Note: If you wish to understand the justification for using PAWS40 for the purpose of evaluating college prospects, see:http://dberri.wordpress.com/2007/06/26/win-score-and-the-nba-draft/
For a discussion on how college production translates to NBA production, see: http://dberri.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/superstar-search-in-the-nba-draft/
It finally happened. The event that embodies the culmination of the hopes and dreams of each of the NBA’s less fortunate fans, whether they hail from New York, Northern California, New Jersey or Minnesota. The NBA Draft is a time when such fans look to the future, confident about their favorite teams prospects for improvement. It is a time of infinite possibilities, a time when a single draft pick can change the face of a franchise. Fans hope to nab the next MJ, Lebron, Shaq, or Duncan. Will John Wall be the next Chris Paul or the next Earl Watson? Will undrafted Brian Zoubek be the next Ben Wallace or the next John Doe? In this Draft review, we will try to answer those questions, and more.
Let’s kick things off with a summary of the order in which players were drafted on Draft Day (See figures 1.1 and 1.2)
Nobody was surprised when the Wizards used the #1 draft pick to take John Wall. Every major Mock Draft available had Wall filling the top slot. Similarly, Ekpe Udoh, and Greg Monroe were considered consensus top-10 talent, and Eric Bledsoe, Avery Bradley, Daniel Orton and Craig Brackens were all considered solid first round picks. When we look at overall production via the PAWS40 metric however, we see a different story.
This metric, which is adjusted on a per 40 minute basis (see the PAWS40, and PAWS40 Rank columns in Figure 1), shows us that John Wall was a slightly below average producer this last year in college with a PAWS40 of 10.0 (average PAWS40 from 1994-2005 for college players was about 10.2), and there were 41 players in the draft that were more productive on a minute adjusted basis. Udoh, and Monroe fared very slightly better, each producing PAWS40 of 10.1. As for Eric Bledsoe, Avery Bradley, Daniel Orton and Craig Brackens, despite being first round draft picks, each were among the 10 least productive of the 79 draft prospects we looked at. A full 27 draft prospects that were more productive than these first round picks went undrafted.
So which teams came out ahead in this years draft?
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder were this year’s Blazers. They were involved in 4 first round and 4 second round picks. They made the most notable move in the draft by trading away their 21st and 27th picks, Craig Brackens (horrendous PAWS40 of 6.3, especially for a 22 year old) and Quincy Pondexter (who was actually quite a bargain at #26 with a PAWS40 of 12.5), in return for the 3rd most productive player in the draft, Cole Aldrich (PAWS40 of 15.2). In the second round they acquired big man Tibor Pleiss of Germany from Atlanta (who had acquired him from the Nets previously), and Latavious Williams who spent last season in the NBA Development League playing for the Tulsa 66ers where he achieved a PAWS40 of 11.8. Essentially, the Thunder went into the Draft with 3 first round draft picks, the highest of which was 18th, and came out of the draft with the 3rd most productive player, one player that was productive in the D-League, as well as a slew of longshot prospects which includes a 7 foot tall German who scores fairly efficiently and rebounds at a high rate (any perceived parallels to Dirk Nowitzki are strictly unintentional).
The Kings went into the draft with the 5th and the 33rd pick. At 5, they drafted DeMarcus Cousins, the 19 year old center from Kentucky who was the 2nd most productive player in the draft. Cousins is probably the best overall prospect from this years draft given the high level of production he was able to achieve at such a young age. NBA draft commentators knocked him for his lack of athleticism, but college production has been shown to be correlated with NBA production, whereas, say, vertical leap has not. At number 33, the Kings drafted another center, Hassan Whiteside, who was the 10th most productive of the 79 players analyzed. It should also be noted that the Kings recently acquired the very productive Samuel Dalembert (2010 wp48 of .243), in exchange for the unproductive Spencer Hawes (2010 WP48 of -0.007) and Andres Nocioni, an old and formerly, but no longer productive small forward (2010 WP48 of -0.015). This leaves the Kings with two fewer unproductive players and a productive veteran center, and two rookie centers that have been productive at the collegiate level.
New Jersey Nets
The Nets took power forward Derrick Favors with the 3rd Pick in the draft, and while Favors was only ranked 23rd in terms of PAWS40, he was the youngest player in the draft, and still managed to produce at an above average clip. They also acquired the Hawks first round selection, the 23rd pick Damion James, who turns out to have been the most productive player in the draft (and I might add, has also spent the last 4 seasons playing here in Austin, TX, for UT), in return for their 27th and 31st picks, Jordan Crawford (PAWS40 9.9) and Tibor Pleiss of Germany.
The Bucks took 4 players in the draft. They ended up with an above average power forward (Larry Sanders, PAWS40 12.5) with the 15th pick, an above average small forward (Darington Hobson, PAWS40 11.6) with the 37th pick, and an above average center (Jerome Jordan, PAWS40 11.1) with the 44th pick. They also acquired 19 year old power forward Tiny Gallon with the 47th pick, who was a bit below average, but at 19 years old, could potentially improve relative to his current PAWS40 rank of 53.
The 76ers came up with the most productive guard in the draft, Evan Turner, with the second pick. The Raptors got Ed Davis, who is only 20 and was also the 8th most productive player with the draft, but if they lose Chris Bosh to free agency in two weeks, then they’ll likely have lost ground overall as well. The Blazers had the 22nd pick and the 34th pick. Though many above average picks were available at both positions, both of these picks, Elliot Williams and Armon Johnson respectively, were well below average. However the Blazers were somehow able to foist unproductive veteran forward Martell Webster on the Timberwolves in exchange for their 16th pick, Luke Babbitt, who was one of the most productive small forwards in the draft.
