Kings smarten up with hire of stats analyst Dean Oliver

Sacramento Kings' new front office hire Dean Oliver. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

The Sacramento Kings got a little bit smarter this week when word came out they had hired one of the preeminent minds in basketball analytics. Dean Oliver is the newest member of the team’s front office after spending the last few years working for ESPN as Director of Production Analytics.

“I couldn’t think of a better person to be part of this thing,” Sacramento Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro said following practice on Friday. “To me, it’s almost like a player acquisition. I feel that way about Dean in some ways, so you know, we’re really happy about having him.”

D’Alessandro and Oliver have a relationship with each another that spans the last decade. They first met while Oliver was living in the Bay Area and D’Alessandro was a member of the Golden State Warriors front office. The two later worked closely together as Denver Nuggets employees.

“I have a lot of years translating words into numbers and back,” Oliver said. “And Pete was one of the first people I did that with. It was about 10 years ago back when he was in Golden State and I was living in the Bay Area and I was just trying to get in.  Pete was one of the first people to listen to me.”

Oliver’s title with the Sacramento Kings is yet to be determined. However, he will be doing more than just analyzing statistical data. D’Alessandro praised Oliver’s reputation as a personnel manager, noting that he is well respected by many front office people around the NBA.

“He’ll be working the phones, and he’ll be a big part of this team in terms of brokering deals,” D’Alessandro said of Oliver. “His reputation throughout the league is stellar and his contact base is as big as anyone, so we’re really happy to have him.

“This isn’t a guy that’s just crunching numbers in a closet somewhere,” the Sacramento Kings general manager added. “This is a guy who’s on the floor, working with the coaches, calling assistant general managers, general managers, trying to put deals together.”

Oliver brings a unique mix of basketball acumen and analytical knowledge to the Sacramento Kings front office. While serving as Denver’s Director of Quantitative Analysis, he worked closely with former head coach George Karl, along with the team’s front office. Oliver hopes to build a similar relationship and level of communication with Sacramento Kings coach Michael Malone, who is looking forward to working with the front office’s new hire.

“You can get lost in those numbers,” Malone said. “There’s so many numbers. There’s cameras everywhere. Big brother’s watching. You’ve got cameras for everything, tracking everything. But if somebody can take all those numbers and take out what’s most important for us and give it to us, then I think it is readily useable knowledge that can help us.”

In addition to his stints with the Denver Nuggets and ESPN, Oliver also worked for the Seattle SuperSonics as a statistical consultant. The Sacramento Kings’ new front office hire is also the author of the book “Basketball on Paper”, which is endorsed by legendary college coach Dean Smith and esteemed baseball statistician and writer Bill James.

Malone looking for practice concepts to translate over in first preseason contest

The Sacramento Kings play their first preseason game on Sunday. Michael Malone wants to see one thing in particular from his team when they take the court for the first time this year.

“What I’m looking for to be very honest is to transfer everything that we’ve been working on and teaching and implementing both offensively and defensively,” Malone said Friday afternoon. “Can we push the ball with pace? Can we move the basketball? Can we pass up good shots to get great shots? Can we slow down on offense? And then, can we continue to take a step in the right direction on defense?”

Outside of DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, Malone has not yet determined a starting five for Sunday’s game against the Toronto Raptors. Even when he decides, that lineup will change on a game-to-game basis throughout the Sacramento Kings’ first seven preseason contests.

The second-year coach was pleased with what he saw out of his team on Friday afternoon. They’ve had eight practices so far, and today’s strong workout session came after a day off.

“Last year, when we had practice after an off day, I felt like I was a dentist,” Malone said. “I was pulling teeth. Today, I’ll give these guys a ton of credit. They came in ready to work. We watched film, we came out here and we got after it. It was a very good practice.”

The Sacramento Kings have one more practice on Saturday before they flight out to British Columbia in the afternoon. They take on the Toronto Raptors in Vancouver on Sunday with tip-off set for 4:00 PM PT at Rogers Arena.

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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.