Note: From the top, this will be long-winded even for me. You may or may not find it worth the time, but I believe the preamble necessary to establish the context and the (potential) credibility of the analysis involved. I can understand that some (many) may not consider it worth their time. If that's the case, I simply ask that you ignore it as you see fit.
On what seems like a weekly basis, the topic of the draft and draft picks come up around the board. The subject matter ranges from trades and trade value to expectations and quality of the pick. These discussions will always be highly subjective. Whether you're happy (satisfied) with a player or not is a highly emotional and personal decision. However, sometimes it helps to put some numbers to the equation. So, I set out to do some analysis to get an idea of what kind of production comes out of the various levels of the draft. This is not, nor is it meant to be, a precise or perfect exercise. Though numbers are used to group and rank players, they are not meant to specifically determine that Player A is "better" than Player B. They are only mean to capture the broad groupings based on production only, as is explained later.
The Population & Sourcing
The statistical sample includes every draft class from 1982 through 2008 and the performance of all players who played from the 1983 (82-83) season through the 2008 (07-08) season. The draft is limited to what I'll refer to as "the first two rounds". For the years of 1988 through 2007, this means the complete, two-round draft. For all drafts prior, it would only include their top 60 picks.
During this time frame, there were 2,016 individual players who played at least one game in the NBA. There were 1,500 draft picks in this sample, and 1,241 of these picks played at least one game.
For the first round of this analysis, the draft picks were broken into the following groups:
The source of this was Basketball-Reference.com, and the reason for this sample was that it was complete and consistent in regard to the statistics available.Top 4
5 to 7
8 to 11
12 to 17
18 to 30
"Second Round" (31-60 or end of draft)
First, let me say that I believe that there is no true statistical analysis that can perfectly distill the quality and the value of a player. There are far too many factors that are not easily quantifiable, not the least of which are his teammates and opponents, and the player's character qualities. It's always been my experience that if you can't be perfect in an analysis, then arbitrary is the next best thing. Clearly define the rules, acknowledge any holes, and let the chips fall where they may. The reason I believe this is that any attempt to "shape" the results and remove "error" carries far too much opportunity for bias. In other words, the analysis ends up being a self-fulfilling prophesy.
For this reason, I'm using two separate sets of metrics.
The first is the accolades that a player earns. These range from All-Rookie honors to All-Star appearances to All-NBA, etc., etc. These will give a broad sense of how the player was viewed by fans, peers, coaches, and the media. These are subjective, but, in most cases, are generally accepted benchmarks of a player's contribution.
For the second set of metrics, I wanted something that would reflect production. In this context, this will be almost pure production by the player. This will ignore team accomplishments entirely. I lacked the easy access to the data, and a strong sense of how to properly factor them into the equation. I also didn't have complete data to use some of the more advanced analyses used by 82games or Hollinger. (Plus, as noted earlier, they imply a level of perfection and precision that I consider misleading.) The metric I chose was an old program created in the '80's by Martin Manley called "Player Rater".
This, like most "combined" numbers has some flaws to it. However, after looking at the data, I believe this is directionally correct. In other words, while you could take issue with how it may rate one specific player, a higher level look passes the "smell test".PR = (Pts + Reb + Ast + Stls + Blk - TO's - Missed 2pt FGs - Missed FT's)/Games Played
The only adaptation I made to this analysis was to try to apply a reliability factor. Put simply, for most players, this is the number of games played divided by the number of games their teams played. This has the effect of making each game missed a 0 value game. I did the analysis both ways. Of the 1,241 player group, it changed the "ranking" of 253 players. Of these, 109 players improved (including players like Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, Reggie Miller, Dwight Howard), and 144 went down (including players like Chris Webber, Ralph Sampson, Penny Hardaway, and Jamaal Tinsley).
This was difficult to properly judge. I am open to ideas on the best way to reward reliability without over-rewarding.
