The Warriors and Oracle launch a new tech platform to track player performance with first-of-their-kind metrics.
By Chris Murphy | December 2021
Pabail Sidhu is an essential role player for the Golden State Warriors, the National Basketball Association’s most decorated team over the last decade. And while you won’t find his name on the roster, don’t underestimate his court vision or his ability to fill up a stat sheet.
Sidhu is the director of Basketball Analytics and Innovation for the Warriors. That job title may sound like a sports stat junkie’s dream, but it reflects a trend toward the rising use of advanced metrics in professional basketball—a trend that’s speeding ahead as technology progresses.
“Over the last 25 years there has been a data explosion when it comes to basketball,” Sidhu says. “The issue has been trying to figure out what the data means.”
Since 2017, Sidhu’s job has been to help the Warriors apply all that information toward a singular goal—winning another NBA championship. And this year, the team will have a new tool to help with that, something called the Warriors Player Dashboard, powered by Oracle.
To prep for the 2021-22 campaign, Sidhu spent two days huddled alongside Head Coach Steve Kerr, General Manager Bob Myers, and others in the organization, mapping out the key performance indicators they want to watch during the season. Drawing from both in-game and practice stats, these performance indicators will be tracked and viewed using the teams’ new dashboard.
With the Oracle platform, Sidhu for the first time can bring game and practice metrics together in one place without a lot of clunky spreadsheet work. Using shot-tracking statistics, the platform will show leaderboards incorporating 365 days of stats focused on three-pointers, shots in the key, and midrange jumpers. It will highlight each player’s shot-count totals, field goal percentage, and points per shot. Additionally, the dashboard will flag inconsistencies in player performance—like if a player primarily practices three-point shots from the corner of the court but takes most in-game shots from another location.
“We can see from a player development side how a player is progressing and as a team how players are shooting,” Sidhu says. “It’s a very, very important source of information, and we can continue to add layers to it as time goes on.”
Sidhu has been combining sports and data analysis like this for more than a decade. Armed with a business degree and a passion for basketball, he got his start doing a freelance research project about the business side of the University of Washington’s athletics department. That project turned into a full-time job when Sidhu presented a 50-page, chart-packed report exploring trends and strategies to the men’s basketball coaching staff. After six seasons crunching numbers for the Huskies, Sidhu moved into a newly created analytics role for the Warriors.
“I think that’s a lesson that I’ve learned—build relationships first, then communicate that data in a concise way.”
At Golden State, Sidhu has found that everyone in the organization embraces the potential for data to provide a competitive advantage—from Coach Kerr and the front office to players and staff. “These individuals are the world’s best because they’re always seeking ways to get better,” Sidhu says. “Knowing that data can help that, they allow me into their space.”
The dashboard project was sparked by two main team desires: To bring game and practice metrics together and to give far more people daily information related to the team’s key priorities. Having easy, time-saving data access is a game changer. The information will be available on mobile and large-format screens in coaching staff offices and training rooms around the Oracle Performance Center, where the Warriors train.
“Mike Brown, our associate head coach, can go to this office, turn on his screen, and there’s the information moving from yesterday’s practice and Tuesday’s game,” Sidhu says. “And he can compare that to the season so far, not just at the team level but also at the individual level. That’s huge.”
Since people now can monitor metrics aligned to team goals without asking Sidhu to create a report, he will have more time to spend building machine learning models to explore specific challenges—like what combination of players provides the toughest defense against a strong three-point shooting team.
“That’s where I start putting on my innovation hat,” he says. “I can spend that time now to dig deeper and build out new models, find other creative ways to analyze and display the data. That’s what I’m excited about.”
The Warriors face a question that business leaders across industries can relate to—how and where do you best apply data analysis and evaluation, especially in a high-performing, very successful organization? The reality is that sometimes data raises difficult ideas.
“It’s important to show things that we’re not good at as well,” Sidhu says. “When we’re winning, I’ll raise some things I feel like we still need to improve on, even though that can feel like I’m raining on the party.”
As in any business, the foundation for data-driven conversations comes from personal relationships. Coaches know how and when to approach players with hard data, just as Sidhu knows what’s helpful and not to Kerr in preparation for an upcoming game.
“You build relationships, that allows you to share information because they know all the information is coming from the right place,” Sidhu says. “I think that’s a lesson that I’ve learned—build relationships first, then communicate that data in a concise way.”
With the Warriors Player Dashboard, powered by Oracle, the team will have a new avenue to communicate clearly about data in daily player and team analysis. It’s all part of the team’s ultimate goal of winning another NBA championship.
Chris Murphy is senior content director at Oracle.