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Draft Rankings!!

February 4, 2013

marcus-smart

After a lot of messing around with the numbers and regressions, I finally have something that I feel comfortable releasing. Of course, I’m obsessive by nature, so this certainly won’t be the final iteration, but I’m pretty happy with it at this point. I posted on my methodology a couple of weeks ago, and the changes have been relatively minor, with the biggest ones being a) using all college players drafted regardless of whether they actually played minutes (bigger sample size – I gave the guys who never or barely played a -5), and b) separating point guards from wings from bigs. But this has helped tremendously.

The results are far from perfect as they probably always will be – remember what we’re doing here, we’re taking stats from college kids playing against varying levels of competition in a very limited sample size and trying to project their careers. But I feel pretty confident that we can make educated guesses with this data – and do a much better job than what we’ve actually seen in the past.

When I observe the results (again, I have the data for all drafted players who played in college from 2002 to present), the thing that stands out the most is that players who project as +2s are pretty much can’t miss. 23 players over the eleven year time span have projected as +2 or better. Of the 23, thirteen have been all-stars (Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Chris Bosh, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Luol Deng, Danny Granger, James Harden, Jrue Holiday, and Kyrie Irving), five have been at least solid NBA starters (Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Andrew Bogut, Ronnie Brewer, and Raymond Felton), and three are still under 23 years old and all have a good shot at being all-stars before their careers end (Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Derrick Favors).

That leaves one. Easily the most enigmatic of the bunch, this player is either the one lemon on a pretty solid list or could have been a great NBA guard. Ever heard of Nick Calathes? He played two years at Florida (averaging 17-5-6 his sophomore year), then opted to go pro in 2009. But not the NBA. He committed to play in the Greek league before the NBA draft and signed a three year-2.4 million euro contract. He was still drafted, but hasn’t made it to the league yet. It seems that the Mavs have his rights. He’s still young so maybe we’ll hear something from him. Or maybe he was just a lemon. It’s hard to know at this point.

When you look at the projections, I think there are a few general rules that you should follow in decision making (always keeping in mind that nothing is for sure here):

  1. if a player is worse than -1, you probably shouldn’t waste your pick on him. Very few of these players have had NBA success – it’s not impossible, but the risk in taking these guys rarely pays off.
  2. if a player projects between -1 and 1.9, take him, but with caution. You want to make sure this guy fits your system and what you want. These guys have the highest variance – most are decent, but some will fall short.
  3. if a player projects at 2.0 or better, take him. He’s as close to a sure thing as you’ll see.

So that brings us to this year. I have posted the rankings here. You’ll notice the permanent link at the top of the site. Some early observations. If I need a point guard, and even if I don’t, I’m looking hard at Marcus Smart right now. The guy does everything, he’s a brick shithouse, and he’s 18 years old. He could be scary good. If I need a big, I’m taking Nerlens Noel first chance I get. Most analysts agree that Trey Burke is the best point guard in the NCAA right not, but few have him as a lottery pick – I disagree, maybe his draft stock will rise as time passes, but this guy has got to be taken in the lottery when it’s all said and done. I’m really scared of Shabazz. He doesn’t project well and I’m beginning to think he’s just overhyped. I could be wrong, but I don’t know if I would take this guy top 5 at this point. Other than that, I’m sure there are a million stories to be told in there. Keep coming back, I’ll update these rankings weekly. Enjoy!

-James

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. julienrodger permalink
    February 4, 2013 11:21 pm

    Pretty cool list. Personally I think if Marcus Smart played on a team in the conversation for a top 2 seed, he’d be the #1 pick. He has the right mix of athleticism/size (impressive physical tools is catnip to NBA Drafting teams), upside to grow (I would think everyone agrees that if he learns to shoot at a Deron/Billups/etc. like level, he’d do everything you want for a slashing perimeter player), and has the right age/production combo. He just seems to fit the bill except for the fact that the NBA in recent history has selected #1 picks like they do MVPs, as one of the best players on one of the best teams

    • February 5, 2013 10:52 am

      julienrodger,

      Good point, but who’s the best player on the best team this year? Cody Zeller? Mason Plumlee? Can’t see either of those guys going number 1. Maybe Ben McLemore though (even if Withey is probably more important to KU’s success). I personally would be surprised if Shabazz went #1 – he does not look like a top pick to me. It seems that that leaves either Noel or McLemore. We’ll see.

  2. March 11, 2013 3:16 am

    Great list, and great breakdown of your projections, James. One quick question: that list of all-time +2s seems to add up to 22, not 23. Is there another guy you’re missing, or is the total list 22 instead of 23?

    Again, great work.

  3. zebano permalink
    March 13, 2013 7:50 am

    Great list, do you regress on age? I ask because pace adjusted the only difference between Porter and Oladipo seems to be size, 1.5 3pt attempts for Porter and an extra 1.3 TOs and .7 steals and a majorly impressive 65% 2pt% for Oladipo. Their Ast, Block and 2pt attempt and 3pt% numbers are eerily similar.

    • March 13, 2013 9:24 am

      zebano, yes age is in the regression, and a very important part. But Porter separates himself elsewhere – for example, he has twice as many steals per pace-adjusted 40 (stl% can be misleading because the numbers are always so small), and he is much taller – which is also a factor in the regression.

  4. ljv permalink
    March 13, 2013 8:14 am

    Great stuff. I have done largely the same thing. Similar datset, similar methods.. The only significant difference is that I am trying to project wins shares across the first four seasons. My list looks pretty darn similar to yours.

    One question… are you saying that your model didn’t peg Beasley as a 2.0? I would love to know how any stats model managed to be unimpressed with K-Sate Beasley.

  5. March 13, 2013 9:21 am

    ljv,

    Thanks, do you have your model posted somewhere? I’d love to see it. As for Beasley, great catch. Yes, he is a +2, and yes, that must be why I wrote 23 and only listed 22…I must have subconsciously cut Beas out because he didn’t fit in with my narrative.

    • ljv permalink
      March 13, 2013 10:36 am

      James,

      Here is a link to the most recent output (Feb 28th):

      I also have a stupid-simple player similarity measure on the right. (it just finds the players in the last decade with the smallest average standard deviation across a bunch of stats including box-scores, age, SOS, and size)

      Here is a link with more info on the draft projector along with coefficients (they have and will continue to change, but they give a good picture):
      http://www.canishoopus.com/2013/2/18/4000662/draft-projecting-at-the-all-star-break

      • March 13, 2013 1:55 pm

        ljv,

        Great stuff, thanks for sharing! It looks like you’re right – our results are very similar. It’ll be interesting to see if our top guys (Smart, Porter, etc.) end up being as good as we project them.

      • ljv permalink
        March 14, 2013 3:45 am

        James,

        It will be interesting to see where our models differ in the end. Otto, Noel, and Smart are likely to top both lists, but I imagine we will each have a few differences in the lottery.

        Have you posted any out of sample predictions? Since mine is how much production in first 4 years I have the last three drafts to retrodict on, but you should at least have most of the 2012 class out of sample no? I am interested in seeing how your 2012 projections compare to mine.

    • March 20, 2013 8:15 am

      ljv, it seems I was looking at old data when I said I had Beas at +2, in my latest version he’s a 1.8 – close, but not quite there. Of course, I’ve treated him as a big. If I treat him as a wing, and this is certainly up for debate, he gets to 2.4.

  6. dan permalink
    May 1, 2013 12:49 pm

    The list isnt currently working, google docs reporting missing file

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