Thursday, April 25, 2013
Forecasting the Kings' future
By Royce Webb ESPN.com
The charts display the voting breakdown of 118 respondents to two questions about the Kings' future.
Where should the Kings franchise play in the future? Where will the Kings franchise play in the future?
We asked our ESPN Forecast panel of NBA contributors those two big questions.
One reason we created ESPN Forecast was to dig into such questions, get past the noise and find some hard-core truths.
This system has worked well on various kinds of questions -- for instance, it is the best technique for predicting how many games teams will win in a season, and it has shown an uncanny ability to forecast this season's Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards. We expect similar results in the voting for Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year and MVP.
And now we're extending ESPN Forecast to even more difficult questions.
As in, really difficult questions, like the future of the Kings franchise. Soon we will find out if the Kings will be sold to an ownership group that will keep them in Sacramento, or sold to a group that will move them to Seattle.
This week, there will be a meeting of the NBA's relocation committee, and shortly thereafter we might have news on how the NBA's board of governors will decide.
Which city is in the lead: Sacramento or Seattle?
The situation has remained fluid for months, making it difficult to get a good read on what should happen and what will happen.
On these two questions, 118 respondents delivered a sort of split decision.
A majority of respondents think that Sacramento should keep the Kings, with 58.5 percent voicing that opinion.
At the same time, 60.2 percent of the panel forecasts that Seattle will get the Kings -- or as they would be known, the SuperSonics.
Of those who think the Kings should stay in Sacramento, half think they'll move. Of those who think the Kings should move, almost 75 percent think they will.
Why is Seattle in the lead?
Let's unpack some of the potential reasons for the ESPN Forecast vote on this question:
It might be accurate
The whole idea here is to get it right, putting the collective knowledge of our diverse panel into play.
Maybe the panel has access to enough information and insight to look through the complex maze of issues and find the right answer. We'll see.
It might be cynical
Just five years ago, the Seattle SuperSonics left town and moved to Oklahoma City, leaving a huge scar. Many thought the move was a dirty deal and saw the NBA as complicit.
So here we are in a saga with some of the same elements. While some of the circumstances are different, the parallels are obvious and memories are fresh.
Maybe that's why a significant number of voters "split" their votes, with 29.7 percent saying the Kings should stay in Sacto but won't.
Some voters' lack of faith in the system ran the other direction, with 11.0 percent saying the Kings should move to Seattle but won't. In all that's more than 40 percent who split their votes.
It might lack the information necessary for an accurate prediction
In a famous recent case, the prediction market Intrade guessed wrong on whether the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold the law commonly known as Obamacare. The market thought the court would not, but it did.
Why was the "smart money" not so smart? In the aftermath, many realized the court -- being a small, closed body -- harbored thoughts and information the public didn't have access to.
Are we in the same situation with the future of the Kings? We don't know yet. But we do know that, as with the Supreme Court, a very small number of people will make this decision, and they aren't saying much.
What decisions will the committee, the board of governors, commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and the other parties reach, and what considerations will sway them? It might be fair to say that it's anyone's guess.
It might be accurate at the moment, but ...
One possibility is that ESPN Forecast got its prediction right at the moment of the vote (which was Tuesday and Wednesday, April 23-24), but that some new development will change the outlook.
This is perfectly natural, just as in real life. When you're driving, you might look ahead and think the light will stay green, but if it turns red, you put on the brakes.
For instance, what if Stern says the league is open to expansion right away? That will be new information for our panel and others to consider.
Leading is not the same as winning
One owner told CBS Sports that the Sacramento/Seattle situation was 50/50. But actually it looks more like 60/40 in favor of Seattle, according to our panel.
Of course, a 60 percent chance is not a 100 percent chance, and it is not destiny -- the NBA could still go either way. Sacramento is still in the game.
In politics, a 60/40 split is called a landslide. In poker, a 60/40 split is closer to a coin flip.
We might soon find out which term applies better to forecasting a franchise tug-of-war like the one between Sacramento and Seattle.