Tag Archives: NBA Draft

The Best and Worst Draft Picks of the David Stern Era.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, this past Thursday’s NBA Draft was the final one for long time commissioner David Stern, who is set to retire in February 2014. In honor of this, and of the 30 years of first round picks he’s made, I decided to make a completely arbitrary and utterly pointless ranking system.

To start with, I only used the first ten picks of every draft, and then included some of the more successful later round picks from subsequent years. A team drafting a guy who didn’t pan out at #11 isn’t exactly a franchise killer. Drafting that same guy at #1, is another story.

I used four criteria in my grading system: Playoff success, All-Star games, career success/awards, and loyalty/longevity. The latter two are on a 1-10 scale. If said draft pick played his entire career with the team that drafted him, he gets a 10. If said career was 10 or more years, he might get higher than that. The only players that get a 0 in this field are ones that never became a rotation player for the team that drafted them. Success/awards is out of 10 in multiples of 5. If a player flamed out of the NBA, he gets a 0. If he had a respectable NBA career, he gets a 5. If he was a star player/award winner, he gets a 10. For simplification’s sake, I decided not to differentiate between levels of stardom. Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley both get 10s in this category.

The other two categories are somewhat trickier. Playoff success is tallied by the amount of appearances said player made in the playoffs with the team that drafted him, divided by two. If that player was part of a championship team, 5 points are added to his tally (one for every title). The final category, All-Star games, is perhaps simpler: however many All-Star games the player appeared in for any team. This will serve to stabilize some of the stranger careers. For instance, Chris Webber will inherently have a higher score than, say, Danny Manning, due to his status as a perennial All-Star. The final scores will reflect the overall success of that pick for the team who made it (or, more precisely, the team that ended up with the player in question when the season in question began).

0-9: Wasted potential, a player who did not live up the expectations of a top 10 pick for the team that drafted him.

10-19: Solid pro, perhaps not the star his team needed, but a guy whose NBA career can be considered successful.

20-29: Low-level star, ranging from solid career starters to borderline Hall of Fame candidates.

30-39: Superstar, everything a team could have asked for with a top 10 pick and a likely Hall of Famer. Also Derek Fisher.

40+: Legend, an out and out success in every way imaginable. A franchise cornerstone and best case scenario.

 

#1 Pick

Five Best

Tim Duncan, 1997. San Antonio Spurs. 61 Points

Hakeem Olajuwon, 1984. Houston Rockets. 48 Points

David Robinson, 1987. San Antonio Spurs. 46 Points

Patrick Ewing, 1985. New York Knicks. 37 Points

Shaquille O’Neal, 1992. Orlando Magic. 31 Points

 

Five Worst

Kwame Brown, 2001. Washington Wizards. 6 Points

Pervis Ellison, 1989. Sacramento Kings. 7 Points

Michael Olowokandi, 1998. Los Angeles Clippers. 8 Points

Greg Oden, 2007. Portland Trail Blazers. 11 Points

Joe Smith, 1995. Golden State Warriors. 12 Points

 

What’s interesting about the #1 pick is that there aren’t nearly as many out and out busts as you’d imagine. Really, it’s just Olowokandi and Kwame Brown who were bad NBA players. Pervis Ellison had no effect with the Kings, but ended up with a decent career. It’s telling that Joe Smith, consummate NBA journeyman with career averages of 10 points and 6 boards, ranked low enough to qualify for the bottom five. Oden, of course, has been limited by his injuries, but he was not a bad player when he played. In fact, he was quite good, enough that he’s still playing for a comeback.

Here’s the rest of the list, grouped by score. 29-20: LeBron James (29), Yao Ming, Allen Iverson (28), Derrick Rose, Brad Daugherty (25), Larry Johnson, Blake Griffin (22), Chris Webber (21), Glenn Robinson (20), Kyrie Irving (17), Kenyon Martin, John Wall (16), Anthony Davis, Andrea Bargnani (15), Andrew Bogut, Derrick Coleman (14), Danny Manning (13), Elton Brand (12).

 

#2 Pick

Five Best

Jason Kidd, 1994, Dallas Mavericks. 32 Points

Gary Payton, 1990. Seattle SuperSonics. 29 Points

Kevin Durant, 2007. Seattle SuperSonics. 28 Points

Alonzo Mourning, 1992. Charlotte Hornets. 22 Points

Rik Smits, 1988. Indiana Pacers. 22 Points

 

Five Worst

Hasheem Thabeet, 2009. Memphis Grizzlies. 7 Points

Darko Milicic, 2003. Detroit Pistons. 8 Points

Jay Williams, 2002. Chicago Bulls. 10 Points

Stromile Swift, 2000. Vancouver Grizzlies. 10 Points

Michael Beasley, 2008. Miami Heat. 11 Points

 

The #2 pick is, in all honesty, somewhat weak. Only one of these players, Jason Kidd, has won a title with the team that drafted him, and that was at the end of his career, on his second stint with the team. However, there aren’t a huge amount of total busts here, either, although the bottom 5 is full of them, with the exception of Jay Williams, whose career was robbed from his by injury. The rest of the scores follow: LaMarcus Aldridge (20), Marcus Camby (16), Antonio McDyess, Mike Bibby, Danny Ferry (15), Tyson Chandler, Kenny Anderson, Steve Francis, Derrick Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14), Sam Bowie, Evan Turner (13), Keith Van Horn, Armen Gilliam, Emeka Okafor, Marvin Williams, Shawn Bradley (12), Wayman Tisdale (11).

 

#3 Pick

Five Best

Michael Jordan, 1984. Chicago Bulls. 70 Points

Grant Hill, 1994. Detroit Pistons. 26 Points

Sean Elliott, 1989. San Antonio Spurs. 26 Points

Penny Hardaway, 1993. Orlando Magic. 25 Points

Carmelo Anthony, 2003. Denver Nuggets. 23 Points

 

Five Worst

Chris Washburn, 1986. Golden State Warriors, 7 Points

Darius Miles, 2000. Los Angeles Clippers. 8 Points

Adam Morrison, 2006. Charlote Bobcats. 8 Points

Dennis Hopson, 1987. New Jersey Nets. 9 Points

Raef LaFrentz, 1998. Denver Nuggets. 10 Points

 

MJ aside, the third pick is not particularly interesting. It has its share of stars, and its share of busts, but few were momentous enough to effect the course of a franchise substantially in either direction. Sounds like Otto Porter Jr will fit right in with this crop.

The rest: Al Horford (23), Deron Williams (20), Pau Gasol, James Harden (19), Chauncey Billups (17), Baron Davis, Mahmoud Abdul-Raud (16), Jerry Stackhouse, Ben Gordon, Derrick Favors, Bradley Beal (15), Christian Laettner (14), O.J. Mayo, Enes Kanter, Benoit Benjamin (13), Mike Dunleavy Jr, Billy Owens (12), Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Charles Smith (11).

 

#4 Pick

Five Best

Chris Paul, 2005. New Orleans Hornets. 26 Points

Dikembe Mutombo, 1995. Denver Nuggets. 22 Points

Chris Bosh, 2003. Toronto Raptors. 22 Points

Russell Westbrook, 2008. Oklahoma City Thunder. 21 Points

Rasheed Wallace, 1995. Washington Bullets. 18 Points

 

Five Worst

Marcus Fizer, 2000. Chicago Bulls. 7 Points

Eddy Curry, 2001. Chicago Bulls. 9 Points

Wesley Johnson, 2010. Minnesota Timberwolves. 10 Points

Drew Gooden, 2002. Memphis Grizzlies. 10 Points

Tyrus Thomas, 2006. Chicago Bulls. 11 Points

 

A very average group of guys here at the 4 spot, with the difference between the 5th best and the 5th worst picks being a measly 7 points. Interestingly, none of these picks won a title with the team that drafted them. The vast majority of these picks were solid NBA players without much of an impact. The rest as follows: Mike Conley (18), Dennis Scott, Xavier McDaniel (17), Glen Rice, Sam Perkins (16), Chuck Person, Jamal Mashburn, Antawn Jamison, Lamar Odom, Stephon Marbury, Tristan Thompson (15), Tyreke Evans, Dion Waiters, Antonio Daniels, Chris Morris (14), Jim Jackson (13), Donyell Marshall, Shaun Livingston, Reggie Williams (11)

 

#5 Pick

 Five Best

Scottie Pippen, 1987. Chicago Bulls. 56 Points

Dwyane Wade, 2003. Miami Heat. 48 Points

Kevin Garnett, 1995. Minnesota Timberwolves. 39 Points

Charles Barkley, 1984. Philadelphia 76ers. 34 Points

Ray Allen, 1996. Milwaukee Bucks. 32 Points

 

Five Worst

Nikoloz Tskitishvili, 2002. Denver Nuggets. 8 Points

Shelden Williams, 2006. Atlanta Hawks. 9 Points

Isaiah Rider, 1993. Minnesota Timberwolves. 9 Points

Thomas Robinson, 2012. Sacramento Kings. 10 Points

J.R. Reid, 1989. Charlotte Hornets. 11 Points

 

The five spot is, by far, the most decorated thus far. While only two of these players won a title with the team that drafted them, those two players combined to win 9 titles, and the other three players in the top are all sure fire Hall of Famers who rank among the best to ever play their respective positions. They were all perennial All-Stars and MVP candidates, and maximized the worth their teams got for them (even Ray Allen fetched a mighty price in return for his services when Milwaukee traded him). This is as good as we’re likely to get. On the flip side, the bad picks here are certainly damaging. I feel bad about putting Thomas Robinson on here after one season, but his usefulness to the Kings is done, so it’s safe to say he was a bad pick for them. Here’s to hoping he makes a career out of it.

The rest: Vince Carter (22), Mitch Richmond (20), Kevin Love, Steve Smith (19), Ricky Rubio, Jon Koncak, Kenny Walker (16), Jonas Valanciunas, DeMarcus Cousins, Devin Harris (15), Juwan Howard, Kendall Gill, Mike Miller (14), Jeff Green, Jason Richardson (13), Tony Battie, Raymond Felton, LaPhonso Ellis, Jonathan Bender (12)

 

#6 Pick

Five Best

Brandon Roy, 2006. Portland Trail Blazers. 22 Points

Antoine Walker, 1996. Boston Celtics. 18 Points

Wally Szczerbiak, 1999. Minnesota Timberwolves. 17 Points

Hersey Hawkins, 1988. Los Angeles Clippers. 16 Points

Shane Battier, 2001. Memphis Grizzlies. 16 Points

 

Five Worst

Dajuan Wagner, 2002. Cleveland Cavaliers. 8 Points

Jonny Flynn, 2009. Minnesota Timberwolves. 8 Points

Yi Jianlian, 2007. Milwaukee Bucks. 9 Points

William Bedford, 1986. Philadelphia 76ers. 9 Points

DerMarr Johnson, 2000. Atlanta Hawks. 9 Points

 

This is the exact opposite of the five slot. Only Brandon Roy could possibly be considered a franchise player, and with his career tragically cut short by injury, he’s hardly the most valuable draft pick in the world. On the flip side, the busts that have come from this spot are massive. Dajuan Wagner is a somewhat forgotten player nowadays, but as a risk-reward pick, he’s one of the worst in the last few decades. To think that he came the year before LeBron is to really put into perspective just how bad that Cavs front office could be. Not sure I would have stayed with the people responsible for Dajuan Wagner when Miami came-a-calling, either.

