Self-Inflicted Wounds in Sacramento

Posted on February 22, 2009 by


About a week ago, Henry Abbott – at TrueHoop – posted The NBA Story No One’s Talking About About.  Essentially, the Sacramento Kings are losing money and it is possible this franchise – which has stopped in Rochester, Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Omaha – might be moving again. 

The problem for Sacramento – according to the team – is that the Kings are losing money.  Although it’s difficult to know how much (owners in sports are not always honest about their finances), one issue for the Kings is declining attendance.  Currently the team ranks last in the NBA at the gate.  

One reason for this decline could be the economy.  Today’s economic problems – which began in the housing sector – hit Sacramento and California especially hard.  But the economy is not the only problem for the Kings.  Let’s face it.  This team is bad.

The Bad Kings

To see how bad, let’s look at Table One.

Table One: The Sacramento Kings in 2008-09 after 57 games

An average player posts a WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] of 0.100.  As Table One note, only one player employed by the Kings this year has surpassed the mark of an average player.  That player – Brad Miller – is currently with the Chicago Bulls.  And the same story can be told about John Salmons, the second most productive player on the roster.  He is also in Chicago.

Of the remaining players, Kevin Martin is easily the best, although he is offering less than last year.  Even if he was as productive as last year, though, the Kings would still be a very bad team.

Once we move past Martin, this roster looks extremely bleak.  The rest of this team has only produced 0.2 wins this year.  Yes, Drew Gooden will help some when he is healthy.  But we should not be mistaken.  This team is built for the lottery. In other words, the choices the Kings made in building this roster have led to this outcome. 

More for Moore

Perhaps no player exemplifies this point more than Mikki Moore. For most of his career, Moore was the quintessential journeyman.  He was good enough to make an NBA roster.   But never good enough to last or make much of a contribution.  Then two years ago he was in the right place at the right time.  The New Jersey Nets lost Nenad Krstic for the season and Moore was suddenly given the gift of playing time.  Although his per-minute performance was essentially unchanged – a point I made in July of 2007 – Moore’s increased playing time led to an increase in his per-game numbers.  Consequently, the Kings decided to give Moore – a player who has labored under a 10-day contract in the NBA — $18 million.

In the first year of this deal, Moore produced 1.2 wins in 2,385 minutes.  Moore’s WP48 of 0.024 was a below his career mark of 0.047, but not that far below.  Essentially, Moore did what he always did.  He just got paid much better.

This year Moore – who is now 33 years old – saw his productivity decline further.  As a consequence, the Kings put him the trade market.  But after no one stepped forward to take on this contract, the Kings simply cut Moore from the team.  Yes this move saves money.  But the Kings could have saved even more money if they hadn’t agreed to give Moore this contract in the first place. 

Torturing Kings

Free agent signings aren’t the only problem for this team.  In the past four years the Kings have added the following in the first round: Francisco Garcia, Quincy Douby, Spencer Hawes, and Jason Thompson.  These four players have combined to produce 0.2 wins this season. 

When we put the whole picture together, it’s easy to see that Sacramento’s problems are largely self-inflicted.  The team is simply a product of its past decisions.  And these decisions were less than optimal. 

As a result of these decisions, the Kings are not performing on the court and the team’s fans are staying away.  To solve this problem, some are suggesting the Kings move to another town and another set of fans.  Certainly this can lead to an increase in attendance in the short-run.  But if this team keeps choosing the wrong players, eventually the Kings will wear out their welcome in a new town.

The good news for the Kings is that there are many cities that might be able to support an NBA team.  So there may be no shortage of people in this country who could be tortured by bad basketball.  Although hopefully there aren’t many cities that will give the Kings extra money for this privilege (unfortunately, though, there probably is).

– DJ

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Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.