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On the NBA Beat Ep. 96: Joe Morgan on Pro Scout School and “Belief in the Future” for the Sacramento Kings

The NBA world has taken over Las Vegas for the last two weeks, and while the main attraction has obviously been Las Vegas Summer League, where teams test out and try to develop their new talent, with so much of the top brass in one city, there are bound to be auxiliary events as well. One such event is TPG Sport Group’s Pro Scout School, which our guest, Joe Morgan, was able to attend this week. He lets us in on everything he learned there, from experts like Fran Franchilla, Bobby Marks, Tony Ronzone, Drew Hanlen and more. Of course, Joe is also the co-host of The Kings Court and covers the Kings for SacKingsNation.com, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t also get his views on Sacramento’s eventful offseason so far. Scout out these royal excerpts below:

7:15-8:11 Joe speaks on being able to gain an insider’s perspective with front office personnel and other experts: “They talk to you more openly than they would during the season when they’re busy. They give you that insider’s view of ‘Why did this move happen?’ …I could not figure out why Oladipo went to Indiana, and somebody made the point in the class that he’s a Hoosier alumnus. So do you think that helps them sell tickets for the team that was 22nd in attendance last year?… Basketball teams only convene to do two things: win games and make money. As a fan and even on the commentating side of it, generally, you only look at the game-winning side of it, we forget to add in that this is a business.”

11:26-12:20 On how modern teams are able to use both advanced analytics and traditional scouting in conjunction for player evaluation: “In the class, one of my favorite sentences that came out of the whole thing was. ‘Analytics is just evidence-based decision making.’ A guy has to pass the eye-test; you can’t watch a guy and think he’s horrible and then want him on your team. But analytics gives you something that helps you watch for specific patterns… It gives you another way to fine tune what you’re looking for. A lot of these guys, you only get to watch once or twice… so if you have an analytics team give you some notes beforehand, it really helps you out as a scout.”

15:50-16:17 On the particular way scouts watch games for player evaluation: “If a scout goes into a building to watch Bob Smith from wherever, he sits down and only watches him for the entire game. I don’t care if he’s on the bench, I don’t care if he’s warming up, you watch specifically that person. You watch his facial expressions, whether he’s taking instructions from the coach well, whether when he’s sitting on the bench, is he engaged in the game or is he off in his own world. You’re only watching that one person for the entire game.”

29:06-29-28 On the Kings’ decision to sign George Hill in free agency: “What people didn’t seem to get was, you can’t give the keys to a young man like [De’Aaron] Fox right off the bat. You gotta work him in slowly. I think it was a perfect signing, to where [George Hill] can play… but if De’Aaron Fox comes out in the first year and is just amazing, the contract is friendly enough that you can move George Hill. If De’Aaron doesn’t come out as a superstar, well, then you keep [Hill] for those three years and let him develop slowly. It gives them the flexibility to go either way.”

34:41-35:01 Joe has the utmost confidence in Coach Dave Joerger’s ability to lead this team, as long as he sticks around: “Coach Joerger’s amazing. I wouldn’t trade him for anyone else in the league right now. I think he’s the absolute perfect guy to bring this roster along. The key to Coach Joerger though is him staying around. He looks like he’s bought in. Vlade and the front office look like they’ve bought in. It’s a matter of just not switching in the middle of the stream like they have in the past.”

40:13-40:47 On why he’s optimistic about the future for the Kings: “The game after DeMarcus [Cousins] was traded, the Kings were winning by 11 with a minute left. The kids were up by 11 and still diving for the out of bounds with 48 seconds on the clock. That type of effort, it gives the fans hope. Even if they lose, when you see the kids out there trying to work as hard as they can, you know they’re going to be something eventually. That hope is all Sacramento needed. They don’t need wins right away, they just needed something that gave them belief in the future. And it’s here, there’s finally hope that the future can be brighter than the last couple years have been.”

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Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod