Speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Friday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver talked about how important data will be to the NBA’s future. Is Spurs coach Gregg Popovich right when he rests his top players throughout the season (sometimes getting fined for the move)? Silver said he realizes the data back up Popovich’s decision. (“Maybe he’s right,” said the commish, according to NBC’s Brett Pollakoff.) But without drastic moves like Popovich sitting Tim Duncan, how do you keep players from getting worn down and still feed the fans 82 games a season, plus playoffs?
The answer may lie with efficiency based on better data. Silver thinks, given better data analytics, the NBA could schedule the season more efficiently. That doesn’t necessarily mean dropping games, but instead looking at the real effects of travel, time zones, back-to-back games, and other factors that data reveal. Data, however, are only effective when they are comprehensive. So Silver will have to get each team to share more info than they’re currently sharing. If that means giving up a competitive advantage, expect teams to start reworking their privacy policies.