The Kings Try to Win Despite Losing and NCAA Tournament Thoughts

How the Sacramento Kings Hope to Win While Losing is the title of my latest for the Huffington Post.  The Kings have seen total revenue decline across the past few seasons.  This decline – as I note in the article – is tied primarily to a decline in gate revenue.  And the decline in gate revenue is at least partially about the decline in the team’s fortunes on the court. 

To offset this decline, the Kings have two choices.  The choice they prefer is to move into a new arena that will allow the team to extract more revenue from the fans still showing up to see the Kings play bad basketball.  The other choice is to provide a more competitive team on the court.

The following table helps illustrate this point.

On the left we see what the Kings could have expected to do given what the veterans the Kings employed did in 2009-10 (rookie performance is simply taken as given).  As one can see, the Kings could have expected to win about 27 of their first 65 games in 2010-11.   On the right we see the team – given their performance this season (i.e. the team’s efficiency differential or offensive efficiency minus defensive efficiency) — could have expected to win about 20 or 21 games.

The team has actually won 16 games.  So they are not quite as bad as their record suggests.  And they would be better if Tyreke Evans and Samuel Dalembert gave the team what they offered in 2009-10.  But even if Evans and Dalembert reverted to what we saw last year, this would still be a below 0.500 team.  And the Kings would still be struggling at the gate.

So what’s the solution? The Kings need more productive players.  But this team is now on pace to miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.  One would think that in five years the Kings could have found some productive players.  But this hasn’t happened.  And until it does, the Kings should continue to have a hard time attracting fans.

At least, I think the Kings “should” struggle to attract fans.  There is a movement in Sacramento that is attempting to change how Sacramento is reacting to all this losing.  The Here We Stay campaign is doing everything in their power to keep the Kings in Sacramento.  And part of “doing everything” is making an effort to boost ticket sales.

Although I am sympathetic with the desire of people in Sacramento to keep their basketball team, there is something wrong with a  process where the NBA takes away a team unless

a. the community offers the team a taxpayer subsidy and/or

b. the community buys tickets to support a team that isn’t winning

Capitalism is about rewarding winners and punishing losers.  There are good reasons why such a system generates positive social outcomes.  But the NBA (and this is true for the other professional sports leagues in North America) want a system where even losers earn a positive profit.  And if that doesn’t happen, communities like Sacramento lose their team. 

Tournament Thoughts

As I noted, the Kings are essentially exploiting the fans of Sacramento.  And many of the “student-athletes” in the NCAA tournament are also exploited.  At least, they are generating more revenue than they are receiving from their school.  Although this issue is important, I thought I would offer a few different tournament thoughts (how is that for a transition?).

A number of people have noticed that Erich Doerr’s analysis of the NCAA tournament was not offered this year (Erich didn’t have time this year).  Ty Willihnganz did look at a bunch of numbers and offers some picks.  So if you haven’t filled out your brackets, it might help. 

Andres Alvarez – of NerdNumbers (which is on-line again) – sent along a link to a website called Win That Pool!.  The website helps you fill out your bracket by taking into account how other people are likely to fill out their brackets.  So that is fun!

As for my bracket…still haven’t done this (will do it after this is posted).  Yes, I know.  We now have four early games.  For my pool, though, those are going to be ignored.  My pool consists of my wife and two daughters.  My oldest daughter is picking Duke (she does that every year because she was told a few years ago by my wife that Duke is good).  And apparently I am picking San Diego State to reach the Final Four.

At least, that is what I told the Wall Street Journal.  Jared Diamond sent me the blind bracket the Journal created.  The purpose of this exercise was to see what would happen if people had some basic information about each team but didn’t have the team’s name.  When I did this – as the Wall Street Journal reported today – I ended up with a Final Four of Kansas, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, and North Carolina.  Although I doubt this will happen, I will keep this Final Four for the bracket I am completing in the family pool.  And this means I am probably not going to win the pool.  That’s okay, though.  I am a fan of whoever does win the pool J

– DJ

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