The rest: Damian Lillard (15), Stacey King (14), Ekpe Udoh, Kenny Smith (13), Joe Kleine, Tom Gugliotta, Robert Traylor, Chris Kaman, Danilo Gallinari (12), Ron Mercer, Martell Webster, Melvin Turpin, Doug Smith, Calbert Cheaney (11), Felton Spencer, Bryant Reeves, Josh Childress, Sharone Wright, Jan Vesely (10)

 

#7 Pick

Five Best

Chris Mullin, 1985. Golden State Warriors. 26 Points

Kevin Johnson, 1987. Phoenix Suns. 23 Points

Luol Deng, 2004. Chicago Bulls. 22 Points

Nene Hilario, 2002. Denver Nuggets. 20 Points

Stephen Curry, 2009. Golden State Warriors. 19 Points

 

Five Worst

Eddie Griffin, 2001. Houston Rockets. 9 Points

Chris Mihm, 2000. Cleveland Cavaliers. 9 Points

Charlie Villanueva, 2005. Toronto Raptors. 9 Points

Lionel Simmons, 1990. Los Angeles Clippers. 10 Points

Luc Longley, 1991. Minnesota Timberwolves. 10 Points

 

This is more of a traditionally spread pick, albeit one without any bonafide superstars. Still, it’s also one without any major, franchise destroying busts. Eddie Griffin comes the closest, but with the problems he dealt with in his tragically short life, it’s hard to really blame this pick on anything to do with basketball. Mihm and Villanueva, though both bad value, put together extended NBA careers.

The rest: Alvin Robertson, Kirk Hinrich (18), Greg Monroe, Harrison Barnes, Richard Hamilton (16), Roy Tarpley, Jason Williams (15), Damon Stoudamire, George McCloud (14), Lamond Murray, Bobby Hurley, Tim Perry, Bismack Biyombo (13), Eric Gordon, Walt Williams (12), Lorenzen Wright, Tim Thomas, Randy Foye, Corey Brewer (11)

 

#8 Pick

Five Best

Detlef Schrempf, 1985. Dallas Mavericks. 18 Points

Kerry Kittles, 1996. New Jersey Nets. 17 Points

Vin Baker, 1993. Milwaukee Bucks. 15 Points

Brian Grant, 1994. Sacramento Kings. 15 Points

Ron Harper, 1986. Cleveland Cavaliers. 15 Points

 

Five Worst

Joe Alexander, 2008. Milwaukee Bucks. 5 Points

DeSagana Diop, 2001. Cleveland Cavaliers. 6 Points

Rafael Araujo, 2004. Toronto Raptors. 7 Points

Shawn Respert, 1995. Milwaukee Bucks. 9 Points

Lancaster Gordon, 1984. Los Angeles Clippers. 9 Points

 

If you thought the #6 pick was bad, then this must be torture. Not a single serious cornerstone to build off of here, with the possible exception of Schrempf, who saw most of his success with a different team. Kerry Kittles was a solid contributor on a back to back Finals team, but he was the 4th starter on that team and the Eastern Conference was abysmal, so he hardly inspires confidence. The bad picks from this spot include two of the worst in the history of the NBA in Diop and Joe Alexander, neither of whom I’m convinced had ever actually played basketball beforehand. In four years, Ben McLemore could be the best #8 pick in the last 30 years, and I wouldn’t bat an eye.

The rest: Andre Miller, Rudy Gay, Brandon Knight (14), Terrence Ross, Randy White, Olden Polynice, Larry Hughes (13), T.J. Ford, Channing Frye, Rex Chapman (12), Todd Day, Adonal Foyle, Chris Wilcox, Jamal Crawford (11), Jordan Hill, Brandan Wright, Bo Kimble, Al-Farouq Aminu (10), Mark Macon (9)

 

#9 Pick

Five Best

Dirk Nowitzki, 1998. Dallas Mavericks. 41 Points

Amar’e Stoudemire, 2002. Phoenix Suns. 23 Points

Joakim Noah, 2007. Chicago Bulls. 22 Points

Tracy McGrady, 1996. Toronto Raptors. 21 Points

Andre Iguodala, 2004. Philadelphia 76ers. 20 Points

 

Five Worst

Ed O’Bannon, 1995. New Jersey Nets. 8 Points

Patrick O’Bryant, 2006. Golden State Warriors. 8 Points

Michael Sweetney, 2003. New York Knicks. 9 Points

Rodney White, 2001. Detroit Pistons. 10 Points

Eric Montross, 1994. Boston Celtics. 10 Points

 

Much more stable and impressive than the last, the 9 spot has seen at least one sure-fire Hall of Famer in Dirk, and a bevy of recent All-Stars in Noah, STAT, T-Mac and Iguodala. On the bust end of things, if your team has a chance to draft someone with a O in front of their name in the 9 spot, run in fear or pray for a trade.

The rest: Shawn Marion (19), Derrick McKey, Charles Oakley (17), Otis Thorpe, Stacey Augmon (16), Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker, Andre Drummond (15), DeMar DeRozan, Rony Seikaly (14), Rodney Rogers, Brad Sellers (13), Clarence Weatherspoon, Joel Przybilla (12), Tom Hammonds, D.J. Augustin, Willie Burton (11), Samaki Walker, Ike Diogu (10)

 

#10 Pick

Five Best

Paul Pierce, 1998. Boston Celtics. 37 Points

Horace Grant, 1987. Chicago Bulls. 27 Points

Andrew Bynum, 2005. Los Angeles Lakers. 25 Points

Joe Johnson, 2001. Boston Celtics. 21 Points

Eddie Jones, 1994. Los Angeles Lakers. 19 Points

 

Five Worst

Mouhamad Sene, 2006. Seattle SuperSonics. 5 Points

Luke Jackson, 2004. Cleveland Cavaliers. 8 Points

Rumeal Robinson, 1990. Atlanta Hawks. 9 Points

Danny Fortson, 1997. Denver Nuggets. 10 Points

Ed Pinckney, 1985. Phoenix Suns. 11 Points

 

We round out the top 10 with a strong showing from the three winningest franchises in the history of the league. The top three players here combined to win 10 titles for their team, more than justifying their draft selections and absolutely maximizing their value at this particular spot. Paul Pierce is the shining star here, becoming one of the best players in the history of one of the most storied franchises in the history of the sport after being drafted after NINE other players. On the negative side of things, another of the worst picks in history, Mouhamad Sene, meanders his way to the top of the list in a fashion not dissimilar to how he meandered through his uneventful NBA career.

The rest: Brook Lopez, Paul George (18), Lindsey Hunter (17), Willie Anderson (16), Caron Butler, Brandon Jennings, Kurt Thomas (15), Jason Terry (14), Jimmer Fredette, Erick Dampier (13), Leon Wood, Pooh Richardson, Keyon Dooling, Johnny Dawkins, Adam Keefe, Bison Dele, Jarvis Hayes (12), Austin Rivers, Spencer Hawes, Ed Pinckney (11)

 

Best of the Rest

While the top 10 tends to be where franchises make and take their futures, it’s not the only place to find value. Here’s the rest of the first rounders in David Stern’s tenure whose scores tallied a 20 or above on my super-awesome scale, in descending order.

Kobe Bryant (64), Tony Parker (49), Karl Malone (44), John Stockton (39), Joe Dumars, Derek Fisher (38), Steve Nash, Reggie Miller, Rajon Rondo (30), Shawn Kemp (27), Robert Horry, Tayshaun Prince, Sam Cassell (25), Peja Stojakovic, Zydrunas Ilgauskas (24), Arvydas Sabonis (22), Terry Porter, Andrei Kirilenko, Danny Granger (21), Tim Hardaway, Vlade Divac, Roy Hibbert, David West, A.C. Green, Kawhi Leonard (20)

 

Note: A higher ranking does not make a better player. All it means is that the player in question was more valuable to the team that drafted him than someone with a lower ranking. Case in point: Derek Fisher is one of the worst players above 20 on this list, and he’s got one point less than Kevin Garnett.

An Unconventional Convention

Photo: Flickr/SaUd HeLaL

Thursday’s draft was a whirlwind of an evening. And in comparison to 2012’s rather formulaic draft this felt especially true. From the onset we had the Cavaliers opt for Anthony Bennett over Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, and anyone else we previously heard rumored to be the first overall pick.  When Noel the former consensus number one overall pick finally did go off of the board, he was traded shortly after to Philadelphia for Jrue Holliday. Even cap-conscious teams like the Dallas Mavericks were looking past the draft to free agency by trading their pick for foreign players they could stash overseas to avoid taking on any extra salary. No, last night’s draft certainly seemed to be about breaking convention.

Typically, in mid-April we pinpoint the best point guard or center the NCAA had to offer during the season and anoint them as the frontrunner for the number one selection. This time we heard countless names thrown around up until the Cavaliers selected Bennett, an undersized power forward, with the first overall pick over centers like Noel and Len who traditionally would have been prime number one candidates. What’s strange is that for a team that was looking to bolster it’s defense and the small forward position elected not to do that although Georgetown’s Otto Porter fit that description. Again, they deviated from common practice, but to fill a want instead of a need. This may very well say more about the Cavs’ opinion of the number one overall pick not having as much value as in prior years than them kickstarting a revolution, but it’s an interesting selection nonetheless.

Then you take a team like the Bobcats who boldy — if not curiously — chose Indiana’s Cody Zeller over prospects that were available and widely perceived as better players. Most mock drafts didn’t even have Zeller going much higher than 10th or 11th. Additionally, most draft analysts had Zeller as the third or fourth center selected, but certainly not the second. Perhaps the Bobcats were just crazy or they felt highly enough about Zeller to take him fourth overall instead of overpaying another team just to trade down a few spots for a more reasonable selection slot. In most drafts a team would almost always jump on a former consensus number one overall pick falling that far but the Bobcats weren’t biting. Maybe it’s because they didn’t trust the medical histories of Noel or Len, but Charlotte certainly broke convention by drafting for the player they truly liked as opposed to opting for best player(s) available. It’s certainly a risk that could decide whether the team improves several games or just a few.

Finally, the Nets and Celtics capped off an exciting night with the biggest move of all with a trade that is the reason we spring to the edge of our seats everytime we hear there has been a trade during the draft. Yes, mid-draft trades are a common thing but not trades that usher in wholesale changes like this one. After swapping Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Celtics for Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans and more, the entire arc of both teams’ futures have been changed. While most playoff teams like the Thunder and Warriors bought or traded for late first round picks, the Nets have attempted to fast track their growth with veterans and large contracts rather than mine for cheap talent later in the draft. Most teams with today’s CBA understand that the window for success is much shorter among those teams that don’t try to constantly unearth the players with the best talent-cost ratio, but money is apparently no option for the Nets and the time to win is now.

The 2013 NBA Draft was all about taking risks just as every draft has been. However, this time was different. Teams didn’t just take a risk on the raw-but-athletic big man or grab the best player available just because he was there. No, teams finally treated the draft as the crapshoot that it is and not the exact science we pretend it to be sometimes. Last night very well could have been considered a league-wide review of the draft class but the only risks teams took were the ones that would be unpopular with fans or media personalities. If you want Anthony Bennett number one overall, go for it. Don’t trust Nerlens Noel’s knee? Then don’t and realize there were five other teams that felt the same as you. Worried your fans are going to blow up your team’s official Twitter account with scathing tweets if you don’t take their player? Ignore the pressure and take whoever you feel fits the team better. This draft could just be an anomaly in that teams didn’t feel that there was that much to lose by stepping away from conventional wisdom or it could be a shift in the way team’s approach the draft. After all, continuing to do something the way you’ve always done is the worst reason not to be open to change. Unfortunately, only time will tell when we look back at who succeeded and failed in this draft class, so there will be no way to know immediately.

What we do know is that last night’s draft never lacked intrigue and whatever the reason for that was, we should do it like that again.

So You Think You Can Draft?

Jared: Let’s talk about draft, ba-by. Let’s talk about… wait, no. Let’s just talk about the draft. 

