Where the NBA Goes For Scouting
Synergy CEO explains why NBA teams rely on their service.
by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack
The story I came out with yesterday revealed how NBA teams use iPads to further their scouting and player developmental efforts. One of the software companies profiled in it was Synergy Sports Technology, which is a go-to video service for player scouting in the NBA. Synergy has it all. If an NBA assistant coach wants to check how well Lamar Odom shoots from the left elbow, Odom’s shooting percentage is available, accompanied by video of each time he’s taken a shot from that spot on the floor. The options to view a player’s time on the floor are limitless.
I spoke with Synergy’s founder and CEO, Garrick Bar, for that iPad story. I enjoyed the interview with him so much that I decided to turn it into a full-scale Q + A to follow up the iPad story. So, here it is – Barr explains what Synergy provides and why it is valued so much by NBA teams.
SLAM: What do provide to NBA teams?
Garrick Barr: We’re quite different than the other sports technology companies. Those companies provide an editor as a local solution that the team uses a piece of hardware or software sold to them. They get the video in, they chop it up, they attach any meta-data analysis to the clips. They’re pretty much on their own doing everything.
In 1992, I joined the Phoenix Suns and one of the first things I did before the season started was to contact Avid Technology – they were the largest digital editing non-linear company in the world at that time – I saw one of their lower-end editors and we bought one. Before I knew it, their executive VP of Marketing flew out to Phoenix and was talking to management at Phoenix. I helped them design and develop the first sports editor. They really haven’t changed that much since then. They’ve become networked within a building, so that you can send edits around the building.
But again, the team does all the work themselves and it was a real boon. Avid formed Avid SportsPro, and they ended up providing lots of services to lots of sports at lots of levels. That’s been the technology that sports teams have used; they’ve been limited to that technology ever since.
Seven years ago, I started this company and it’s very different. We log all the information, we cut up all the video of all the games and the teams simply go online and can get just about any edit they can imagine, according to professional coaching criteria. We’re logging things in ways the NBA does not – the standard stats we’re used to seeing. We log the play types, where on the floor the player was, what direction, what move they made, whether or not they made the shot, then we aggregate all that data. We can tell you which player is the top iso player in the League, or in college. We can tell you where any player ranks out of all the players in the NBA or in college. So, it’s an online Web-access service. It’s revolutionary compared to the other technologies. We have an online editor, so that you can create your own edits. You can send them to anywhere in the world.
An NBA GM in China can pull up his laptop – there’s a player available through trade – and he’s out of the office; he can start following that player, looking at him in all sorts of situations, look at our analytics, see what that player’s strengths and weaknesses are, then watch matching video so that he can verify what the data says. He can pick his own clips out, send them back to the office…it’s just kind of endless what we’re providing. There’s just nothing like us in basketball.
With respect to the iPad, teams are using the iPad because you can surf to our website and you can look at all the data. That’s the iPad connection. You can use literally any mobile device and surf to our website – to any player or team or game – and look at any aspect, whether it’s standard stats like assists or blocks or turnovers, or post-ups, iso, transitions, off-screens, pick-and-rolls for any player, for any team, in any game.
The next step that Synergy is taking – we’re building it right now – is an HTML5 video player so that you will be able to also play the video on the iPad. Currently, we have 29 of the 30 NBA teams and the last team is using us but is in a demo sort of scenario. They’re all using us, but they use laptops because we haven’t built a video player that’s compatible with the iPad or Android operating systems. So, we’re building that right now. HTML5 will play on any portable device – phone, Android, tablets, iPads, etc. That’s going to be released too late for the next couple months; hopefully in time for coming into the [NBA] Draft and certainly in time for the summer and next season.