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October 21, 2008, 12:28 PM ET
Notes from NorCal

by Kevin Pelton

SACRAMENTO INTERNATIONAL (SMF) - I spent the weekend and yesterday in various locales in Northern California, and naturally hoops was a prominent factor. As I wait to wing my way back to Seattle, I figured I’d offer a recap.

On Saturday, Menlo College hosted the 2008 Northern California Symposium on Statistics and Operations Research in Sports (NCSSORS). Dr. Benjamin Alamar, who runs the Journal of Qualitative Analysis of Sports, put together NCSSORS to give us a conference on statistical analysis here on the West Coast, which allowed me and some others to attend. Every previous conference has been in Boston, and while I hope to make it out there next Spring, that’s a long ways for a one-day conference. Thanks to Ben for putting this West-Coast-Biased conference together.

Anyways, while none of the day’s presentations featured basketball, there was still a strong NBA presence at the festivities. Dean Oliver, the godfather of APBRmetrics, offered a presentation on (of all things) frescoball, which illustrated how the concept of “fit” can be very important in team sports. Sam Hinkie of the Houston Rockets took part in a panel discussion on how statistics can be used more effectively to help both teams and the media. It was great to meet a lot of people, including Roland Beech of 82games.com, and we had some lively discussions later that evening as we watched college football and Game 6 of the ALCS.

I then moved east, which allowed me to attend last night’s Portland-Sacramento tilt at ARCO Arena–my first live NBA game of the 2008-09 season. Some observations from the Blazers’ 112-98 victory.

  • Greg Oden was as advertised in the preseason. He’s evidently rusty and not yet confident in the game. Still, his pure size allowed him to be a factor on both ends of the floor; the Kings had little choice but to double-team Oden in the post, which created turnovers but also tons of open three-pointers.
  • I’m pretty sure I caught Nicolas Batum on his worst night of the preseason, but while his talent is undeniable, a starting role seems like a stretch at this point.
  • Rudy Fernandez took about 10 three-pointers last night and is at 18 of his 31 attempts so far in the preseason. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, since Fernandez has shown NBA range (he quickly earned the coveted status of feared by the Kings fans around us). Still, you’d like to see him use more of his skills, as he did in completing an alley-oop from Sergio Rodriguez, as I’d advertised to my cousin we might see.
  • This just in: Brandon Roy and Kevin Martin are really good. That’s a fun Western Conference matchup to watch for oh, the next decade or so. I projected Martin to 24.3 points per game, fifth in the league, and even that feels a little low. (By the way, since a couple of people have e-mailed, the spreadsheet of projections included in yesterday’s introduction to SCHOENE is sorted simply by projected points per game.)
  • Spencer Hawes really struggled and has had an up-and-down preseason. Watching him for 30 games during his lone season at the University of Washington, I wasn’t sold on Hawes’s NBA potential. He struggles with physical play in the paint. After a year in the NBA, I feel better about Hawes long-term, but he’s still very much a work in progress and I suspect confidence could be an issue because the Kings’ fanbase is obviously impatient with him right now. I was more impressed with Jason Thompson, who looked very active and displayed a solid basketball IQ.
  • Sacramento fans love Bobby Jackson. I mean they love Bobby Jackson. I had heard that, but it seems different when you hear the ovation whenever he checks in or see his jersey as one of the most prominent in the team shop.
  • The Kings may not lead the league in many categories, but between Jackson, new addition Brown (pun intended) and invitee Jones, they are tops in the NBA when it comes to guys named Bobby. This is the kind of insight and analysis you will get only from Basketball Prospectus.

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