manage stress and strain transparently throughout the season. Further, detailed player profiles can become valuable reference values for future developments or rehabilitation situations.

3. Competition: Players and teams naturally want to compete at the highest level. NBA has provided game movement data (via Second Spectrum) to all teams in the last four years in order to monitor player load over the stressful course of 82 regular season games plus additional playoffs. Comparable performance insights from wearables in practice deliver the missing piece of information in order to receive a full load and performance picture of athletes. Important is that the data in practice is comparable to the data in games. If the latter is implemented, teams can make smarter decisions on minutes played for their starters, ideal resting scenarios and individual practice adjustments. The ultimate goal is always to keep the players healthy and in the best possible condition.

4. Rehabilitation: Injury prevention and rehabilitation is one of the most important aspects within the player life cycle and probably also the most obvious stage, which can be facilitated by wearable technology and its insights for performance management. However, injuries become an inevitable part of the game. As recent analyses show, the number of injuries in the NBA is continuously increasing. Teams try to provide the best medical support to return their players to play. Although medical teams are aware of player’s health, they actually just declare players return to practice. By missing out to fill the gap between returning players back to practice and play, teams have to deal with critical re-injuries. Therefore, it’s even more important that coaches, medical staff, sport scientists, athletic trainers and strength & conditioning coaches all work together towards these goals. The importance of this topic is reflected in the increase of staff working in this particular area – the number has more than quadrupled in some cases over the past couple of years. In addition, player tracking systems help to build a holistic approach for medical and sport scientist staff to return players to games and close the gap between return to practice & play. In the past, this process has been quite arbitrary and based on common sense, rather than being solidly backed up by data and fundamental feedback. State-of-the-art wearables, such as KINEXON, add both a qualitative and a quantifiable layer to this process. Analyses like longitudinal comparison for player profiling within the rehabilitation process or daily comparison of actual and target values help to understand load management, stress and strain reaction. Through this, the process of planning practices and games gets significantly more evidence-based and less gut feeling.

5. Transition: Within the NBA players get traded and transitioned into and out of the organization. All players have their background and personal data like performance and injury history. Data profiles for players enable organizations to execute a smoother transition from one organization to another. The latest example of trading Marco Belinelli from the Atlanta Hawks to the Philadelphia 76ers (two KINEXON customers), illustrates how carefully handling and transferring performance data (including the support of the player) can keep player’s injury and development history transparent. Both the player and the club benefit from this: the player has a higher chance of staying healthy and continues to develop himself more easily, while the club’s reputation increases by handing over a healthy player with a good profile and documentation.

Performance data and analytics can support professional teams who are committed to helping players gracefully transition through the different focus areas within the Professional Sport Life Cycle”. NBA organizations understand that the thorough maintenance of their most valuable assets is the key to success (“The most expensive player is the injured player”). Teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, or Washington Wizards have already implemented performance management systems, first NCAA programs (e.g. Stanford University or St. John’s University) are following. And the transition continues…

You can find Dr. David Martin’s presentation about Using Wearable Technology to Refine the Return-To-Play Process in the NBA” at MIT Sloan Sports Conference 2018 here:

More stories

200424 KINEXON Sports Webinare EU 20200116 NB i Ball 71620 edited
3 Things Coaches Need to Know About Ball Tracking in Professional Football

Bayer 04 Leverkusen is the first Bundesliga club to use KINEXON ball tracking in training. Read here the three most important learnings from our webinar series on player and ball tracking — how tactical analysis will change football coaching.

Safe Zone Blog Impact header
How KINEXON SafeZone Saves Money by Protecting Employees

An employee infected with COVID-19 can lead to a complete stop of the entire operation. The financial damage can run into the millions after 10 working days. This calculation example shows the importance of efficient protective measures — for the health of the employees and the company at the same time.

Blake Griffin
Readiness, In-Season Assessment & Recovery: Three Takeaways

Our educational sports webinar sessions on Readiness, In-Season Assessment & Recovery have concluded. We have summarized the most important takeaways for you below. 

Colts Training 4
In-Season Conditioning: Three Takeaways

Our educational sports webinar sessions on In-Season Conditioning have concluded. We have summarized the most important takeaways for you before entering the next stage of the series. 

What to do with the Data8
What to do with the Data: Three Takeaways

Our educational sports webinar sessions on What to do with the Data have concluded. We have summarized the most important takeaways for you before entering the next stage of the series. 

Thumbnail 200414 US Sports Webinar Load Management Joel Embiid Blog
Load Management: Three Takeaways

Our educational sports webinar sessions on Load Management have concluded. We have summarized the most important takeaways for you before entering the next stage of the series. 

Startupsagainstcorona keyvisual
COVID-19: Joining Forces against Corona

In times of crisis such as these, one thing above all is important: the solidarity between people — and in this context also between companies. Because only together we will successfully master the challenges. The Venture Client company 27pilots also recognized this and launched an initiative. We at KINEXON are part of it and help to protect employees and maintain production processes!

Kinexon mitarbeiterschutz4 0
Social Distancing Meets RTLS: How Our Customer ASM Protects Employees From Corona in a Creative Way

With the current situation, positive news is especially welcome. One positive note came from our customer ASM. And it gave us hope for the next few months. 

Kinexon blog dieter krockauer materialflow
Smart Factory strategy with fast payback? Only if you don’t forget these points!

Our Vice President Digital Transformation knows the challenges of the industry. In his blog article he shares three simple but far-reaching recommendations.

Exchainge 2019
What we learned from EXCHAINGE 2019

The 7th International Supply Chain Summit EXCHAiNGE brought us not only exciting discussions with industry experts but also an award winner with whom we have a close partnership. Our co-founder Alexander Hüttenbrink congratulates our partner and shares his takeaways.

191125 Header UWB in Basketball
Why Ultra-Wide Band Technology Has Been Scoring Points in Basketball for Years

One of the world’s largest tech companies is relying on Ultra Wide Band and obviously has big plans with the technology. In the US, the NBA has been flying high for years with UWB and the college teams are following suit — for good reason.

The Message That Made Our Day: BMW Wins Logistics Prize 2019

When one of our customers is awarded a prestigious prize, the whole KINEXON family is cheering, too. Especially when our technology made a decisive contribution…

Case Study: Comdirect Innovates Sport Sponsoring With Live Performance Data

How could a bank profit from real-time sports performance analysis? Comdirect gives the answer!

Transition in the US Sports Betting Market: What Role Data Tracking Can Play

Sports betting in Europe, especially in England, is a strongly flourishing business – in the US however, it is still in its early stages. 

Can Performance Tech Safeguard your Payroll?

Over the last ten years, professional sport has become more and more physically demanding: The speed of the game has increased enormously, while at the same time the schedule for teams and players has become tighter and tighter.