Jordan: YES. FINALLY. THE DRAFT IS NIGH. Oh, what’s that? It’s not that great of a draft? Alex Len may very well go number 1? WHATEVER, YOU CAN’T BRING DOWN MY SPIRITS BECAUSE IT’S DRAFT TIME. I know everyone is down on this draft, and for good reason: it’s low, if not absent, of potential stars, and only a smattering more of potential All-Stars. But it seems to me that, if navigated correctly, a few teams are going to come out of this thing with some very good role players. What say you, Jared?

Jared: I hate hate hate the idea that this draft is weak. I’ve been saying so all year. It seems like every time there’s not a surefire number one pick that everyone is decided on from the moment the season starts, the draft is immediately declared weak.
I’ve seen a lot of “the quality of player you’ll get at 15 and 35 are the same” type of comments about this draft. Well, guess what? That means the draft is hella deep. There are a lot of quality rotation players in this draft, even into the 30s and 40s.

Also, if Len goes number 1, I will die of laughter. Mostly because of Conrad’s potential reaction on Twitter, but also because it will immediately force me to conduct a deeply analytical study of bigs whose draft scouting report contained the words “can’t judge him because his guards sucked.”

Jordan: I think the “weak” argument does have merits, insofar as this isn’t a good draft for stars (that’s next year). But I have to think that if, say, the Timberwolves end up with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, giving them the shooting and athleticism they so desperately need next to Ricky Rubio, they’ll be perfectly content. This draft is good from the standpoint that there a ton of players that can fill specific team holes. Dennis Schroeder could be a perfect fit for the Jazz or the Bucks. Otto Porter seems tailor-made for the Wizards–despite reports that they won’t select him. For teams needing shooting, such as the Bulls, Celtics, and the Nuggets, there’s Reggie Bullock, Sergey Karasev, and Allen Crabbe. What’s that, Nets, Clippers and Spurs? You need to shore up your interior defense? Allow me to introduce Jeff Withey and Gorgui Deng. OK, maybe Rudy Gobert, too, but I am terrified of that tremendous a project.

The point being: teams can get the help they need from this draft.

Jack! Great to see you! Tell us: are we right to think this draft isn’t so weak after all, or are we merely delusional, like boys who have been at an all-male summer camp for two months and see their first girl, 50 pounds overweight with several teeth noticeably absent, and think her to be the most beautiful creature ever created?

Jack: It’s tough to say a draft is ‘weak’ if the majority of teams with a first round pick will be happy with their options when selecting.  This is definitely a crappy class at the top; there may not be an All-Star this year let alone a franchise player.  Tough luck for those teams choosing in the top five or ten, basically.  But how many years are there more than one or two guys that even have the potential to live up to the expectations that come with the first or second pick?

It’s fun to think that every class has a few prospects capable of becoming transcendent stars, but that’s actually rarely the case.  Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and even Kyrie Irving are the exceptions, not the rules.  The chance that a draft produces a franchise cornerstone are already pretty small, so that we know – or think we do – there aren’t any this year doesn’t mean it’s weak.  It just means there’s little intrigue at the top.

As you guys have already alluded to, this is a very strong group from 10-40.  And one of the most enduring lessons from this season’s Finals is that players 3-7 in a team’s pecking order are ever influential on both ends of the floor.  The game has changed; superstars rule but they can’t do it alone.  That’s why this draft matters just as much as any other.

Also, glad we all agree on Len.  I’ll be shocked if he’s half as good as his draft stock suggests.  But hey, if you get a chance to take a less athletic Meyers Leonard first overall, you got to do it.  Right, Cleveland?

Jared: The best part about that Meyers Leonard pick is that I keep seeing mocks that have the Blazers taking another center this year. It was a hilarious pick then and it’s even more hilarious now.

Speaking of white centers… Cody Zeller is a really intriguing player to me, and not just due to the sheer amount of times I watched Indiana the last couple years because my brother went there. I compared Zeller’s potential draft fall to that of Harrison Barnes – these are guys who came into college as presumptive number one overall picks, didn’t completely dominate the sport, and then wound up staying for their sophomore year to have their weaknesses endlessly picked apart. Barnes fell to 7, Zeller could fall even further. I think whoever winds up with him is happy he did.

Jordan: The difference between Barnes and Zeller is that, had Zeller left last year, he could have been the number one pick, certainly top-5. Barnes’ stock, meanwhile, slid both years. Zeller’s a victim both of a lack of progression (though, really, how much more was he supposed to progress) and of somehow not dominating at the college level despite the extreme difficulty of doing so. Zeller isn’t cut from the mold of Durant or Beasley, who absolutely scorched the college realm. His position demands more team play, and a reliance on teammates. That being said, there are two things that worry me about Zeller: his defense and his position.

Zeller posted impressive numbers at the draft combine, but we saw this year how his slight frame can get easily pushed around by bigger opponents. If he’s asked to guard fours, he’ll likely be OK. But when he’s tasked with guarding bigger, stronger centers, things could get ugly. My second worry, position, is more circumstantial. If a team drafts him to play primarily at the four, sliding him over when they want to run (because Zeller can certainly run), that’s fine. But if some team drafts him with the misguided hope of featuring him at center, I think he’ll struggle mightily on both ends.

Nevertheless, I think Zeller’s slide is beneficial to both him and whatever team chooses him. He’s not faced with the pressure of being the number one pick, and the team has the luxury of bringing him along at whatever pace they see fit.

Let’s talk stock for a second. Whose is way too high, whose is too low? Do you think there’s as much inflation this year as we’ve seen in the past?

Jared: Jared Dubin’s Official 2013 Your Draft Stock is Too High, Guy List

Alex Len
Michael Carter-Williams
Steven Adams
Kelly Olynyk

Jared Dubin’s Official 2013 Your Draft Stock is Too Low, Guy List
Jeff Withey
Ryan Kelly
Reggie Bullock
Jamaal Franklin
Pierre Jackson

BONUS: Shane Larkin eats people. The first 23 teams in the draft should definitely pass on him.

Jack: Quickly on Zeller, all reports now say he considers himself something close to a stretch-4.  Whether that’s due more to the horrible length numbers he posted at the combine or actual ability and fit remains to be seen.  Obviously matters that he’s supposedly been stroking it from all over the floor in workouts.  If he can actually guard power forwards and hit 20-footers at a solid clip, he’s a totally different prospect than the one we’ve been evaluating for the last two years.  And holy god, that lane agility score.  If there was ever a big that could hedge and recover or even switch on to a ballhandler, he seems it.

I like Jared’s format for Stock Talk, so here’s mine:

Too High
Len
Olynyk
MCW
Larkin
Caldwell-Pope – though I’m biased, as volume shooters/scorers just irk the living hell out of me

Too Low
Zeller
Dieng
Bullock – 3, D and rebounds? Sign me up.

Jared: Quickly back to Zeller before Jordan gets his too high/too lows in: https://twitter.com/chadfordinsider/status/340190155937816576

Never never never never ever trust workouts, but the man can shoot. He didn’t shoot it much from the outside in college because he played for a team that rained threes and needed him in the high and low post, whether as scorer or facilitator.

Jack: ZELLERZELLERZELLERZELLERZELLERZELLERZELLERZELLER

Jordan: Jack, I seem to remember a certain debate we had on the 2011 draft that is in no way, shape, or form on my old, piece of shit basketball blog in which you professed a similar distaste for another volume shooter – Klay Thompson. That didn’t work out so well. Then again, I was against Enes Kanter, so I’m not one to talk either.

Too High
Len (the Austin Rivers of this year’s draft)
MCW (I like his passing, but, um, that’s about it)
Steven Adams

Too Low
Bullock
Tony Snell
Withey
Schroeder (For reasons beyond explanation, I love me some Schroeder)

Jack: The thing I totally whiffed on with Klay, though, was the defensive ability.  Scouting reports suggested he’d be a total liability; instead he’s at least above-average.  Pretty sure I didn’t understand TS% then, either, so fuck that version of myself.

Jared: I must find this old, piece of shit basketball blog.

Looks like we’re all in agreement on Len and MCW being rated too highly and Bullock being rated too low. We’re just going to pretend Jack didn’t say Shane Larkin was overrated so I don’t have to fire him.

Let’s talk about Bullock, though. I feel like we’re all in agreement mainly because of the shooting, right? Space is the most valuable commodity in the league these days (other than superstars), so a guy who can space the floor by knocking down open jumpers is key. But then there was also that stretch of the season when UNC played super small with Bullock at power forward, and like Jack alluded to, he rebounded like crazy. I love him. I have no idea why he’s not considered a potential lottery pick.

Jordan: It could be that Bullock is seen to have reached his ceiling, whereas other players – KCP, Anthony Bennett, Steven Adams, Giannis Antetokounmpo – have the ever-desired yet ever-undefinable potential. But, you’re right, in a draft devoid of true stars, why not go for extreme value and draft Bullock to be your 3 and D Wing that are so valuable these days?

Jack: Right, is it because he’s not sexy? Outside of Oladipo and Porter, Bullock might be the safest pick in the draft.  To me a surefire skill and two plus ones are worth a top 10 pick EVERY.  SINGLE.  YEAR.

Jared: I know Jack really believes in that statement because he capitalized it and separated single words WITH. A. PERIOD.

Jack: I.  DID.  IT.  FOR.  THAT.  VERY.  EFFECT.

Jared: We’re kind of obligated to talk about Nerlens Noel, right? I’m definitely a fan, and I think he’s a worthy lottery pick, even top 5, but I also feel like he became a de facto number one because A. he’s an athletic big man B. he got hurt in the middle of the year so people didn’t have time to nitpick his game and C. the other top prospect big man is Alex Len and he is not.

Jack: I like Noel.  That Ole Miss game was as dominant a defensive performance I’ve seen on any level of basketball, and almost by itself enough evidence he’s worthy of a top pick.  All that said, he’s certainly a de facto number one pick.  I’m not sure that has as much to do with the bigs in this class being especially weak or the lack of the proverbial ‘can’t miss’ prospect in general, and it doesn’t really matter.

He has a chance to be very, very good, but I’m not sure he’ll ever justify his draft position.  Hearing people bitch about that pick – whether he’s successful or not – will piss me off for years to come.  A 6’10” guy with elite athletic ability, rare length, awesome timing and untapped offensive potential will be a top prospect every year.  That he might go number one shouldn’t change our perception of him, but it definitely, definitely will.

Jordan: Noel’s further hurt, in terms of expectations, by last year’s number one pick, Anthony Davis. The only way in which the two are similar are their athletic prowess, and even then, Davis has the edge. It doesn’t matter, though. They’re both seven-footers* both went to Kentucky, and both block shots. That’s enough for people to demand similar production of Noel, even though they are vastly different players. I think Noel will be a fine player, a solid building block for any franchise. it’s just a shame, as Jack said, that we’ll continue to hear people whine about his production potentially not justifying his draft position.

Jared: I probably should have made it more clear that I really like Noel. Like, a lot. Huge fan. I think that last email came off as me not liking him that much.

But I’m immediately going to pivot away from that and say that I firmly adopt Bill Simmons’ stance that Cleveland should take Victor Oladipo number one. Allow me to list my reasons three:

1. Cleveland has exactly zero players on its roster than can defend any perimeter positions. Oladipo is an absurdly aggressive and tactically-sound perimeter defender. At the very least, he’s going to be a guy who shuts down one of the wing spots on a night-to-night basis.
2. Drafting Oladipo would allow Dion Waiters to fulfill his manifest destiny as an off-the-bench scoring guard. This is a guy who needs the ball in his hands most of the time to be at his most effective. With Kyrie Irving starting, that can’t happen. This move lets Oladipo guard the biggest backcourt threat while Irving concentrates on the scoring/playmaking load, and Oladipo can terrorize teams off the ball and in transition. Then, Waiters captains the second unit offense, and someone else plays the Oladipo role for him. Against certain teams, you can play all three together for stretches and late in games.
3. Unless you’re landing a once-in-a-generation talent (LeBron, Tim Duncan, Anthony Davis, etc.), I’m not sure you can “win” the draft with the number one overall pick, but you can definitely lose it (Olowokandi, Kwame, Pervis Ellison). I don’t think there’s any player in the draft with less bust potential than Oladipo. Have you heard the stories about this dude and his dedication to working out? He’s an insane person. I want to clone him and put him on every team except Boston and Miami.

