The Details: Managing player portfolios
By Mason Kelley
Pabail S. Sidhu is the equivalent of a basketball broker.
Like anyone who manages stock portfolios, Sidhu is trying to maximize his clients’ investments. The difference is, instead of dealing with money, the analyst for Washington’s basketball program develops strategies to optimize the Huskies’ player portfolio.
He uses analytics to augment the coaching staff’s evaluations.
“Stats tell you the where and the when, and video tells you the how and the why,” Sidhu said. “We have an allotted amount of scholarships. I’m trying to figure out ways to maximize the return and minimize the risk.”
In-depth statistical analysis has been around baseball for years. It has become almost as integral to the game as athleticism and instincts.
While statistics have always been charted in basketball and football, Sidhu is looking to provide a deeper context to the numbers.
“You’ve got all these numbers, how do you communicate them?” Sidhu said. “What does this mean? How do you present it to coaches? How do you present it to players?”
When focused purely on the numbers, data is daunting. Sidhu is working on ways to gather information, and present it in a visual way that explains what players and coaches are looking at. When it comes to basketball, there is really no limit to what he can track. The question becomes: Is this data useful?
It is a process of trial and error. If something doesn’t work, Sidhu knows he can eliminate that measurement. Over time he will be able to hone in on what the Huskies want. He will be able to provide the numbers they need.
Last year was Sidhu’s first season with Washington. He implemented what is essentially a beta version.
"I’ve been very impressed with him, specifically with his creativity, work ethic, and ability to effectively communicate with coaches and players," Washington assistant basketball coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “He adds tremendous value to the program, and really is an invaluable resource”
Think of it like a video game. Many Division I athletes grew up dissecting stats on their TV screens. These numbers are color-coded and easy to understand. They provided context to the in-game stats.
Sidhu provides a similar service.
“If you simplify things so they remember them, that’s the way to go,” Sidhu said.
While analytics have taken off in basketball, football provides a different challenge. Sidhu is in the early stages of creating an advanced analytical report for Washington’s football program.
The key is finding context in the content.
Sidhu called Washington coach Steve Sarkisian a “forward thinker,” someone who is willing to take advantage of the right opportunities to improve his program.
“This is just another tool for them, looking for ways to take our program to the next level,” Sidhu said.
As technology evolves, data has become a precious commodity, especially in sports. There are patterns in the numbers, information that can help a coaching staff.
"Gathering and implementing analytics is a methodical process," Sidhu said. "I have broken it down to three key areas: information that can help a coaching staff manage a game, evaluate the personnel in the program and determine which athletes the school should be recruiting."
This basketball broker is off to a strong start with Washington, working to maximize the Huskies’ return, while minimizing the risk as he manages the program’s player portfolios.
He has only scratched the surface.
Sidhu helped Ken Pomeroy put together this story for ESPN.com — click here — projecting the top transfers in college basketball.