Crowdsourcing, Analytics Point to Nik

Kings General Manager Pete D’Alessandro implemented groundbreaking methods leading up to Thursday’s Draft.

As part of the team’s Draft 3.0 Challenge, five finalists joined the Kings front office inside the XC on Draft Night in downtown Sacramento.

The goal was to match high-level scout evaluations to the numbers in order to find the best possible fit.

“I had my scouts with their eyes [in one room] saying ‘I like this guy,’ then I had these guys [in another room] saying, ‘I like this guy,’” said D’Alessandro. “When the two merge, you’re onto something.”

Both parties agreed on Nik Stauskas – a 6-foot-6 prospect from the University of Michigan. Fresh off a Big Ten Player of the Year selection, Stauskas entered the Draft after averaging 17.5 points per game last season as a sophomore.

Although Stauskas wasn’t a pre-Draft workout participant in Sacramento, the Kings traveled to the Midwest to see the standout scorer live.

“They came to see me play in Chicago,” said the No. 8 pick during a conference call on Thursday night. “They saw me workout and I had a chance to sit down and talk with them. They only had good things to say about me, so coming in to tonight I knew there was a possibility it could work out.”

Scouts praised his confidence on the court and off, while analysts loved his three-point accuracy and his underrated jumpshot off the dribble.

“All of us like Stauskas,” said Jesse Heussner – a senior from Dartmouth College who was part of D’Alessandro’s Draft 3.0 Advisory Council. “As a shooter, it’s hard not to like him. The thing that I like about him is that he can really shoot off the dribble. I think that separates good shooters from good scorers.”

Heussner was one of five participants who spent the day combing through information and discussing options with Chris Mullin and the team’s Basketball Operations staff.

“We all like to hear a confident answer,” said D’Alessandro. “I like to give confident answers but also in my mind see something in black and white that helps me support that answer. I think it’s just my nature. So having a group like that to help support the eye-test of my scouts was really good.”

Sacramento’s GM made sure the rigorous council recruiting process leading up to the Draft left him with the best of the best – the top analytical minds from around the country who could help find the right fit.

Eugene Martinez – a local IT strategy consultant – was one of the data-driven council members. Martinez was born in New York, but was raised in Sacramento. He went to Jesuit High School and enrolled in Berkeley post-graduation. He received his MBA from UC Davis before returning to settle down in the River City. 

A long-time Kings fan, Martinez was able to live out a childhood dream working with the team over the past month. But it was his son, Anthony, who was on cloud nine when he saw his dad talking to D’Alessandro on a Google+ Hangout when the process first began.

“He’s always asking me, ‘Dad, who are the Kings going to pick?’” teased Martinez. “It’s allowed me to have discussions with him and say, ‘Well, what do you think? What do you think they should do? Let’s look at the statistics together – let’s break this down. It’s been a good educational tool for me to use with my kids.”

Martinez works with numbers daily. He sorts through mountains of data with a fine-tooth comb, searching for possible solutions and identifying every plausible scenario. 

“Mathematics have been very influential to our decision-making process for our team,” he said. “We wanted to look at the cultural fit for the different prospects, but we [also] wanted to look at the statistics from the collegiate level that each of the players brought to the team. Where are the trends?”

One trend was very apparent to Kings Chairman and Majority Owner Vivek Ranadivé. Every time he asked about the Draft, one name came up.

“Even before last season was over, every now and then I would ask Coach (Michael Malone), ‘Who do you like in the Draft?” stated Ranadivé. “And the one name he always came up with was Nik Stauskas. And he would say, ‘V, you have to watch this kid from Michigan – he’s great. I love that kid.’ So he’s liked this kid since last season, and he’s delighted to have him on the team.”

In the end, the Kings trio of leaders landed the player for which they were hoping, and the team’s addition is equally excited for his new chapter in Sacramento.

“I’m excited to be a member of the Sacramento Kings,” said Stauskas. “I’ve only heard good things about the city and the organization, so I’m excited to get to work and help this team win.”