The Lovitt & Touché Learning Academy was excited to welcome the Director of Analytics and Technology for the Phoenix Suns, Jake Loos, to discuss his journey to the sports world and explain the work he and his team put in behind the scenes to help the Suns on their pursuit of their first NBA championship.
Jake grew up in a small town in Wisconsin loving the game of basketball. After graduating from Northwestern in 2008 with a degree in Mathematics and Economics, he questioned whether there was a place in sports for a “nerd” like him. He began his career working as a risk management consultant that helped banks make more money. Jake’s life changed when he attended the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, an annual event where the brightest minds in analytics come together to discuss emerging ideas and trends in the industry. After attending the conference, he applied and was accepted into MIT Sloan so that he could begin working at the conference. Through connections he made at MIT Sloan – Jake became the first intern for basketball analytics for the Phoenix Suns after graduating with his MBA. Now in his fifth season with the Suns, he oversees the entire analytic department for the Suns franchise.
Despite eight consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance, it is an exciting time to be a Suns fan. The team is led by budding all-star Devin Booker who is surrounded by an enticing young core that includes Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, and more. The Suns recently won their first NBA Lottery and will in all likelihood add a highly talented player with the number one overall pick. The Suns also have the ability to add veteran players through free agency that can jumpstart the rebuilding process and make them immediately more competitive. It is Jake’s responsibility to provide as much information and data to the basketball operations team that ultimately makes the decisions in who the Suns draft and pursue in the offseason.
In the 2013-14 season, the NBA introduced player tracking technology that gave every team a collection of statistical data from every game. Jake would not go in-depth with how the technology works because even he does not completely understand it but the technology provides a data set that has the X, Y coordinates of where the players and ball were throughout the game 25 times per second. Jake says that for each game the team receives 2 to 4 million rows for data of player movement. The team receives the data for not only every Suns game but for every NBA game throughout the entire season. This information allows the Suns, and every other NBA team, to evaluate players and teams beyond the traditional box score.
Thank you Jake, for stopping by the Lovitt & Touché Learning Academy and going into detail on how analytics is used in the NBA today. Jake was kind enough to answer questions and talk to those in attendance – many of whom were business leaders that discussed how they use data for their respective company’s. The event served as a reminder that it is important for business leaders in any field to utilize every available resource to ensure that they are making the most informed decisions possible.