Kings

Kings add new stat guru Luke Bornn to front office

Kings add new stat guru Luke Bornn to front office

SACRAMENTO -- Changes are coming to the Sacramento Kings. The team quietly made news on Monday evening when it was reported that Roland Beech, the Kings VP of Basketball Results, will not return after two years on the job.

But Sacramento hasn’t abandoned the analytics movement. In fact, they are about to invest heavily in a new group, with a new face at the helm. -- Luke Bornn, who will join the Kings front office as the new VP of Analytics and Strategy, NBC Sports California has learned.

In accepting the role, Bornn, 31, will leave soccer giant A.S. Roma as well as his positions as an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University and visiting scholar at Harvard University. He’ll be taxed with building a new department in Sacramento that will look to bring in some of the brightest minds in the field of analytics.

He is a stat head for sure, but one with a focus on creating a system of sketching and mapping the spatial movements of players using the incredible technologies now available to teams through the NBA’s SportVU system.

“We’ll be looking at more advanced modeling tools often with the player tracking data to try and get a deeper understanding of player performance,” Bornn told NBC Sports California. “There is a lot of what happens on the court that really is not picked up by the box score. A lot of players that make big contributions make it in ways that don’t appear. It’s not an assist, it’s not a rebound, it’s not a block.”

According to their site, “SportVU utilizes a six-camera system installed in basketball arenas to track the real-time positions of players and the ball 25 times per second. Utilizing this tracking data, STATS is able to create a wealth of innovative statistics based on speed, distance, player separation and ball possession.”

Introduced to the basketball data world while working at Harvard in 2012 by Kirk Goldsberry, who now works for the San Antonio Spurs front office, Bornn is already well known in the basketball world for his work.

“Kirk and I sort of hit it off,” Bornn said. “He had just gotten SportVU data and he basically said to me, ‘I have this data, but I have no idea what to do with it, I have the basketball side, but I don’t have the technical side.’ I had the technical side and so it started a long collaboration of working with player tracking data.”

Bornn has co-authored papers presented at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in each of the previous four years, including four straight Sloan finalist papers.

Every team in the league has someone looking over this data, but Bornn hopes to tailor the information to the needs of the Kings’ staff.

“It’s not about me coming in and saying, ‘Here is how to think about the game and here’s the magic numbers,’” Bornn said. “It’s really about me going to them and saying, ‘How do you think about the game, what is it that you care about, is there questions you want answered and can I help you with that?’”  

The plan is for Bornn and his team to build a database of sorts that is accessible to players, coaches and the front office that relies heavily on video to show information, instead of just numbers on a page. They will have your conventional statistics, but an array of other options as well specifically created for the team.

“My role with the Kings will be all encompassing,” Bornn said. “It’s player evaluation, opponent scouting, it’s performance - with the sports science group there. We’ll be looking at all aspects, from the basics of stats, all the way to the more advanced metrics.”

From developing oncourt strategies to charting player health, Bornn and his team will make information accessible to the Kings’ front office, coaching and medical staff with the hope of adding yet another resource for the franchise.

Predicting player injuries is one of the hot button topics in the NBA at this moment with the league going as far as elongating the All-Star break and taking another 10 days onto the schedule to help spread out back-to-back games. It’s a complex issue that is in its fledgling stages.

“In terms of injuries, that’s where everyone wants to go and I think that’s where we’ll aim to go as well, but right now, that’s very much an unsolved problem,” Bornn said.

It appears that the Kings are jumping into the analytics field with both feet. Bornn is moving to Sacramento with his family and will be on the ground as the Kings prepare for a very important 2017 NBA Draft and then free agency.  

Source: Kings' De'Aaron Fox leaves Team USA to focus on making playoffs

Source: Kings' De'Aaron Fox leaves Team USA to focus on making playoffs

Well, so much for that.

Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox had been a standout this summer with Team USA, drawing rave reviews from just about everyone associated with the program, including head coach Gregg Popovich.

Despite only playing six minutes in Friday's exhibition win over Spain, Popovich informed the media that all 14 finalists, including Fox and Harrison Barnes, would be heading with the team to Australia as they continue their prep.

But Fox apparently had other ideas, as the Kentucky product has withdrawn from Team USA, a source confirmed to NBC Sports California's James Ham.

Yahoo! Sports' Chris Haynes was the first to report the news, noting Fox is choosing to focus on getting the Kings back to the playoffs. 

That is a bit of a shocker.

Last season, the Kings took a step in the right direction when Fox, Barnes, Marvin Bagley and Buddy Hield led them to a 39-43 record and kept them in the playoff hunt for much of the year.

But the Western Conference got a lot tougher over the offseason. With Anthony Davis now a Laker, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joining the Clippers, Mike Conley being acquired by the Jazz and the Rockets swapping Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook, the West will be the ultimate gauntlet this year.

And let's not forget about the Warriors, who despite the loss of Kevin Durant, still will be a threat.

[RELATED: Fox making most of Team USA time with Popovich]

A number of Western Conference stars elected not to participate in Team USA this summer, hoping instead to put all their focus on a title run next season in the wide-open NBA.

After a few weeks with the Red, White, and Blue, Fox apparently has chosen to put all his time and energy into helping the Kings snap their playoff drought.

Kings' De'Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes will go to Australia with Team USA

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USATSI

Kings' De'Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes will go to Australia with Team USA

ANAHEIM -- In their first test against international competition, Team USA looked solid. Playing against Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol and an experienced team from Spain, head coach Gregg Popovich’s squad led for most of the night and managed a 90-81 win to open their schedule of friendlies. 

Donovan Mitchell and Khris Middleton were the standouts for Team USA. Mitchell finished with 13 points and chipped in four rebounds, while Middleton added 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.

Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes started at the power forward spot for Team USA and finished with two points and three rebounds in 14 minutes. Despite the modest numbers, Barnes played solid defense and made smart decisions when he got an opportunity.

De’Aaron Fox put together a strong camp, but he played just six minutes in the win for the US. He sat in the second half as Popovich gave Spurs guard Derrick White a long look. 

In his limited minutes, Fox scored two points dished out an assist. Of the 13 players that stepped on the court for the national team, Fox’s six minutes were the lowest total. 

While he certainly would have like to play more, the 21-year-old point guard wasn’t complaining following the game. He enjoyed the opportunity to throw on a Team USA jersey and compete.

“It was definitely great to play against a different country, it was my first time doing it and I definitely had a blast,” Fox told NBC Sports California. 

In the moments following then win, Fox confirmed that he had yet to find out whether he was on his way to Australia Saturday with the team or not. A few minutes later coach Popovich confirmed that all 14 of the remaining finalists are heading out on the trip.

“It seemed like the right thing to do,” Popovich said.

[RELATED: Fox, Barnes building bond with Team USA]

The next few weeks are going to be a whirlwind for the team. They’ll play two friendlies in Melbourne and then one in Sydney in preparation for their Sept. 1 opener against the Czech Republic in Shanghai, China. 

Somewhere between now and the start of the FIBA World Cup, they’ll have to pair down the roster to 12 that will suit up.