How the Sacramento Kings crowdsourced the 2014 NBA Draft

Ibe Alozie, Pete D'Alessandro and Vivek Ranadivé (Photo: James Ham)

The Sacramento Kings aren’t afraid to think outside the box of conventional wisdom. Starting at the top with owner Vivek Ranadivé, the Kings are embracing approaches that don’t chain them to the status quo. With that in mind, it came as no surprise when the Kings decided to turn to the masses for advice on this year’s NBA Draft.

The Kings invited folks to participate in a contest they dubbed the “Draft 3.0” challenge. They were seeking the brightest analytical minds to help them cipher through the talent of this year’s draft. The Kings picked nine lucky fans around the country to meet regularly through Google+ Hangouts with general manager Pete D’Alessandro and his staff. Five of them were invited to join the Kings in their war room on draft night.

“These guys did an amazing job because they predicted which players would be available to us at eight and they were exactly right,” Ranadivé said of the council following the draft. “And while there was a lot of discussion, the entire team was united on having the pick be Nik Stauskas.”

The council-members put in an incredible amount of work to help the Kings. Ahead of last Thursday, they compiled a lengthy document of about 200 pages that broke down the draft. The Kings also wasted no time putting them to work upon their arrival in Sacramento early Thursday morning, having the council-members generate a report they later presented to team brass before the draft.

“When our scouts were there in that meeting room early (Thursday) and they went over, the analysis was so close to what we had already done,” D’Alessandro said. “I think you guys saw us shaking our heads on so many occasions.  It was actually really interesting. We were all really pretty much on board with the whole thing and it was great to hear from them.”

After the draft, we caught up with the five finalists who helped the Kings make their pick. Here’s what they had to say about the opportunity to work closely with the franchise.

Cowbell Kingdom: Overall, what was this experience like for you?

Jesse Heussner, senior at Dartmouth College: It’s a dream. I think I can speak for all of us. It was one of the best days of my life to be totally honest. We all loved basketball our entire lives. To be working this closely with the Kings, it’s literally, no hyperbole, a dream come true. We’re technically doing work, but for us it’s fun. We really love doing it and we’re happy with how things turned out.

CK: At what point did you find out that you would be a part of this process?

Eugene Martinez, IT strategy consultant: Early June is when we found out. We submitted our application a (month-and-a-half) ago. Then we found out via email and I was pretty excited being able to help the hometown team (Martinez is from Sacramento). It’s interesting to see. The whole process was really interesting. Because you follow things on Cowbell Kingdom and different sites…you go through and you read all these blogs and you wonder how realistic is all that? What are these guys considering?

You get to sit in the war room and you get to pick Pete’s brain and you get to see kind of the thought process that goes behind the whole thing. And it’s pretty exciting to see the whole thing because as a fan, you’re wondering if they’re considering some of these off the wall ideas and sometimes they are. And it’s cool to be in there, to watch the whole dialogue and watch the whole thought process kind of evolve.

CK: You guys came in on draft day and had to make a formal presentation to the front office as well as the owners. And throughout the process, you were meeting with guys that have Hall-of-Fame credentials like Chris Mullin. Was that intimidating at all to do?

Ibe Alozie, senior at Duke University: I mean in a larger sense, yes. However on a smaller scale, I think when you’re talking about somebody, you trust what you’ve researched. And what we’ve looked up and what we believe, we’re very confident in. And I think that came through in how we approached and talked to them about the prospects.

CK: Most of you are not from Sacramento. So what was this day like for you in general, coming into the city this morning and then being immediately thrown into the fire?

Carlton Chin, quant fund manager and MIT graduate: I’ll even start on yesterday. A lot of us flew in from New York and weather on the east coast is not like weather in California! So all of our flights got delayed. We averaged getting in at about 1 am in total, so very little sleep. But the excitement of this whole experience just was like super caffeine. It was good stuff.

Max Weisberg, junior at Indiana University: I think the one word to describe it is just exciting and maybe long. Again like Carlton said, we woke up real early. We got here real early. We got a chance to meet everyone. We were put in a room. They said we want you to come up with a mock draft. We went in; we did it. We presented to everyone.

I thought that was really, really thrilling – just to present guys like Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond, the owner, Vivek. Pete made sure to just tell us these guys are really relaxed guys and it was tough to believe that we would be speaking to Hall of Famers and it’s just gonna be this relaxed thing. But once you got to know them and once you got to talk to them a little bit, it was really that. It was just a relaxed experience.

Grantland will release episode 2 of their mini-documentary series chronicling the Kings’ use of crowdsourcing tomorrow.  A teaser clip can be watched here.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.