Basketball / Sports

Sacramento leans on madding crowd

Some of the smartest guys involved in the Sacramento Kings' draft decisions were in the room next door.

One was a quantitative investment fund manager. Another was a Duke history major. A third was an IT strategy consultant.

None of the five analytic-minded fans had any previous front-office basketball experience. All were trying to help the Kings make the best use of the No. 8 pick in Thursday's draft, even if it meant trading the selection.

In the hours before he would have to make his decision, Sacramento General Manager Pete D'Alessandro darted between one conference room with his staff and another with the newest members of the team's extended family.

The five men, ranging from their early 20s to 48, were among nine winners D'Alessandro had picked from more than 1,000 submissions as part of a novel crowd-sourcing project intended to help the Kings consider as many savvy approaches to the draft as possible.

"To have another group come in and throw a totally independent opinion at you the day of the draft," D'Alessandro said in a phone interview Friday, "it was a really healthy way for us to kind of rethink ourselves."

The group's first task after flying into Sacramento from various points across the country and getting only a few hours of sleep because of travel delays was to provide a depth chart of players the Kings could pick.

D'Alessandro was impressed with the list because it closely mirrored the one his own analytics team had compiled.

"The stuff was remarkably on point with some of the stuff we had done, to the point where it was kind of weird," D'Alessandro said. "I'm like, 'Wait, were they listening in (to our discussions)? But they couldn't (have).' It was that close."

The general manager also asked the group, which was not compensated beyond travel expenses, to analyze scenarios in which the Kings traded up or down in the draft. D'Alessandro said he changed some of his subsequent conversations with other teams based on the group's ideas.

Ultimately, Sacramento decided to keep its pick, selecting Michigan shooting guard Nik Stauskas because the consensus was he represented the best available player. D'Alessandro invited the five wannabe general managers into his war room for the announcement.

"I will remember this for the rest of my life," said Carlton Chin, 48, one of the consultants. "I was standing right behind (adviser) Chris Mullin and the (Kings) owner. We were patting each other on the back, and people clapped."

Like his colleagues, Chin had grown up a huge sports fan, adoring the New York Islanders. He always had a knack for numbers, formulating power rankings for various teams from the time he was in high school. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was later elected to the board of education in Haddonfield, N.J., primarily because of his data analysis skills.

Chin's submission for the Kings' analytics challenge included an analysis of risk versus return for different positions and a value for various draft picks in terms of victories generated. He never imagined it would lead to an invitation to draft night.

"Everyone who attended," Chin said, "felt like they had won the lottery."

D'Alessandro acknowledged the unique nature of his approach, noting that many of his counterparts around the league would have been uncomfortable consulting with fans, regardless of their credentials.

He didn't care. D'Alessandro said he long believed he owed smart fans some payback after borrowing ideas from blogs and chat rooms in previous jobs with Golden State and Denver.

"I actually really have been taking ideas from those sites and places online for years within a front-office context," D'Alessandro said, "so it was a very real thing for me. This is something I've wanted to do for years and I am doing it."

He doesn't intend to stop any time soon. D'Alessandro has already asked his new underlings to help him prepare for free agency in the coming days.

"I feel like part of the family already," Chin said, "so I hope it continues."

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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