The 2014 NBA Draft takes place later tonight, and while every team looks for an edge, the Sacramento Kings might be getting particularly creative. The Kings GM, Pete D'Alessandro, put out word that the team was looking to crowdsource the NBA's amateur analytics community to figure out what exactly to do with the team's 8th overall pick. Grantland put together the video above detailing how some of this has played out.
The Kings were not looking for someone to make this pick for them, but instead to get as much information as they could to make the right decision. As I understand it, this is considered one of the deeper NBA drafts in recent memory. The No. 8 pick could hold tremendous value whether it be grabbing a big name talent that slips, or dealing out of the pick for more picks. The San Francisco 49ers likely dealt with a similar decision in May when they were picking No. 30 in the 2014 NFL Draft. It was considered an especially deep class, and I'm sure the team made and fielded calls about No. 30.
The NBA has joined Major League Baseball in developing their use of analytics at a rapid pace. One reason those two leagues are so far ahead is the ability to focus in on the performance of individual players. They are still team games, but there are a lot of individual aspects to it that make analytics that much more valuable. In the NFL, analytics are growing, with our own 49ers among several teams doing more and more with analytics. It's less exact in the NFL given how important each teammate is to the performance of another, but there is a lot to be gained from analytics.
In discussing the analytical approach to sports, this can go beyond assessing performance in passing, running, catching, defending and so forth. 49ers President Paraag Marathe has discussed how medical issues are one of the next frontiers of analytics. Teams are still learning how to assess the health of players at a deeper level than simply, "are they hurt?" Some teams are reportedly going to use head impact sensors in further attempts to figure out the concussion issue. The 49ers have done a lot of work with Stanford University that allows them to better assess player health. And we've even seen them hire Fergus Connolly as "Director of Elite Performance" to further improve this area.
And let's not forget that the 49ers have already starting improving the way they assess information through their relationship with SAP. The 49ers entered into a formal partnership with SAP, which has allowed them to better organize their scouting information in preparation for the NFL Draft. It's not quite what we think of when it comes to basic analytics, but the organization of all this information can be just as important as the information itself. What good is information if it's disorganized and hard to figure out? It's one more way the 49ers attempt to get an extra edge over the opposition.