High-tech scouting on demand

When the 76ers are hunkered down in their draft quarters on Thursday, there will be plenty of synergy in both a literal and figurative sense.

While Billy King, the team's general manager and president, and his brain trust will be sequestered in a room at the Wachovia Center, the players in the draft will never be more than a click away.

That's because the Sixers, like many other NBA teams in this digital age, have become high tech when it comes to scouting players and opponents.

While nothing beats seeing players in person - and the Sixers staff has certainly accumulated plenty of frequent flyer miles over the last year - to view video of any player via computer in an instant is a convenience that tremendously aids the complex scouting process.

This is the first year that the Sixers have subscribed to Synergy Sports Technology, a company that offers game action of virtually every NBA player and prospect in the world. And it's much more than basic video.

If King wants to see a specific player, all he does is click his mouse and order on the basketball menu.

For instance, in demonstrating the system last week after a pre-draft workout at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, King was able to instantly call up 16 plays of Yi Jianlian, the 6-foot-11 Chinese star.

As an added bonus, in addition to the video, there is also the announcer's call of the game. So while King was watching Yi, he was hearing the action described in Chinese.

And if King wanted to compare Yi's highlight with another player in the draft, it was again only a click away.

"This is a great reference for us," King said.

And it's not just video and audio that are provided. There are statistics that break down everything about a player on any level: college, NBA and international.

Want to know the percentage of Kobe Bryant's points that were scored off a pick and roll? No problem.

Want the percentage of Bryant's points that came driving to his right, to his left, down the middle? The information is printed right there on the screen. And the user can click for video of the last 10 times Bryant has scored on a pick and roll.

There are also scouting reports on every player.

"We print these out and give it to the coaches and players," said Tony DiLeo, the Sixers' senior vice president of basketball operations.

King said that the Sixers will be using the Synergy system in the draft. While teams have just five minutes to make a choice in the first round, there is a lot of free time, and if trades are proposed or if the Sixers want one last look at a player, it's right there.

The Synergy system was developed by current CEO Garrick Barr, who began delving in this area when he served as the Phoenix Suns' video coordinator and assistant coach for 11 seasons. When Barr and the Suns first purchased a digital editor, it showed him the vast possibilities it could create. Yet Barr, who began the company nearly three years ago, couldn't envision the explosion he has seen.

At the beginning of the 2005-06 season, just four NBA teams subscribed to this service. Now, Barr said that 24 teams are using the product, either under contract or testing it.

"This is even surprising me," Barr said from his office in Phoenix. "It's the biggest landslide in sports technology history."

While the cost of the product varies depending on how many additional items a team purchases, Barr said that the price each NBA team pays ranges from about $50,000 to $75,000 per year.

Barr also said his company has had discussions with other professional teams, including a few from the NFL.

There is one potential problem with having something as thorough as Synergy. It's possible that a team can receive too much information on a player.

"With all the information we get, it can talk you out of things," King said. "You might overanalyze somebody, trying to find every flaw."

Even though only 60 players are drafted, the Sixers say they have a database of between 200 and 300 players for this draft. Counting players who will be competing next year in college and under-age international players, the Sixers have data on more than 1,000 players.

Despite such comprehensive reports, NBA scouting departments have not been downsized.

"With all teams using our product, not a single advance scout or video coordinator has been laid off," Barr said. "We have good people who can get 80 to 90 percent of the [scouting] job done. But teams also have their own specific needs and things coaches want. We do a lot of heavy lifting, and the teams then change the tire."

"Technology is always changing, and you have to keep up with things," King said. "This is just another helpful tool in the entire process."


Contact staff writer Marc Narducci

at 856-779-3225 or mnarduccci@phillynews.com. Read his blog at http://go.philly.com/deepsixer.