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Inside Science - December 21, 2018

Artificial Intelligence in NBA Basketball

By: Marcus Woo

Stats' Lucey, and Panna Felsen, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, have also analyzed how shooters' body positions -- whether the feet were set, or whether they were off balance, for example -- affects a 3-point shot. In a case study with Stephen Curry, they quantified what most fans could already guess: He's in constant motion and shoots a lot of off-balance threes, which makes his uncanny accuracy even more remarkable.

More than just shooting, basketball at the highest levels is an intricate dance of five players on each team moving and reacting as one. To analyze that dance, Stats is developing software that simulates how a team would respond to a given play. The key, Lucey said, is that their deep learning algorithm represents a team not as five individuals but as one entity. The program, called Bhostgusters and still in development, enables a coach to draw up an offensive play on a tablet and see how an opponent might defend it. And because no team is the same, the software also accounts for each team's differences in style and personnel.

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