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Game changer: New GM Monte McNair will bring Kings deep into basketball analytics

By Jason Anderson, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in Basketball

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - There was a telling moment during the 2020 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference March 6-7 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center that might have revealed something about the Kings' past and more about their future.

Kings vice president of strategy and analytics Luke Bornn participated in a panel discussion entitled "Pass the Secret Sauce: Learning Across Sports." Bornn had just made a point about using advanced metrics to better measure a player's shooting ability and even his shot arc when there was a brief exchange that indicated the Kings were behind the times in their use of basketball analytics.

"We have that data, so why aren't we using it?" Bornn said.

"Who says we aren't using it?" another panelist asked.

"Well, you guys might be," Bornn conceded.

One of the other panelists was Monte McNair. At the time McNair was still serving under Daryl Morey as an assistant general manager with the Houston Rockets, but he will be formally introduced as the new general manager of the Kings during a video news conference Wednesday. Meet the new boss. He's not the same as the old boss.

 

"We used to get 200 events per game in the play-by-play and now we're getting thousands of events per second," McNair said following Bornn's remarks at the Sloan conference. "The data is just enormous and you simply need the infrastructure. "That's another one where we've learned from other sports who have had more data or even other industries like retail or finance, where they have tons of data, and how do we actually get this in a form that we can pull it out and give it to our analysts?

"Then you've got people who have worked with imaging and more spatial areas as opposed to a lot of the regressions that we've kind of started with. We had a physics major with us (in Houston) at one point doing some shot arc stuff and things you would never have to do before. So it's definitely opening it up. ... You need people with different skills and it's great. It's another place to find an advantage."

Former Kings general manager Vlade Divac has many virtues as a humanitarian and one of the more beloved figures in franchise history, but he didn't study computer science at Princeton. He never worked as a researcher for STATS LLC and he certainly wasn't considered a pioneer in the basketball analytics movement.

The Kings have employed people in analytics for years, but under Divac there was little indication the data was utilized like it is in many other organizations. Kings owner Vivek Ranadive hired renowned analytics expert Dean Oliver in 2014, but Oliver was fired in 2015 amid reports that Divac opposed the use of analytics in player evaluations. In August, The Athletic reported Bornn had stepped back into a consultant role, a decision made prior to Divac's resignation.

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