Jack: Yup.  Oladipo’s been my favorite player in the draft since January.  That doesn’t mean he’s Dwyane Wade or even a healthy, more defensive oriented Eric Gordon, but what it does is that he’s the only sure thing with All-Star type potential.  At the very worst he’s an elite defender and integral locker room guy; at best he’s the game’s top two-way shooting guard and one of its most marketable stars.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall at Cleveland’s draft HQ when Oladipo is broached.  Are they even considering him? What are they saying about Waiters? What does the presence of the latter due to the draftability of the former?

Jordan: For whatever reason, Oladipo is the prospect I’ve been the most “meh” on this entire time. Not because I don’t think he’ll succeed, or because his stock is overly inflated, he just doesn’t excite me in the least bit. His defense will be his calling card immediately, but any team that takes him has to hope that his offense at least comes close to his defensive production eventually. His shaky handles do scare me a bit, though he clearly has the work ethic to shore up any issue.

Is there a player you guys are most excited to see next year? I’m firmly on #TeamBurke, but I want to hear y’all’s thoughts first.

Jared: It literally boggles my mind that Oladipo doesn’t excite you. LOOK AT THIS GUY. If he doesn’t excite you, you’re not human.

I like Burke as well, but I don’t think he’s my “most excited” guy. I’ve got a few of those, for a host of different reasons:

Shane Larkin (for the obvious reasons)
Shabazz Muhammad (I don’t understand how a person wouldn’t be excited about watching this guy. Just the ride from prep to pro has been exhilarating)
CJ McCollum (Point guards that can shoot the lights out are awesome)
Lucas Nogueira (Watch his DraftExpress scouting video and tell me you’re not excited)

Jack: You’re taking crazy pills, Jordan. Oladipo is the most exciting shooting guard to come into the league for many years. You can count on two hands the number of players that can match his potential maximum impact on both ends of the floor.  And even if he only reaches it defensively, a Tony Allen that can finish lobs sounds a hell of a lot of fun to me.

Jordan: Guys, relax, chill, take it easy. When I said he didn’t excite me, I meant purely in relation to this draft. His play is exciting, his brand of defense is exciting–much like Tony Allen, he makes defense fun and interesting to watch. He’s explosive, tenacious, and every other buzzword you want in a young, still-developing player. But it’s almost as if his place among the top rookies is already cemented. There’s little mystery or intrigue surrounding him. There’s no question as to what position he’ll play, like CJ McCollum (I’m excited too, Jared), and he didn’t explode onto the scene to become one of the highest-risk, highest-reward players in the draft, a la Giannis. He improved in college, excelling in an area that most college players take several seasons in the pros to learn (defense) and as such, improved his draft status. End of story. That does not mean, however, that I’m not excited about him as a player.

Jared: Whatever. Jack and I are still burning you at the stake.

How do you guys sort out the point guard class this year? It’s crazy deep. It seems like there could legitimately be 7 or 8 taken in the first round, depending on how you classify players like McCollum and Ricky Ledo. Where do Burke, McCollum, MCW, Larkin, Schroeder, Canaan, Ledo and Jackson stand on your personal PG big board?

Jordan: BURKESCHROEDERBURKESCHROEDERBURKESCHROEDERBURKESCHROEDER

Jack: 1. Burke
2. McCollum
3. Schroeder
4. MCW
5. Jackson
6. Larkin

Sorry, Jared.  I just fail to see how there’s some major difference between Jackson and Larkin as prospects.

Jared:  Well, I think the differences are 1. shooting (Larkin shot 47.9/40.6 while Jackson shot 42.7/35.9) 2. if Larkin’s height (5’11.5) is a problem, Jackson’s (5’10.5) is an even bigger problem, and 3. Larkin tested out as the best athlete in the draft. All that said I love Jackson. I think it’s a travesty if he falls out of the first round.
1. Burke
2. McCollum
3. Larkin
4. Jackson
5. MCW
6. Canaan

(Note: I didn’t rank Schroeder or Ledo because I’ve never seen them play)

Jordan: FINE. I’ll rank them.

1. Burke
2a McCollum
2b Schroeder
3 Larkin
4 MCW
5 Jackson
6 Canaan

One guy who really intrigues me, though, is Myck Kabongo. He didn’t get to play much this year because the NCAA is the worst, but I think, if put in the right situation, he could develop nicely.

Jack: Context matters with regard to those numbers, though.  Larkin’s supporting cast was far superior to Jackson’s, and I’ve (unfortunately) watched enough Baylor basketball to know the extreme limits of Scott Drew’s system.  They’re equally tiny, too – Jackson is less than an inch shorter but has a slightly higher standing reach.  And as well as Larkin tested, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better on-court athlete than Jackson.

I don’t hate Larkin by any stretch and I don’t love Jackson, either.  It’s just fascinating that the former might be a late lottery pick while the latter could fall out of the first round when they have such similar physical and statistical profiles.

Jared: I think they should both get drafted #24 by the Knicks.

Okay, last things to discuss before we wrap things up. Some rapid fire questions…
1. How do you think the rest of the top 5 shakes out of Cleveland takes Noel, and how does it shake out if they take Len?
2. Where does KCP land?
3. Buy or sell: Anthony Bennett
4. Other than Bullock, who’s your favorite late 1st round wing prospect?
5. Shouldn’t Phoenix intentionally pick someone who sucks so they can get the best shot at Wiggins next year?

Jack: 1. Noel first – Oladipo, Porter, Len, McLemore. Len first – Oladipo, Porter, McLemore, Noel.  But seriously, don’t hold me to this.
2. It’s tough to see him getting by Minnesota at nine.  Perfect fit there on paper.
3. Sell.  I’m very weary of report that he recently weighed in at 261 pounds.  Explosion and overall athleticism is so key for Bennett; if his body grows too big or he won’t take care of it, those attributes will be hard to maintain.
4. Tim Hardaway Jr. could grow into the requisite ‘3 and D’ skill-set.  The question then is whether or not he’s comfortable playing that role.  If he does and he is, that’s a late first round steal.
5. Obviously, which is why my above scenario with Len going first is so perfect for them.  Noel won’t only need time to recover from a torn ACL, but his payoff is longterm as opposed to immediate, too.

Jared: 1. I agree with you on your Noel first scenario, but I think it goes Noel, Porter, Oladipo, McLemore if Cleveland takes Len first.

2. Agree again!
3. I’m buying. I don’t think the weight thing is *that* big a deal (cue Conrad calling me a hypocrite because of my Waiters-related weight concerns last year). He had surgery and hasn’t been able to do stuff. This is a guy who’s only been playing basketball since he was 14 and he’s already an incredibly talented scorer and a good rebounder. His defense is bad right now, but you can teach an athlete like that better positioning and work on his instincts as he grows. I don’t think he’s the best player in the draft or anything, but I like him.
4. Jamaal Franklin. I know I’m contradicting my “you have to be able to shoot” stance, but this dude is ridiculous. He’s 6’4 with a 6’11.25 wingspan and he averaged 9.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Get him a shooting coach.
5. Well, I posed the question. Yes, I think they should do this.

Jordan: 1. Scenario 1: Oladipo, Bennett, McLemore, Len — Scenario 2: Noel, Bennett, Oladipo, McLemore.
2. Number 9, and the Timberwolves get some much-needed shooting.
3. Sell. His weight has apparently ballooned since season’s end, and while some of that may be due to the injury, I’m still wary of him. The skill is clearly there, but it’s a question of whether he fully harnesses it.
4. Tony Snell. He’ll be a valuable contributor in both sides wherever he goes.
5. Yes, and here’s the plan. Draft Bennett, then assign him to be Michael Beasley’s rookie. Think of all he could learn!

Photo by Pieter Pieterse via Flickr

The 2013 Hardwood Paroxysm NBA Mock Draft: 100% Official

Tuesday night, the Draft Lottery took place, bringing up that magical time of year when the wild, unorganized conjecture of mock drafts becomes wild conjecture with a properly ordered list. Try as we might, our mock drafts inhabit a sort of alternate universe, where the players are picked based on the rumors about where the players will be picked. The actual draft process exists wholly separate from the vast majority of what we hear about.

In response, I have made my own mock draft. As someone who has made most of these players on NBA 2k13, I feel especially qualified to be making these incredibly intelligent and salient picks.

 

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers

Nerlens Noel: C- Kentucky. The best player in the draft deserves to be taken first.

Alternate Choice: Ben McLemore.

 

#2 Orlando Magic

Ben McLemore: G- Kansas. At the expense of being interesting, I have the Magic taking the player who will probably mesh the best with their style.

Alternate Choice: Trey Burke.

 

#3 Washington Wizards

Cody Zeller: C- Indiana. He is tall, and is in every way the opposite of Kevin Seraphin. Probably not their biggest need, but also they play Kevin Seraphin.

Alternate Choice: A time machine, so they can avoid trading for Kevin Seraphin.

 

#4 Charlotte Bobcats

Anthony Bennett: F- UNLV. Would automatically become the best player in their frontcourt, which might have been the worst in NBA history.

Alternate Choice: Alex Len.

 

#5 Phoenix Suns

Victor Oladipo: G- Indiana. Every team in this draft could use Oladipo, but the team that employs Michael Beasley could REALLY use Oladipo.

Alternate Choice: Otto Porter.

 

#6 New Orleans Pelicans

Otto Porter Jr: F- Georgetown. If the Pels don’t trade for Paul Pierce, then they’ll be in dire need of some alliteration. Otto Porter only fulfills half of that, but it’ll have to do. Also, he’s very good and Al-farouq Aminu kind of isn’t.

Alternate Choice: A Tall Person.

 

#7 Sacramento Kings

Shabazz Muhammad: G- UCLA. The Kings (and their fans) seem to be turning the tide in their war against terrible ownership, but they’ve still got a ways to go in their against terrible management. Shabazz Muhammad is like Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins combined, in all the ways you might think. It’s too perfect not to mock (in all the meanings of that word).

Alternate Choice: C.J. McCollum.

 

#8 Detroit Pistons

Trey Burke: G- Michigan. I doubt he falls this far, but what are mock drafts if not a form of wish fulfillment? The Pistons are more in need of swingmen, but considering this draft is around 80% point guards and centers, they’ll just have to make due.

Alternate Choice: Cody Zeller.

 

#9 Minnesota Timberwolves

Rudy Gobert: C- France. The Wolves need shooting nearly as much as they need to guard against the impending frontcourt injury they’re sure the suffer. Gobert is a fundamentally different player, but he’s also HUGE and could be a hyper-athletic, rim defending DeAndre Jordan type, which is exactly what Kevin Love needs to play next to.

Alternate Choice: Alex Len.

 

#10 Portland Trail Blazers

C.J. McCollum: G- Lehigh. The Blazers struck gold drafting a combo guard from a mid-major university last season, and while this might seem like redundancy for redundancy’s sake, the fact is that any bench player is a better bench player than what they had last season. They aren’t in need of impact players, they’re in need of good ones.

Alternate Choice: Steven Adams.

 

#11 Philadelphia 76ers

Alex Len: C- Maryland. Alex Len is athletic, large and just unimpressive enough to warrant the fabled “potential” moniker. The 76ers can do better than Spencer Hawes, and Len might be able to offer that. An Arnett Moultrie/Lavoy Allen/Alex Len frontcourt should be able to produce at least one good NBA pivot, so it’s worth trying.

