In this digital era, basketball is a data-driven sport and those analytics impact the performances of teams and players today.
Synergy Sports Technology has drastically transformed the game’s scouting and player development this century. The newly established B. League is one of the many hoop leagues and teams that depend on the company’s product.
Synergy is a web-based, on-demand analytics platform that tracks down every play of every game for those leagues that are partnered with Synergy Sports Technology, which was founded in 2004.
Many of the world’s top leagues and associations, such as the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Division I and FIBA, are currently using it. With the launch of the B. League, the Japanese men’s top professional league purchased a license and distributed four accounts each to all of the 18 first-division clubs.
Detailed data, such as a player’s field-goal percentage when he or she goes left from the top of the key on a pick-and-roll play, reveal their tendencies. Before this program was introduced, coaches and other team staff would individually break down game film.
Nagoya Diamond Dolphins assistant Shingo Kajiyama admits that Synergy has totally changed the way he handles scouting for his team.
“It clearly reveals the habits of the players and you have so many samples,” said Kajiyama, who has been an assistant coach for the team since the 2013-14 season, “When we didn’t have Synergy, teams would usually look at the previous four games (of their next opponent). You find their habits by watching their most recent games, but you have a lot more video samples (with Synergy), so you’ll understand their tendencies more clearly.”
Shota Shakuno, a first-year assistant for the Yokohama B-Corsairs, insisted that Synergy has enabled him to do his scouting work more efficiently. Yokohama is the first men’s top team that Shakuno has worked for. He’s had previous stints on the technical staffs of the Japan women’s national team and the Aisin AW Wings of the Women’s Japan Basketball League, so the Synergy system has helped him catch up and learn about B. League players that he didn’t previously have vast knowledge of.
Shakuno added that he uses Synergy more to pinpoint the tendencies of the opposition rather than his own players.
“You’ll see what your opponents do better and what they are not so good at, so I can’t do my job without it now,” Shakuno said with a laugh.
Shakuno said that the B-Corsairs coaching staff gives its players its analysis of their upcoming opponents on Tuesdays (for normal scheduled weeks when they have games on Saturdays and Sundays) and watches them on video with the entire team.
However, Shakuno pointed out that he tries not to rely totally on Synergy because the tendencies of players and the numbers can sometimes be deceiving.
“I basically want to check things on video,” he said.
Citing All-Star Yuki Togashi of the Chiba Jets, who the B-Corsairs faced on the day that Shakuno was interviewed for this article, the Yokohama assistant said that the quick guard often moves left on pick-and-roll plays. But, Shakuno said, he wants to make sure if Togashi does it because he’s truly better at going that direction.
“Maybe he does so because he’s genuinely better going right and his opponents are trying to not let him do it,” the 33-year-old said. “You don’t see stuff like that unless you watch videos, so that’s what I do.”
Meanwhile, Kajiyama, 40, doesn’t just use it for scouting purposes, but also for player skill development by showing video clips of NBA players to the Diamond Dolphins.
“For example, I create movies of all the shots and pick-and-roll plays of (Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay) Thompson, and show them to our players that have similar playing styles, like, ‘he moves like this before he takes shots, this is how he makes his steps, and all that,’ ” Kajiyama said.
“We have a guy (Takaya) Sasayama, and his playing style is a little similar to that of the Miami Heat’s (Goran) Dragic. So I’ve shown him how he uses his body on pick-and-roll plays and how he shifts his body and things like that. I’ve shown him how (Los Angeles Clippers standout) Chris Paul moves before he uses pick-and-roll plays. And Sasayama actually uses them.”
You can reveal your opponents’ tendencies with the Synergy system. But that also means that your own players will be scrutinized by opposing teams, which could have an impact on them. For instance, if a player is better moving with the ball to his left, you know a defender will focus on not letting him go left.
“So you have to practice to have more variation on your skills, otherwise it could affect your game,” Shakuno said.
“(But) it could also make you a better player, too.”
The system is new in Japan and its usage varies by team. Kohei Tsukamoto, a development director for the B. League, said that coaches could be considered better team leaders based on how well they use Synergy.
“I’m still thinking of how I can use it better,” Shakuno said. “Maybe there are others that are using it in better ways.”