If there are winners, then there must be losers. Let’s take a look at the teams that fared worst on Thursday.
The Wizards ended up with 5 draft selections, including the number 1 overall pick, and didn’t manage to come up with a single player that produced at an above average level this last year. As for the #1 pick, it’s difficult to be too hard on the Wizards for doing what everyone expected them to do. In 5 years if John Wall is a merely average player, nobody will blame the Wizards front office for drafting him. If they had gone with another draft pick though, and John Wall ended up being more productive than his college production would indicate, then the Wizards front office would be widely seen as inept. On the up side, Wall is only 19 years old, and still managed to produce at a level that was close to average, so there is some room to hope that he ends up living up to the hype, though the odds do not favor this outcome.
Golden State Warriors
With the 6th overall pick, the Warriors chose Baylor junior Ekpe Udoh, a 22 year old power forward. There really are no redeeming qualities to this pick. Udoh was below average, and is too old to be expected to improve his position relative to the rest of this draft class. Further, he will be guaranteed a number 6 pick’s salary while most likely being unproductive in the NBA.
New Orleans Hornets
If financials are not considered, the Hornets are one of the the biggest losers of the draft. They traded the third most productive player in the draft, Cole Aldrich (PAWS40 of 15.2), for Quincy Pondexter (PAWS40 of 12.5) and the 6th least productive draft prospect, Craig Brackins (PAWS40 of 6.3) along with Morris Peterson who produced in the negative range for the Hornets last year. That being said, this move was clearly motivated by the desire to dump Peterson’s $6.6M salary while avoiding having the guaranteed contract of an 11th pick (rookie salaries of first rounders scale according to draft position such that the 1st pick makes the most, and the 30th pick makes the least). The Hornets have saved a lot of money, and many teams came out with worse picks than Quincy Pondexter, but it’s always hard to see bad basketball moves made for financial reasons.
Detroit Pistons (Sorry DJ, maybe next year)
Greg Monroe tied Udoh for second least productive top-10 draft pick with a PAWS40 of 10.1. Unlike Udoh, he is only 19, so he has time to improve. Still, there were many productive big men in this draft. There was no reason to gamble the 7th pick on power forward who hasn’t shown that he can be productive.
The Celtics threw away the 19th pick of the draft on Avery Bradley (who also, though I’m somewhat less excited to say it, played here in Austin, TX this past season). Avery was the third least productive player in the draft, and even though he is only 19 years old, at half the production of an average college player (his PAWS40 was an abysmal 5.4), can not be justified as the 19th overall pick.
There were several productive players in the draft that sat through 60 picks without hearing their name called. Many of the players from the figure 2 below achieved good numbers in smaller conferences. Most are also 21 years old or older and thus don’t have the allure of limitless upside. Still many of these players are certainly worth a 14th or 15th roster slot.
Brian Zoubek filled up every category in the stat sheet last season for Duke (excluding 3 pointers, but including turn overs and especially fouls). His stats don’t look great at a glance, but he only played 18.7 minutes a game. If we look at his stats per 40 minutes, he looks much better. Of course, he fouls at a very high rate, so his minutes will be limited for the foreseeable future, but he is likely to be very productive for the minutes that he is able to play. Really, what team couldn’t use a productive center to soak up 10-20 minutes per game? In order to put things into perspective, Figure 3 compares the per 40 minute production of the undrafted Brian Zoubek, and that of the 13th pick, Ed Davis since the two played in the ACC, played comparable minutes, had the same PAWS40, and are both big men.
In per 40 minute terms, the two are evenly matched. Both are efficient scorers, but Davis shoots more, so he gets a bit of an advantage. Zoubek is much better than Davis in getting extra possessions for his team and has a huge advantage in that category. Davis though has a large advantage in blocks and personal fouls. On the whole though, the per 40 minute production of the two players this last season was equal. Being that Brian Zoubek compares well with Ed Davis who was a (legitimate) lottery pick, it is clear he would be a very nice pickup for any team that could use a center that doesn’t have to start immediately.
Zoubek is the only player at the top of the undrafted players list to come from a major conference. Still any teams that were to pick up Jeremy Lin, Artsiom Parakhouski, or Omar Samhan are likely to find that they have a more than serviceable player on their hands.
Many a Kentucky player seems to have profited from playing on the same team as DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins had a stellar PAWS40 of 15.6. The four other players from Kentucky drafted (all in the first round, and of course Wall was even drafted before Cousins) had an average PAWS40 of 8.3. Perhaps 4 thank you notes are in order. Avery Bradley also seems to have profited from the success that Damion James and Dexter Pittman brought to the Longhorns. He was drafted before both though he did not achieve even half of the production of either.
P.S. This article was written well before the the main free agent moves that have happened at this point. I will try to add a follow-up post or two in the near future to look at some of the issues raised given the current, and quite different landscape of the NBA. Also, it looks like Chris Bosh did leave Toronto, so acquiring Ed Davis, while certainly not a bad move, is still not likely help a whole lot.
Update: Big thanks to Sportsfanatic613 for corrections.
If anyone else has any comments or criticism, let me know. I’m new at this, so I’m very interested in knowing what you all think, and how the I can improve. I’ll respond to every comment that I can.