Alternate Choice: Andrew Bynum.

 

#12 Oklahoma City Thunder

Kelly Olynyk: C- Gonzaga

Conventional wisdom would posit that a team as good as the Thunder can afford to take a flier on someone in the lottery. Functional wisdom would say otherwise. What they can use is good, NBA ready players. What they could REALLY use is Kendrick Perkins not playing anymore. Olynyk can help in both of those regards.

Alternate Choice: Glen Rice Jr.

 

#13 Dallas Mavericks

Michael Carter-Williams: G- Syracuse. It seems as though Dallas will trade this pick to in order to make a run at Dwight Howard, because Mark Cuban is incorrigible. Dallas could do a lot worse than finally ending the Great Rodrigue Beaubois Experiment.

Alternate Choice: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

 

#14 Utah Jazz

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: G- Georgia. Feeling left out, the Jazz strike back at their fellow members of the Losing A Playoff Spot to the Lakers Club by drafting a hyphenated man of their own, one who also happens to be an interesting athlete and prospect of some regard.

Alternate Choice: Shane Larkin.

 

#15 Milwaukee Bucks

Tim Hardaway Jr: G- Michigan. One might think that the Bucks too are stacked at the 2, before you remember that one of their 2 guards is a free agent while the other is Monta Ellis. Other options are always welcome in such scenarios.

Alternate Choice: Allen Crabbe.

 

#16 Boston Celtics

Dennis Schroeder: G- Germany. There’s something about Dennis Schroeder that I like. I just can’t seem to put my finger on it. The rumor is that someone promised him a first round selection, and who better to than Danny Ainge to make grand promises in the middle of the first round. The Celtics also need more point guards, in case Rondo going down hadn’t proven that already.

Alternate Choice: Steven Adams.

 

#17 Atlanta Hawks

Steven Adams: C- Pittsburgh. Being large, reasonably athletic, and sort of forgettable, Steven Adams fulfills all the criteria necessary to be a member of the Atlanta Hawks. Word to Keith Benson.

Alternate Choice: Mason Plumlee.

 

#18 Atlanta Hawks

Jamaal Franklin: G- San Diego State. It pains me to take Jamaal Franklin off the board so close to the Bulls’ selection, but he’s a fine player and the Hawks would be very stupid to pass up on him (related: sometimes the Hawks are very stupid).

Alternate Choice: Tony Snell.

 

#19 Cleveland Cavaliers

Allen Crabbe: G- California. The Cavs already have Wayne Ellington, who is basically Allen Crabbe’s ceiling, but you can never have enough shooters to go along with a potential Kyrie Irving-Nerlens Noel pick and roll.

Alternate Choice: Somehow trading up for Otto Porter.

 

#20 Chicago Bulls

Gorgui Dieng: C- Louisville. Upon arriving in the Windy City, Dieng and Luol Deng form Deng and Dieng, Attorneys at Law by day, crimefighters by night. After a long career, the elder Deng will retire to the suburbs with his wife and children, only to pulled back into the job by a wealthy heiress falling from a sordid highrise. Deng will still be too old for this shit. Together, they will be…lethal weapons.

Alternate Choice: Jamaal Franklin. Continuity be damned.

 

#21 Utah Jazz

Tony Snell: F- New Mexico. Tony Snell is very athletic. Also he is not a center, nor is he a power forward because lol what if the Jazz drafted another big man?

Alternate Choice: Another big man.

 

#22 Brooklyn Nets

Jeff Withey: C- Kansas. After toiling in the obscurity of the Kansas plains, Jeff Withey finally finds the big market he was searching for, quickly becoming an icon in the borough. Where Brooklyn At?

Alternate Choice: Reggie Bullock.

 

#23 Indiana Pacers

Mason Plumlee: C- Duke. Feeling cheated out of the Withey they were promised, the Pacers turn to their contingency plan and add to their growing set of Plumlees. When Marshall, the third Plumlee, leaves college, Indy will take him as well and complete the Plumlee Voltron. As it was ordained.

Alternate Choice: Shane Larkin.

 

#24 New York Knicks

Shane Larkin: G- Miami. He’ll probably go earlier than this, but as I said before, this is nothing if not wish fulfillment. Jared Dubin would have my head if I wrote in anyone else.

Alternate Choice: 2010 Amar’e Stoudemire.

 

#25 Minnesota Timberwolves

Sergey Karasev: F- Russia. Karasev is Russian. Karasev can shoot. They’re already printing his jerseys.

Alternate Choice: Glen Rice Jr.

 

#26 Los Angeles Clippers

Lorenzo Brown: G- NC State. Eric Bledsoe might be gone, and Pierre Jackson is too hilarious to consider this early. The Clippers need another ballhandler who isn’t Chauncey Billups.

Alternate Choice: Pierre Jackson (lulz).

 

#27 Denver Nuggets

Glen Rice Jr: F- Rio Grande Valley (D-League). The son of Glen Rice isn’t nearly the shooter his father was, but he’s a good athlete  who played a major role on a championship team in the D-League. Maybe George Karl will play him, maybe he won’t. Jordan Hamilton certainly doesn’t know.

Alternate Choice: Archie Goodwin.

 

#28 San Antonio Spurs

Lucas Nogueira: C- Brazil. The Spurs love their imports also as much as they love their cost effective late round pickups. He makes perfect sense, and if he makes an impact, might help dispel the now laughably inept “Spurs are boring” cliche.

Alternate Choice: In a stunning reversal, the Spurs go boring and draft Bob from Accounting.

 

#29 Oklahoma City Thunder

Giannis Adetokunbo: F- Greece. Here’s where the Thunder do the whole “good team stashes an interesting international player and wait on him” thing. Should be fun to hear David Stern pronounce his name. Word to Nikoloz Tskitishvili.

Alternate Choice: Dario Saric.

 

#30 Phoenix Suns

Tony Mitchell: F- North Texas. The Suns sort of need everything, don’t they? Tony Mitchell can rebound and sounds like a sturdy enough dude to have coming off your bench. They could sell this pick, too.

Alternate Choice: Archie Goodwin.

 

#31 Super Secret First Round Lakers Exemption Pick

LeBrandrew Wiggums: F. An unholy melding of LeBron James, Andrew Wiggins, and Ralph Wiggum from the Simpsons. He can defend, shoot, score, jump, make forced Ender’s Game references and weird non sequiturs with the best of them. The Lakers win again. Winter is coming.

Alternate Choice: Hans Moleman. Drinking has ruined his life. He’s 31 years old.

The Life and Death of Potential

Every year, when the season begins anew, we think maybe, just maybe, this is the year the player that has, for so long infuriated us with his inability to harness his potential, teased us with a double-double one night and a no-show the next, gets it. This is the year Anthony Randolph becomes a quicker Lamar Odom in his prime. This is the year Evan Turner blossoms into a bigger Brandon Roy. They just needed a new coach, a new city, a new situation. Hope, that pesky creature, persists.

Until that inevitable point in every underachieving player’s career, the one in which “what could be” becomes “what could have been,” and we’re left angered and confused as to why it wasn’t. A Randolph line of 16 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and two blocks, once inspiring, now invokes sighs and utterances of wasted potential. Michael Beasley’s Per 36 numbers of 17 points and 6.6 rebounds would have been encouraging his rookie year, igniting arguments of how many championships he and Dwyane Wade would win together. Then we look and see those numbers are worse than those of his rookie campaign, and all we can do is hang our heads.  Hope, that fickle creature, dies.

The time at which a player reaches this point varies, as does the reason.

For some, injuries hamper development or rob them of what made them so special. Rodrique Beaubois showed flashes of promise, but always seemed to sustain an injury just before we could determine if it was more than a mere hot streak. Still, those flashes were enough for the Mavericks to demand a first round pick in any trade scenario that involved Beaubois.

Also hindering development is the situation into which a player enters. The Philadelphia 76ers selected Evan Turner second, despite the fact that ne not only played the same position as Andre Iguodala, but also played it in nearly identical fashion.

Too high of a draft position can saddle a player with too-lofty expectations, especially in a weak draft. A player’s production in college may be less a sign of his potential in the NBA and more a signal of the plateau of his abilities. The Timberwolves waived Wesley Johnson just two years after selecting him fourth overall in the 2010 draft, his expected instant production never coming to pass.

Whatever the reason, the once-anointed franchise cornerstone becomes a pariah, his every appearance on the court a reminder of what isn’t. The tools were there, but the will, either of mind or body, wasn’t.

That’s not say there’s no middle ground between those who realized their potential and those who squandered it; there certainly is. In fact, it could be argued these sorts of players comprise the majority of the league, and Josh Smith is their Patron Saint.

It seems odd to point to a perennial contender for a spot on the All-Defense team as a player that hasn’t fully realized his potential, but few players leave us with such hollow want as Smith. His propensity to shoot long two-pointers is equally maddening and bewildering. It’s unclear whether he hoists them out of belief in his ability to make the shot, or defiance of everyone telling him he can’t.

The numbers are right there in front of us, staring, mocking. They show us both the Josh Smith that could be, the one that shoots 71% at the rim, and the Josh Smith that is, the one that’s launched 186 three-pointers and made only 57 of them. Synergy tells of a player that is among the best and most versatile in the league, yet also ranks below average in his most-used areas of offense.

Fast approaching this sainthood is DeMarcus Cousins. The word “if” has quickly become attached to nearly any sentence concerning the mercurial forward’s future: If he can control his emotions, if he can be in a stable environment, if he can get a coach that understands him. The problem here is that it’s a slippery slope from “if” to “if only,” indicating the past tense. If only he could have controlled his emotions, if only he could have been in a stable environment, and so forth. Should we come to speak of Cousins in this sense, it won’t necessarily mean he joined the ranks of Beasley or Randolph, as he’s already had a more successful career. Rather, it would mean the hope we once had for him to shed his immaturity no longer remains.

Reports surfaced throughout this season of Greg Oden’s possible return to the league. Once simultaneously considered the heir to Bill Russell’s throne and the savior of basketball in Portland, Oden only played a total of 82 games in his five seasons in Portland, due to a myriad of injuries, including three microfracture surgeries. Despite these clear red flags, Oden continues to draw interest from teams including the Heat and the Cavaliers. He is the definition of low-risk, high-reward. In some ways, Oden is the exception to the above “what if” cases, as it’s never felt as if we’ve truly given up on him.

Perhaps it’s because he never forsook his abilities, he just never had the chance to fully harness them. And when he did step on the court, he produced. In 21 games in 2009-10, Oden’s per 36 line read like the beginnings of a dominant center: 16.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.4 blocks while shooting 60% from the field. Or maybe it’s that the injuries didn’t so much hinder his development as they did prevent it from ever beginning. Oden spent so much time hurt and recovering from those injuries that he rarely had time to work on his game. Then again, maybe it’s just because there’s nothing quite so compelling as redemption.

He’s spent the past two seasons rehabbing, preparing his body to handle the rigors of an entire NBA season for the first time. The tools are there, and clearly so too is the will. He’ll likely never be the once-in-a-generation center we predicted, but it’s possible he can be a valuable contributor off the bench. Hope springs eternal.

Kevin’s Summer Project: Part 4, Small Forward Offense

Boasting the NBA’s two best players in Lebron James and Kevin Durant, small forward registers as the most successful offensive position of the 2000 to 2010 drafts.  For average OWS per player, the position ranked best for the ‘underclassmen’ and ‘upperclassmen’ in years three, four, and peak.  So, are there athletic traits that pre-dispose such success?

