At one time, Dean Oliver wasn’t widely respected in basketball for his analytic and statistical evaluations.
One of those who took Oliver seriously 10 years ago was Pete D’Alessandro, now the Kings’ general manager.
“I was just trying to get in, and Pete was one of the first people to listen to me,” Oliver said.
This time, Oliver listened to D’Alessandro, who asked him to join the Kings. D’Alessandro introduced Oliver, now recognized as the creator of many of the advanced statistics used by NBA teams, on Friday. Oliver will provide statistical analysis and have a role in personnel decisions.
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Oliver had been the director of production analytics at ESPN.
D’Alessandro worked with Oliver in Denver before becoming the Kings’ GM last year. Oliver worked with the front office and coach George Karl.
“He’s going to be a big part of this team in terms of brokering deals,” D’Alessandro said. “His reputation throughout the league is stellar, and his contact base is as big as anyone’s.”
Oliver, who played point guard for Division III Caltech, also worked for the Seattle SuperSonics.
After graduating from Caltech, Oliver earned a Ph.D. in statistical applications in environmental science at North Carolina in 1994.
Oliver’s book, “Basketball on Paper,” quantified how players ranging from Wilt Chamberlain to Manute Bol contributed to their team’s success.
D’Alessandro believes Oliver will be a valuable asset to the Kings’ coaches and players.
“There’s plenty of coaches and players who’ve learned the right things,” Oliver said. “They don’t need an analytical approach in order to do things the right way. But there’s a lot more information. You’ve got players who want to know more about the details.”
Kings coach Michael Malone said he is a “numbers guy” and believes they can be beneficial.
“I’m looking forward to working with anybody that can help us win games,” Malone said . “... We’re going to use whatever information that Dean and the entire front-office staff give us to help us become a winning basketball team.”
D’Alessandro is especially happy about adding Oliver, likening the move to acquiring a key player.
“This isn’t a guy just crunching numbers in a closet somewhere,” D’Alessandro said. “This is a guy who’s on the floor, working with the coaches, calling different general managers trying to put deals together.”
What also makes Oliver valuable, D’Alessandro said, is his ability to simplify statistical analysis for coaches and players.
“He has an uncanny ability to take something that would seem complicated and break it down to three or four points,” D’Alessandro said.
Oliver said the Kings’ roster and principal owner Vivek Ranadive’s commitment to statistical analysis made the offer attractive.
He said he would defer to coaches on how to use his data, adding that they are the best ones to deliver the message because they are with the team all the time.
Oliver’s time will not be spent solely on the Kings. He’ll also analyze NBA draft prospects and other NBA teams.
“We can do this; we can be innovative; we can make players better,” Oliver said. “And that’s how it gets reflected. It’s the players who get better, and hopefully it reflects back on the GM and the ownership as well.”