Looking to make it as an NBA agent, Joshua Ebrahim would spend three to four days building reports around each client heading into free agency. “It was tedious, it was time-consuming, and it wasn’t really aligned with how the teams valued these players,” said Ebrahim, on a phone call. “So many decisions happen during free agency, and after typically 48 hours, all the money is gone.”
The experience—and a degree in computer technology—led him to decide artificial intelligence could lead to a better way. He left Rosenhaus Sports Representation in July 2019 and began sketching a system of rating players value based on 118 metrics including their shooting tendencies, injury history and salary cap dynamics. The key was making the model predictions ever-adjusting, based on each game played. To do that, Ebrahim uses AI to apply the model instantly to any number of scenarios. Backed by investments from friends and family—and encouragement to envision the product as more than just a tool for penny-pinching agents—Ebrahim’s company, ProFitX, pitching itself to NBA teams and agents last year.
At its most basic, ProFitX spits out a contract value for each player, adjusting for any NBA team, since a player can be more or less effective depending on each team’s unique set of skills on the roster. The system has 20 different models running off those 118 metrics, ranging from predicting career trajectory to playing-load management to a host of financial and salary cap tools.
Ebrahim says the model has had early success, such as predicting Talen Horton-Tucker was worth about $10 million annually after his first two years with the Lakers. He then signed a three-year contract averaging $10.2 million. “You can expect the accuracy of the AI to enhance by year three, just in time [for] when rookies are eligible for the max extension,” Ebrahim says. As with all AI, the more reliable data the algorithm has to work with, the better.
ProFitX has had a series of inquiries from various teams and agencies Ebrahim declines to name. So far, only one team, the Dallas Mavericks, has signed on as a client. Last year, club owner Mark Cuban initially dismissed Ebrahim’s pitch. It wasn’t until ESPN contributor and ProFitX board member Bobby Marks began citing the company’s data in articles that it intrigued the team’s new management team enough to reconsider. The Mavs signed up just before the start of the current season.
The verdict? “Still learning how best to use it,” Cuban wrote in an email.
ProFitX isn’t the first business to use the number crunching power of computers to hang values on players. KPMG’s Football Benchmark Player Valuation Tool generates value and price on every player in 15 European leagues. It currently ranks Norwegian Erling Haaland as soccer’s most valuable player at 137.5 million euros. The Boston Red Sox use AI software called DataRobot for modelling player loads and injuries, information that feeds into roster and payroll decisions. Even eighth graders get sorted by algorithms, with a Minnesota start-up named Team Genius using data crunching to help hockey and volleyball teams craft better rosters.
Ebrahim believes his AI matrix of player scoring and financial valuation is unique, “surpassing even my expectations of what it is. It’s a well-balanced platform that gives you emphasis on both sides of the business.” He declined to give the cost to teams and agents for access, in part because some organizations are interested only in parts of ProFitX capabilities, such as salary cap modeling, so fees vary. While the NBA remains a core business focus and he hopes to ink more clients ahead of this summer’s free agency period, Ebrahim isn’t waiting to roll out new uses for his tech.
One next target is the burgeoning world of North American sports betting. Last week, the company unveiled a consumer product for sports bettors and fantasy players to help them make better decisions. The offerings include three tiers of access to player profiles. It starts at $25 for the rest of the NBA season to get in-depth reports on 15 players; $35 for 20; and $40 for a portfolio for 25 pros. Fantasy players who have to manage salary caps on FanDuel and DraftKings can set budget parameters and better judge who may be a bargain addition to their fantasy roster, based on ProFitX’s real time contract value, which is built off the player’s past 10 games in the retail offering.
A second new product, Sports Probability Platform, costs $300 for the rest of the NBA season and offers predictions on games starting five days out. Back-testing of the system on 459,000 historic NBA games suggests the SPP should be 66% to 68% accurate on games before they
start, then 70% to 90% accurate on outcomes once they begin (depending mainly on how much time has elapsed in the game). For instance, Wednesday night’s game at the Target center in Minneapolis is a likely loss for the Timberwolves: ProFitX gives the visiting Phoenix Suns a 58% chance of victory, even though the T’Wolves hold an all-time winning record against the Suns and are playing on their home court. Traditional betting lines have the Suns a 1.5-point underdog.
“Used the right way, you’re going to be in a good position,” Ebrahim said. “Oddsmakers don’t give you a lot of data—they give you three data points. We harness all the individual athlete insights, factoring injuries, roster lineup cards, performance projections. We’re not a gambling company. We don’t take anyone’s money. We’re just harnessing our data to predict performance. I think that has universal scalability with consumers.”
The scalability aspect has ProFitX thinking about new sports, too. Next month, Ebrahim’s team is going to start focusing on global soccer with an eye toward offering a consumer-focused prediction system for the World Cup, starting in November.
“I don’t know if we’re going to disrupt gambling, but we’re definitely going to make some waves, make the water a little choppier,” Ebrahim declared. “I’m a firm believer that this is a billion-dollar company, and that this is limitless.”