Lebron and Durant – pressed from the mold of the All-Time Greats

To start, in contrast with the guards, where athleticism traits (leaping, speed, agility) proved most successful, this group needed so such advantage.  Between five seasonal values, four athleticism tests, and two age groups, there were forty ‘athleticism’ correlations.  Of all drafted players, only eleven rose above zero, with a peak of 0.33.  Limiting to first-rounders produced only fourteen positive results, and none above 0.41.  Looking at only the post hand-check-rule-change drafts, the results unexpectedly plummet, with thirty-three negative correlations.   While Lebron passed on these drills, there is still an overwhelming trend towards athleticism not showing much consequence for small forward offense.  Kevin Durant, Luol Deng, Mike Dunleavy, Caron Butler, Jared Dudley, Ryan Gomes and Kyle Korver tested sub-par, but their offensive performance ranges from ‘transcendent’ to ‘completely acceptable’.

Ultimately though, no one seems to care.  Four of those seven were top-ten picks, and correlating draft position with combine results frequently provided negative values.   Maybe they should cancel this portion of the event and replace it with 5-on-5 scrimmages.  I’m going to write someone a letter.

The “rules of thumb” that I elaborated on guards continue to be completely defied; long, explosive underclassmen are prone to not meet the expectations of draft day: Marvin Williams, Anthony Randolph, Shawne Williams, Jeff Green and Vincent Yarborough are all examples.   The two worst upperclassmen performers in agility drills through the eleven years were Caron Butler and Ryan Gomes; players that exceeded expected production of their draft place.  Height, wingspan, and reach measurements offered firmly positive results, again contrasting the correlations of the previous two positions.  For all drafted players, of thirty correlations, twenty-six were positive; for first-rounders, twenty-three were positive, including peak correlation of 0.59.  The table below reflects the general trend towards larger players as more likely to succeed, and the graph depicts one of the more impressive results.

 

This graph contains players with at least four years experience, drafted after the new hand check rules, so only the 2004 to 2007 drafts show up.  Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, and Luol Deng reside among the players above 107”.  Unlike with guards, I will not advocate that these results are remotely predictive.  This particular graph represents a small sample size, and recent drafts do not follow the pattern.  Relatively small players Gordon Hayward and Chase Budinger are among the more successful underclassmen small forwards from 2008 to 2010.

The most interesting aspect of the results is that every conclusion prevalent in guards turns a complete-180 for the threshold position between ‘backcourt’ and ‘frontcourt’.  Why?   I guess there’s room to speculate.

Obviously, the defined basketball positions are fairly arbitrary and ‘small’ forward is a misnomer.  Grade school children know how to define the positions. Each definition starts with height.  A small forward stands between 6’ –6” and 6’ – 9” tall.  They possess some offensive skill, typically shooting or slashing.    And voila, a neatly-defined position arises…that includes dissimilar characters like Lebron James and Kyle Korver.

I think the propensity for size to result in more success here, as well as the overall success of the position, lies in the duality of strengths inherently present in ‘small forwards’.   They are big backcourt players, frequently displaying shooting and dribbling skills reminiscent of their smaller mates, yet the larger of them approach the size of their mammoth frontcourt companions.  The ‘big’ small forward combines a perfect array of proportion and skill.

Guards, even the biggest ones, are ‘small’ players in relative terms.  A tendency to compensate with otherworldly athleticism seems obvious; the average drafted point guard jumps four inches higher than their center counterparts.  Centers and power forwards frequently are valued primarily for their size; oftentimes at the expense of either skill or mobility.  The players we call ‘small forwards’ are most likely to combine the components of size, skill, and athleticism, that allows them to thrive.

Going from their success of the early 2000’s, and going to an extreme; in Bill Simmons’ 2009 Book of Basketball, he outlined a proposed re-structuring of the Hall of Fame.  This culminated with a ‘pantheon’, the greatest of the greats.  At that time, the list was twelve players long, and excluded Lebron and Kobe.  Other than Jerry West, every player was either a 7-footer or a backcourt player measuring between 6’ – 6” and 6’ – 9” tall.  Add LBJ and Bryant, plus Kevin Durant as the other active player most likely to join the group, and the historical proclivity of this group becomes even more apparent.

I digress though, as this has gotten off topic.  The conclusions of today are:

  • Small Forward performed as the best offensive position from the 2000 through 2010 drafts.  Skilled backcourt players of this approximate size (6’ – 6” to 6’ – 9”) have long served as the NBA’s elite talents.
  • No pre-draft measurement trend was strong enough to be particularly notable.  Size showed the most consistently strong correlations with offensive performance.
  • Athleticism tests showed no relation to expected NBA offensive performance.  Five-on-five drills would probably be more useful, and fun, at the combine.

 

Kevin’s Summer Project, Part 3: Shooting Guard Offense

(Note:  I use the terms ‘underclassmen’ and ‘upperclassmen’ frequently; however these words aren’t completely appropriate.  As used here, the terms apply to age instead of college experience.  The cut-off for ‘underclassmen’ is players age 21 as of January 31st of their rookie year (via basketball-reference.com).  This leads to some discrepancies like ‘upperclassman’ Will Barton and ‘underclassman’ Klay Thompson.  Despite being a sophomore, Barton was one-month older than Thompson at draft time.)

With long arms and nice hops, it must be easy to get off shots. Is Jeremy Lamb due to exceed expectations?

Shooting Guard likely serves as the most underwhelming position from the 2000 through 2010 drafts.  The lottery picks during that time were: Evan Turner (2nd), James Harden (3rd), Ben Gordon (3rd), O.J. Mayo (3rd), Jason Richardson (5th), Dwyane Wade (5th), Brandon Roy (6th), Dajuan Wagner (6th), Eric Gordon (7th), Randy Foye (7th), Jamal Crawford (8th), Joe Johnson (10th), Terrence Williams (11th), JJ Redick (11th), Gerald Henderson (12th),  Xavier Henry (12th), Ronnie Brewer (14th), and Rashad McCants (14th).  Of the seventeen, only half look poised to provide solid return-on-investment for their high draft selection.  After the super-stars, it tends to get ugly; of the ‘upperclassmen’ in their third NBA season for instance, other than Wade and Roy, 0.16 is the average OWS.

A probable off-shoot of these non-successes is teams exhibiting a large propensity to snag shooting guards late in the draft.  In the final quarter of these drafts (picks 46 or later), nineteen shooting guards came off the board.  None of them amounted to anything, never posting greater than 0.3 OWS in a single season or staying in the league past season two.  Eight more such players entered the league through the 2011 and 2012 drafts; early results do not look favorable there either.  Compare those 27 players with the 12 late-pick point guards drafted during the same time, and the relative success of Mo Williams, Ramon Sessions and Isaiah Thomas serves as a stark contrast.

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Kevin’s Summer Project, Part 2: Point Guard Speed

This is the second installment of a 10-12 part series on analyzing the predictive behavior of the yearly draft combine by Kevin Hetrick of TrueHoopNetwork sister site Cavs: The Blog. The first two posts are already up at CtB, but we’ll repost them here to go along with the rest of the series. Part one appeared last week.

Last week, hopefully you read the intro to “Kevin’s Summer Project”, when I laid out the groundrules of a study correlating pre-draft measurements with NBA offensive performance.   The first article primarily asserted that most of the measurements do not prove highly useful, with some exceptions.  Today, the first of those exceptions will be explored; the implications of speed for point guards.

Who is this guy? Perhaps he could have been the Cavs’ back-up PG. Apparently he was too small or something.

For primary ball-handlers, of the pre-draft measurements, three-quarter-court sprint speed served as the truest barometer of future offensive success.  The other athleticism tests, primarily leaping, also featured frequent positive correlations, but size proved unimportant.  Actually, nearly 90% of the size-to-offense correlations were negative.   Small, fast floor generals ruled, starting at the top with sub-six-foot Chris Paul and including players as short as 5’ – 8” Nate Robinson.

The following table reflects the accumulation of speed correlations with offensive win shares.

Fairly strong, including nothing lower than 0.10, one of the two ‘all player’ correlations above 0.50, and two robust values of 0.63 and 0.66; definitely a promising trait corresponding with NBA offensive production.  But what else can this info tell us?

First, note the sub-trend of speed factoring as a larger predictor of success for upperclassmen.    I will credit this to the overall importance of skill and production over athleticism or size.  While many highly regarded underclassmen flex strong athleticism, a more critical component to being draftable at a young age is dominance on a basketball court; athleticism alone does not provide for elite basketball.  Many underclassmen posted marginal measurements, but were very skilled, and  progressed to highly successful NBA players.  The list includes Chris Paul, Michael Redd, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Horford, and Al Jefferson.  These are highly skilled players that began exhibiting their abilities at a very young age, whereas many upperclassmen were not draftable at an earlier age, because they could not develop their talents to this high of a caliber.  Hence, a higher tendency for reliance on size and athleticism.

Now back to point guards and how the idea relates to pre-draft valuation.  While speed registers as a valuable commodity at draft time, the impact on draft positioning does not seem prevalent enough for upperclassmen.  The correlation between draft position and sprint time for upperclassmen point guards is 0.22, a number far exceeded by each of the applicable values in the table above.  The list of drafted upperclassmen point guards from 2000 through 2010 with sprint speeds below 3.20 is:  Speedy Claxton, George Hill, Darren Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Derrick Zimmerman, Ty Lawson, Jameer Nelson, Chris Duhon, Will Blalock, Eric Maynor and Earl Watson.  This looks fairly unremarkable until the average draft position of 28 is viewed, with only one player selected before 18th.  Despite the inauspicious draft positioning, nine of the eleven players outperformed their selection status.  The two non-contributors came off the board at 40th and 60th, so even with higher draft-day weighting towards speed, these players are probably second round picks.  Each of the other players warranted earlier selection than actual.  Finally, one addition expanded this list in 2011; 60th pick and eventual all-rookie team member Isaiah Thomas.  Apparently the trend towards small, fast point guards was not realized sufficiently to fix that one.

So; small, speedy, upperclassmen point guards are undervalued by NBA teams.  A sub-trend is that the new hand-checking rules initiated in 2004 – 2005 increased this group’s success.  While three of the five underclassmen correlations showed mild upticks, upperclassmen correlations rose dramatically, including all values above 0.50.  The graph below reflects the most-correlated data, with Ty Lawson, Jameer Nelson and George Hill populating the upper-left section and several less successful candidates filling up the low-lying portions.  The primary outlier at 3.9 offensive win shares is Jarrett Jack.

Drilling down further to determine combinations of traits that even more reliably provide NBA success, elite upperclassmen performers in both speed and agility rise to the top.   While not as strong for agility as for speed, correlations were always positive with occasionally high results.  From 2000 to 2010, the list of drafted, upperclassmen point guards who finished their sprint in less than 3.2 seconds and their agility drill in less than 11 seconds is: Speedy Claxton, Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon, Jameer Nelson, Earl Watson, Darren Collison, Ty Lawson, and Eric Maynor.  As the only player to meet these thresholds in 2011, Isaiah Thomas provided a stellar rookie season.  Every one of these players exceededed the expectations associated with their draft position, which should lead NBA teams to draft similar players higher.  No dice though; no upperclassmen selected in 2012 met these levels, even though Casper Ware was otherwise draftable and surpassed these marks.   Now playing in Europe, through six games in Italian LegaDue, his 22.6 PER helps pace his team to 4 wins and 2 losses.   Draftexpress.com lists his ‘best case’ as Isaiah Thomas, and I had Ware ranked 46th in the class of 2012.  Too bad the Cavs don’t desperately need a shot-creating second string point guard.  They do?  Apparently they needed Luke Harangody more.

