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Toronto Raptors Use Data-Driven Command Center on Path to NBA Finals

For the first time in their 24 years as an NBA franchise, the Toronto Raptors are in the NBA Finals, squaring off against the Golden State Warriors in the best of seven games series.

The Raptors are going up against one of the most talented and accomplished NBA teams. The Warriors are the defending NBA champions and have been in the finals five consecutive years, the first time in more than 50 years that has happened.

How did the Raptors reach the pinnacle of the basketball world? In addition to a talented, hard-working roster of players, “they have a young, smart, diverse and technology-driven front office,” says Farhang Farid, an associate partner in the iX division of IBM, who worked with the Raptors to create a data-driven “war room” that supports team operations.

In 2015, the Raptors were in the midst of building a new practice facility in Toronto and needed to upgrade the existing war room, where they were putting together the building blocks for today’s team. At the time, magnets on the wall and isolated data sets could only get them so far, with dozens of spreadsheets and hundreds of scouting reports to sift through.

The Raptors worked with IBM to create the new data-driven command center, which the organization debuted for the 2016 NBA Draft, where the organization picked current star forward Pascal Siakam in the first round. The command center aggregates the Raptors’ expansive data and helps with insights for decision-making.

“It provides a consolidated, comprehensive view of all player information,” says Farid.

The system uses IBM’s Watson technology to develop sentiments around individual players based on external expert opinions of players. The Toronto-based Farid has been wearing his Raptors jersey since the team qualified for the NBA Finals. “We can’t take any credit for their success,” he says. “We’re just proud to work with the Raptors.”

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