It's pretty well known that the San Antonio Spurs are one of the best franchises in all of basketball, but did you know they're at the cutting edge of the use of technology to track their players' performance. Grantland's Zach Lowe wrote a column on the NBA's latest innovations, both on the court trends like small ball and the latest trends in tracking the amount of energy players expend as well as other on the court patterns.
The Spurs are one of ten teams in the league using STATS, LLC, camera-tracking system, which records every movement of the ball and of players on the court and among other things, it uncovered how Manu Ginobili's absense affected the rest of the team when he was out with a broken hand.
After Manu Ginobili broke a bone in his left hand early last season, the Spurs' camera data indicated that the other four starters were suddenly expending more energy — spending more time running at peak speeds — with Danny Green in Ginobili's place. Think about the implications of something like that, for both on-court strategy and training schedules. The Spurs' general substitution patterns last season were a bit different than the typical NBA team's, with Gregg Popovich removing more of his starters earlier than most coaches do."
This shows the impact of Ginobili, and more importantly, what it means when Ginobili isn't there. It makes sense when you think about it, because of the amount of energy Ginobili expends when he's on the court and the need to make up for it when he's not there. It's probably not as noticeable in game, but when a key cog of any team misses a significant amount of time, it probably becomes very noticeable. Lowe's piece mentions Minnesota as one of the teams using STATS. It'll be interesting to see how different the expended energy patterns look like during the first two months of the season when Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will each miss significant chunks of time.