For underclassmen point guards, the highest correlations were actually with leaping, with speed sitting in second place.  In a somewhat interesting twist, upperclassmen posited negative correlations for the leaping drills.  This will be explored deeper during the look at defense, but the agility drill may be more conducive to skills associated with role-players, a position more likely to be the dominion of older draftees.   The combination of strong speed and jumping from underclassmen produces a very exciting list of prospects.  Young point guards faster than 3.15 with a no-step vert of 30″ or greater is: Derrick Rose, Russ Westbrook, Mike Conley Jr,  John Wall, Nate Robinson, and Jerryd Bayless, with no additions in 2011 or 2012.  Obviously, this package is highly sought-after, featuring five lottery-picks, four top-fives, and two number-one overall selections.  There is no additional draft-day-value to be extracted from young, talented, explosive point guards; possibly my most shocking discovery from this series.   (one side note; the recent run of Rose, Westbrook, and Wall sort-of served as Kyrie Irving’s primary weakness leading up to the draft.   Pundits generally thought that Kyrie’s lack of athleticism removed him from ‘star’ potential.  In hindsight, clearly there is still a place at the top of the point guard heap for non-freak athletes who are young, highly skilled and ridiculously productive.  Kyrie, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams…your jobs are safe.)

Ok.  So I have potentially proved too expansive for one article and missed many important points, while hitting (or missing) on lesser elements.  Let’s wrap this up.  To summarize, as it relates to offense for point guards, there are four main takeaways supported by numbers:

  • Athleticism is helpful, with speed as most prevalent, and agility (upperclassmen) and leaping (underclassmen) also relatively important.
  • The success rate of fast, agile upperclassmen point guards is very much underappreciated on draft day.
  • Since 2004, the importance of speed in a floor general has marginally increased.
  • Size doesn’t matter

Come back next time, for a deeper look at shooting guard offensive production.

Kevin’s Summer Project, Part 1

This is the first installment of a 10-12 part series on analyzing the predictive behavior of the yearly draft combine by Kevin Hetrick of TrueHoopNetwork sister site Cavs: The Blog. The first two posts are already up at CtB, but we’ll repost them here to go along with the rest of the series. Part two will appear next week.

A little about Kevin: Kevin Hetrick is a Cavs fan, civil engineer, and father of two. He lives in Indianapolis, but can’t figure out why no one goes to Pacers games. Based on the recent performance of Omri Casspi and CJ Miles, he is working on a book titled, “The Curse of Lebron: a Superstar’s Voodoo Spell”. Oh yeah, his twitter handle is @hetrick46. He just opened recently and doesn’t “try too hard at it.” Well, make him try harder, folks. -Ed.

This summer, my NBA draft-experting led me down a rabbit-hole I could not evade. As the draft approaches, a plethora of athleticism data arrives in late May and early June, and I struggle with the question: “what does it mean”?  Dion Waiters is only 6’ – 4”; Jeremy Lamb has long arms; in a laboratory, Harrison Barnes jumps really high. Should I care about any of this?  I embarked on a project to track how pre-draft measurements correlate to actual, eventual NBA production.  In today’s post, I hope to introduce the process.

Who is this guy? I don’t know, but he has a 7-foot wingspan.

I started by compiling the pre-draft measurements for every drafted NCAA player from the 2000 through 2010 drafts.  This data was gleaned from the world’s most comprehensive draft website: drafexpress.com.  I focused on eight measurements:

  • Barefoot Height
  • Wingspan
  • Reach
  • No-Step Vertical Leap
  • Maximum Vertical Leap
  • Three-Quarter Court Sprint Speed
  • Lane Agility (Cone) Drill
  • Bench Press reps of 185 pounds.

To my spreadsheet, I assembled every player’s Offensive Win Shares (OWS), from basketball-reference.com, for each of their first four seasons. For players drafted in 2000 through 2007, their “peak” season of OWS from their first four years is also evaluated. The analysis ignores the strike-shortened 2011 – 2012 season, hence no four-year-peak season for 2008 draftees. I purposefully chose separate offensive and defensive metrics.

Also, players were sorted into two groups by age; 21 and under as of February 1st of their rookie year, or Older. Additionally, players were categorized by the five standard basketball positions. Utilizing the positional-labels proves important, as comparing OWS across the entire spectrum of possible heights and athleticism would be meaningless; obviously both tall and short players are successful; clearly little guys are faster than big men, but both succeed.

After sorting into those various categories, I correlated each of the eight measurements with the players’ OWS’s. Each player had a maximum of five OWS values: 1st season, 2nd season, 3rdseason, 4th season, and peak. Near-zero correlation meant no discernible relationship between the measurement and NBA offensive performance. Highly positive correlations reflect that players strong in that particular measurement were likely to be successful offensive players. Negative correlations can largely be regarded as near-zero; I won’t advance any theories that a certain group of players is better off being smaller or less athletic. (As a final note, speed and agility correlations were made negative; i.e. smaller sprint times resulting in larger OWS are reflected as positive correlation.)

With that as the basics of the study; the pre-draft measurements provide a fairly minimal array of predictive uses for offensive production.  For five positions, two age groups per position, five seasonal OWS values, and eight measurements; there were four-hundred correlations.  The graph below reflects their distribution.

As you can see, this is approximately a bell-curve centered near zero.  Of the 400; only 228 (57%) are positive correlations, only sixty-five (16.3%) exceed 0.25, and only two exceeded 0.50.  As a frame-of-reference, here are graphs reflecting 0.25 and 0.50 correlations:

The 0.25 correlation graph is fairly useless.  In the specific case of this graph, Danny Granger was both tallest and overwhelmingly most offensively successful.   This alone drove the positive correlation.  The next four-tallest players were all offensively worthless.

The 0.5 correlation starts to resemble something meaningful.  Four of the five highest-leapers managed successful seasons, and the fifth was Greg Oden.  With one exception, the low-fliers all struggled.

Part of the draw towards the low correlations is second-round picks adding noise to the data, as every NBA flame-out was awarded zero win-shares for each season.  Looking only at first-round picks, with their guaranteed contracts, provides the distribution below.  There are only 320 correlations here, due to sample-size issues.  For both guard positions, there were relatively few upperclassmen first round picks, so I left everyone in one age-group.

194 (60.6%) were positive, with sixty-six (20.6%) exceeding 0.25. Most encouragingly, a tantalizing eighteen rose above 0.50.

Well, hopefully I have capably communicated the basics. The only conclusion I hope you drew today is that the pre-draft size and athleticism measurements offer little predictive information relating to NBA offensive performance. Over the course of the season, I plan on providing insights into:

  • What are those high-correlation measurements?  How useful are they?
  • What about defense?  A reasonable hypothesis would say that size & athleticism are more critical there.
  • Which measurements rarely or never provide strong correlation with offensive or defensive performance and hence, are reasonable to ignore?
  • Are there athletic traits that NBA teams are over or under-valuing?  Certainly some negative correlations are due to GM’s overpersuing players based on certain athletic profiles that do not reliably prove successful.
  • Are there combinations of traits that prove highly reliable towards predicting success of a drafted player?  What about failure?
  • Did the hand-check rules initiated in 2004 – 2005 make speed & athleticism more important?

I hope this turns out to be an interesting and provocative series.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Paroxysm at Gametime, NBA Draft Edition: With a Little Help from My Friends

Everyone else is there to cover the picks. Who goes where, who these guys are. Things like that. You, though? Don’t worry about that. Just take it all in. Everything. Take all of it in. Like “Fear and Loathing” at the NBA Draft.

-Matt Moore, editor extraordinaire

Fly on the wall? I can do that. Fear? No problem. Channel Hunter Thompson? A bit of a stretch, but I’ll roll with it.


I found my seat on the media floor, but there’s someone in it, a photographer. I kinda feel weird telling him to move, but dammit, that’s my seat. Plus, he’s just keeping a bag in the seat next to him. “Can I grab this seat? Oh no no, you can stay there. I’ll just sit here.” I move the bag to the floor with the other 35 camera equipment bags. Victory! The new seat is mine.

The Prudential Center main floor is filling up with fans (it’s already packed with reporters). It’s kind of awkward in here, though, if you think about it. Why have the draft in the arena from where the Nets just moved? Kinda rubbing it in the face of Jersey-based Nets fans, eh? Whatever, I’m sure it’ll be fine.


SCREECH. SCREECH. SCREECH.

What the hell was that?

Oh, it’s 6:00am. My alarm just went off, and I jump up, terrified and confused. My mind knows in that split second that something important is happening today, but it’s not quite sure what.

6:09am: My alarm goes off again. Right, the snooze. Old habits die hard, I guess.

6:18am: Dammit!

6:27am: Oh, come on! This is ridiculous. Good thing my wife is more responsible than I am. “It’s an important day, sweetie! You excited? Get up!” At least one of us is attentive. I guess I expended all my energy packing the night before and breathing into a paper bag.

6:45am: I need to wear something nice, like a suit. But how can I wear a suit and shirt on the bus for 4 hours without getting it all messed up? Solution: I wear my pants and undershirt + flipflops, and I gingerly fold my shirt and place it in my bag. Shoes and socks in there too. Jacket I carry. I’m a genius.

7:10am: Out the door. Ready or not, here I come. Well, I know the Draft is ready, but am I? I keep thinking back to the last time I had a press pass, and how overwhelmed I was. This stage is 1000x bigger. It’s still only my first year as a semi-regular NBA blogger. Am I ready? Can I do this myself?

7:35am: The bus is here; I get on and we’re off in ten minutes. Should be in Newark by noon. It’ll give me plenty of time to familiarize myself with my surroundings. I put my bag away, but get my laptop out. I need to beef up my draft knowledge. I know how the actual draft works, and I love watching young players develop through their rookie seasons. Except I don’t watch nearly enough (read: zero) college basketball. It’s the weakest part of my game. I’ll have to improve for next season. Laptop out. Mock drafts up. Time to study.

8:30am: Most mock drafts have the top 4 settled, assuming no trades: Davis, Robinson, Beal, MKG. MKG is considered the second-best player, but Robinson and Beal fit the needs of the selecting teams better. At least, that’s the thought. After 4, though, there’s not a whole lot of consensus.

9:15am: After 30 minutes stuck in traffic, the driver comes on the bus speakers: “To the passenger who asked if we were on time, you never can tell. And that’s why I didn’t answer the question. You gave us bad luck.”

9:20-9:45am: Two 2-4 year old kids on the bus say “Peanut Butter Jelly” about 37,000 thousand times. When their parent shushes them, they just proceed to whisper it the next 4 times, then they’re back to full volume. At least they got that guy on his cellphone to stop talking.

11:30am: The Cavs and Wizards communities on twitter are talking themselves into the player of the moment. Beal? Barnes? MKG? Who’s it going to be? Will Charlotte take any of the trades they’ve been offered? Is OKC really planning on trading Harden for the chance to draft Beal themselves? Panic! Smokescreens! The internet is full of intrigue!

12:30pm: Bus rolls up to Newark Penn Station. I can see the Prudential Center from the bus window!

12:32pm: Flipflops off. Socks, shoes, and dress shirt (no wrinkles!) on. I grab my bag, and walk off the bus into the station.


Stern’s up. Show’s about to start. Ready?

BOOOOOOOOO BOOOOOOOO BOOOOOOOOO BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Oh, so maybe people in Jersey do care about the Nets. I see. More than likely, all of these people–Nets and non-Nets fans alike–just hate Stern. It’s weird to see all these people dislike him. He can come off as very cold and condescending, but the NBA wouldn’t be nearly as popular today if it weren’t for him. But then again, he was a big jerkface during the lockout.

I can’t hear anything Stern is saying. I exchange “Wow, I can’t believe how mercilessly they’re booing Stern” looks with the Sacramento writer on my left. One of the photographers on my right chuckles as he’s setting up his equipment. From the looks of the shifting graphics on the stage, the draft has begun, and New Orleans is on the clock. The Hornets are taking their time selecting their pick. LET’S MAKE THEM ALL SWEAT! C’mon guys. Everyone knows who you’re taking. Why the faux suspense?

Stern comes back out. More boos. DAVIS TO NEW ORLEANS! It’s now official. Boos turn to huge cheers. Davis and his family look happy. The crowd is happy. Everyone’s happy. Time for the ritual we’ll see a few more times tonight: Player’s name announced. Player hugs family. Player and family greeted by staffer holding enough team-specific hats for the player and each family member. Up to the stage. Photo-op with Stern. Walk across. Interview. Interview. Interview, interview, photos, interview, interview, photos.

Davis is done. Time for the Bobcats’ pick. There’s been talk for days that they’re trying to trade this pick. A trade looks unlikely at this point. Maybe they couldn’t get what they wanted. Maybe no one wanted to take on a bad Bobcats contract (Ty Thomas, maybe?). It’s 7:42pm, and they’ve got less than a minute to pick. Charlotte’s pick actually is a bit suspenseful. Next three big names on the board are MKG, Beal, and Thomas Robinson.

7:43pm: WOW. It’s MKG. That’ll cause a bit of recalculation down the line. Lots of cheers from the crowd. Chants of “MKG! MKG! MKG!” all over the arena. He’s a hometown kid, and a few of the more inebriated New Jerseyites are giving him ROY chants as well. We’ll see. It’s not impossible that he’ll be ROY, but Davis is better than everyone else in the draft, and MKG doesn’t exactly fit like a glove in Charlotte.

7:47pm: Washington, it seems, doesn’t need to recalculate much. They waste no time taking Beal. Good move. Crowd is happy. Wizards fans breathe a sigh of relief. Nothing to think about except “what’s happening next round?” Cavs fans, however, have a bit of thinking to do. Beal and MKG are off the board. Do they take the best available in Thomas Robinson and either place him in the front court or trade him to Charlotte, or do they take the other wing they liked in Barnes and give Kyrie a solid 3-point shooter in the backcourt?

7:52pm: Barnes? TR? Trade? What’s gonna happen. the room doesn’t quite know. Cleveland’s got 30 seconds to choose.

7:53pm: WAITERS????????? Wow. No one expected that, not even Waiters.

7:58pm: Sacramento takes Robinson. Sac-town fans are happy. They didn’t expect him to be there at 5, and he’s a perfect frontcourt mate with Cousins. That team’s getting more and more fun to watch.

8:03pm: Portland takes Lillard. Also: WAITERS?????????

8:07pm: A photographer near me just comes back from snapping pictures of Dame Lillard. He switches out his memory card and says to the photo editor, “Boy that kid didn’t want to go to Portland! Did you see his face? He looked like he was going to shit himself!” Weber State chants from the crowd seem to cheer Lillard up, though.

8:11pm: Barnes goes to Golden State. By the look on his face, he didn’t expect to go down this far. And to be fair, Golden State didn’t think he’d be there. On the downside: not a great team. On the upside: hyphy!

8:16pm: Next up, Terrence Ross to Toronto. With every pick, it sounds like the crowd is losing a bit of steam (you can tell when they’re not booing Stern as fiercely; the cheers don’t really die down). OK, I’ve seen enough in here for now. Time to roam around to the press areas.


I’m staying at my cousin’s apartment tonight, and he lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, so it’s better if I figure out how to get around this train station and get to his place. Route planned out, ticket bought. Time to pick up my credentials at the Prudential Center (only 2 blocks away).

I get inside, my bag is searched, and I get my badge.

Okay! Let’s go! Oh. I forgot one thing: The draft doesn’t start for six and a half hours. I really overshot it with that noon arrival time in Newark, didn’t I? Well since I’ve got some time to kill, I’ll call my friend and see what she’s doing. Oh, she lives in Brooklyn, has a meeting in 2 hours, and she’s running errands before her 3-week trip to the Philippines. Well, at least we squeeze in a good chat before she leaves (Have fun and stay safe!). I guess it’s time to explore the area around the arena.

Ooh sweet! A Dinosaur BBQ! That place is great. Pulled pork and potato salad for lunch? Yes, please.

There’s a chatty Celtics fan at the bar talking up the bartender (a Knicks fan in an EVERYDAY I’M HUST-LIN t-shirt). I can definitely see that I’m among friends here. Also, these friends gave me pulled pork, so they’re some of the most generous friends. I eavesdrop on a few bar conversations, check out some pre-draft TV coverage–including an unwelcome (by me) segment on BCS football–finish my lunch, and decide to head back to the Prudential Center.


I walk out before Detroit’s pick, Andre Drummond. I find out later that he was one of the most emotional picks of the night.

I catch him backstage in an interview room. I’m off to the side listening to what he’s got to say. He sounds choked up, and he seems like a genuinely sweet guy. He’s happy Detroit took him because he had a great workout there. When asked about fitting in the frontcourt, he said he’s not worried and will listen to whatever his coach says.

His voice is cracking a bit when he’s talking, which I attribute more to emotion and adrenaline than to puberty. He keeps repeating the phrase “it’s a dream come true,” and each time he says it, you believe him. It’s not a talking point. He’s been dreaming it his entire life, and that’s why he doesn’t care that he broke down in tears of joy on national television. Listening to him talk in this moment makes me realize that 1) He’s nervous about all the “he might be a bust” talk that followed him leading up the draft and 2) He’s going to play his ass off to prove people wrong.

As I’m standing outside Drummond’s presser, Terrence Ross walks up, waiting to be interviewed. He mentions a few times that he’s really excited to go to Toronto, that he’s been there before, and that it’s a great city. A staffer offers him a place to sit, but he turns it down. You can tell he’s antsy. He keeps shuffling back and forth in the same spot on the floor, talking to the folks around him with a big smile of his face. He tells one of them that he “turned off his twitter,” because he didn’t want his phone beeping like crazy all night and killing his battery. Smart move.

Drummond’s presser is done. Ross’s turn to talk. The two see each other in the hall, smile, congratulate, and share a sincere and long hug. These guys are on cloud nine. This moment, for me, was what being here was all about. I don’t know if these two guys have a history, but they both could relate to what the other was feeling: scared-yet-excited about the unknown road ahead.

Just as I’m about to leave, I spot Kyle Weidie. We chat for a bit, and I follow him down the hall to another interview area. He chats up Bradley Beal’s dad. He looks like he’s done this a thousand times before. Beal’s dad, however, looks like he’s just getting used to the attention. He’s beaming.


When I get back inside the arena, I decide to setup shop in the media work room. There are a few others around, and more people start trickling in as the clock ticks by. First people to show up around 3:00pm are the big dawgs from Yahoo: Ludden, Woj, and Spears. No sign of Yahoo’s three big cats (Dwyer, Freeman, and Devine). Ludden seems to draw the short straw and goes on a snack run for the three of them and comes back later with Dinosaur BBQ. Wise choice, friend.

4:00pm: The media work room is slowly filling with people. Beat writers. Team reps. Audio crews. TV crews. Looks like there are three  separate crews here from NOLA to do some TV coverage. Big night for them. Oh hey, is that Kelly Dwyer? No, no it’s not.

4:55pm: SAGER IN A POLO SHIRT. SAGER IN A POLO SHIRT (sky blue/periwinkle). He’s carrying a garment bag, so I guess we’ll get to see one of the suits tonight.

5:25pm: Truehoop and SBNation bloggers start rolling in. Great to meet you, Kyle Weidie (Truth About It), Mike Prada (Bullets Forever, SBNation DC), and Sean Fagan (Truth About It, Bullets Forever). We chat a bit about the draft: who’s going where, trade predictions. There’s some Summer League chatter, too, but most of what I pull away from our chat is how much I like talking to team-specific bloggers. They’ve created an artform out of being a fan and being reporter. Beat writers can be great at getting across their “unbiased” assessment of a team. But bloggers don’t have to do that. Their bias is what makes their writing so special. Kyle, Mike, and Sean don’t have to flip back and forth between “Fan” and “Writer” personas. They’re both, all the time.

5:30pm: TACO TIME

5:47pm: I was right about Sager. Hot pink blazer, pastel pink shirt shirt, multicolor tie. Plate o’tacos in hand.

5:50pm: People in. People out. Getting food. Chatting. Lots of people just leaving their expensive laptops and other equipment unattended. Trust is a cool thing.

6:00pm: Hey, I know these folks! It’s like a who’s who of my twitter timeline in the media dining room: Henry Abbott (Truehoop), Beckley Mason (Truehoop, HoopSpeak), Holly MacKenzie (HOOPMag, HP alumna), Ethan Sherwood Strauss (HoopSpeak, B/R), Robert Silverman (Knickerblogger), Daniel Leroux (Real GM). Everyone’s so friendly, and they all seem genuinely excited for me that it’s my first draft. Did they put something in these tacos, or is everyone just really pleasant? I’m going with the latter.

6:30pm: Since it’s my home these days (sorry Conrad), I tend to gravitate towards the Wizards blogger-folk (Kyle, Mike, and Sean). They tell me about previous drafts. I tell them about that time I overheard Kevin Seraphin and Ronny Turiaf talking about finance in French. Sean and I walk around a bit and explore the media floor. The arena is starting to fill out, and lots of media members are on the floor already. Looks like some of the players’ families are filling out the players’ sections too.

It’s nice that they’re able to have so many loved ones with them on such a big day. It makes going through this whole thing a lot easier to know that you can relax around some people.


8:45pm: Back onto the floor. Wait a second… why is ZaZa Pachulia here?

9:13pm: Cleveland and Dallas orchestrate the biggest trade of the night: Cleveland gets the 17th pick (+ Kelenna Azubuike); Dallas gets the 24th, 33rd, and 34th picks. Cleveland tells Dallas to select Tyler Zeller. Two drunk assholes in Syracuse jerseys decide to ruin the happiest moment in Zeller’s life so far by chanting “Cody’s Better!” as he’s walking by. He pretends not to notice, but I’m further from the two guys than he is, so there’s no way he can’t hear them. Way to ruin his moment. Being an asshole doesn’t automatically make you funny. Sometimes it just makes you an asshole.

9:32pm: I take a little more time off the floor, and I head back to the dining room to check for snacks. Chips&dip + desserts. Sounds good to me. I take a break and sit at a table, watching ESPN cover the draft on all the TVs in front of me. The TV behind me, though, is on the Comedy Central Roast of Pamela Anderson. I don’t turn around, but there are definitely some clips of her homemade porn tape being aired to the raucous laughter of the Roast audience.

10:30pm-ish: As the first round is winding down, it looks like some wonderful crew member has brought gigantic New York pizza for all the NBA staffers that have been working their tails off all day. Every where I turn, there’s one tech guy in a group taking a break, enjoying a massive slice of pepperoni. Nicely done, NBA. Next, David Stern greets the crowd after the 30th pick (Festus Ezeli), thanks them for their “enthusiasm,” and is pelted with the loudest boos of the night. He informs the crowd that deputy commissioner Adam Silver will be reading the selections for the second round. This news is greeted with thunderous applause. Wow. These folks really hate Stern.


Before the second round starts, I realize I need to make sure I get to my cousin’s place at decent time. Luckily for me, my two teams (Washington and Cleveland) only have 1 pick in the second round between them. Sean Fagan wants to leave after the Wizards pick, so he says he can help point me to where I need to go. The Wizards pick 32nd, and it’s a draft-and-stash pick (Tomas Satoransky from the Czech Republic). Sean’s ready. I’m ready. Time to roll out.

With my cousin’s detailed directions and Sean’s accompaniment, I make my way easily and safely (except for a bruised ankle caused by jumping a turnstyle at a PATH station because my MTA card’s magnet was weakened in my wallet!) from Newark, to downtown Manhattan, to the Upper East Side. My cousin surprises me by meeting me at the subway stop just around midnight, and we walk back to his place, where he and his wife have set up an air bed for me in their living room. Their air-conditioned living room. We chat for a little while, calling it quits around 1:00am.

“So how was the Draft?”