In order to aggregate the players, I broke the results down into like segments based on their Adjusted Average PR. These are (relatively) evenly distributed based on the average, not the population. Here is a summary of the classes:
The Limitations and OutliersGroup 1 - AdjPR of 22 & above (15 players, 1.2% of population). This would be the creme de la creme of these draft picks (from a production perspective). They are:
Group 2 - AdjPR of 17 to 22 (47 players, 3.8% of sample). These players would be high production players, bona fide starters, some All-Stars and some good possibility HOFer's. Examples include Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, James Worthy, Scottie Pippen, and the like. Also, the occasional stat whore lands in this group.
Group 3 - AdjPR of 12 to 17 (133 players, 10.7% of sample). These are well above average producers. They would almost all be considered starting quality players. In some cases, there are some high quality players with low reliability factors. Examples include: Chris Webber, Hersey Hawkins, Detlef Schrempf, Richard Hamilton.
Group 4 - Adj PR of 7 to 12 (246 players, 19.8% of sample). These are slightly above average producers. Some are starters, some injury prone all-star talent, some just good solid players. Examples include: Leandro Barbosa, Toni Kukoc, Paul Pressey, Kurt Thomas.
Group 5 - AdjPR of 3 to 7 (287 players, 23.1% of sample). These are disappointments and busts. They give below average production and tend to have shorter than average careers. The best of these are players like Chris Mihm, Freddie Jones, and Luc Longley.
Group 6 - AdjPR of less than 3 (513 players, 41.3% of the sample). It'd be easy to call these busts, but they're really just the fringe players. There are a few out-and-out disasters (Chris Washburn leaps to mind), but most of these guys are folks like Brooke Steppe, Scott Hastings, and Josh McRoberts, who either never got or haven't gotten a real look at playing time.
The final group largely not included are those who did not play. Of the 1,500 players drafted (and included) in this analysis, 259 of them never played a game in the NBA. Of this 259, 238 were "Second Rounders" (31-60, about 1/3 of those drafted), and 18 were 18-30 picks. There were three players drafted in the top 17 picks who never played: Fran Vasquez (11th Orlando), Frederic Weis (15th Knicks), and, of course, Len Bias (2nd Celtics).
When looking at a players' stats by themselves, the implication is that they played in a vacuum. They were solely responsible for their numbers, unaffected by the players around them, both teammates and foes. This, of course, is the biggest limitation in any such analysis. That, and the fact that you cannot quantify leadership (or lack thereof).
Different career lengths. Some players are aided by the scope of the analysis (LBJ, Iguodala, etc), because they're basically judged only on their early peak years. Some of the vets are downgraded by the lower years at the end of their career. Some young guys, like Andrew Bynum, as an example, are clearly not finished products. In these case, it's important to remember that I'm not trying to say that any particular player was a great pick or a bad pick. I'm only trying to give a picture of what kind of production has come out of various spots in the draft, and allow you to decide whether you want to use this information to judge current and future draft picks. Or, more accurately, line up your (broad) expectations.
Every analysis has some outliers. Some guys that don't fit where you would intuitively expect them. This is no exception. Since I can't think of a good way to get you the complete data, I'm going to list some of the players that raised my eyebrows as a way to help you assign credibility (or lack thereof) to my buckets.
In most cases, these reflect the naked nature of the stats. In other words, somebody like Stephon Marbury put up huge numbers but is largely diminished by locker room and off court issues. Some reflect players who had short, productive careers. Since the average NBA career lasts less than four years, I did not penalize anyone who played at least 5 years. Former Pacers Clark Kellogg and Steve Stipanovich benefited from this. Some cases, like Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden, are simply unfinished products.
At this point, I think I've both explained the basis of the analysis enough for you to judge the numbers, and likely caused a fair number of nose bleeds. (Sorry). Now, let's look at some results (finally).Group 1: Shawn Marion
Group 2: Clark Kellogg, Antoine Walker, Steve Stipanovich, Stephon Marbury
Group 4: Andrew Bynum
Group 6: Rudy Fernandez, Greg Oden
The Top 4 Picks - (104 picks since 1982, 103 played)
Rookie Awards - Players taken in the top 4 of the draft accounted for 21 of the 28 (75%) of the Rookie of the Year awards. This represents just over 20% of the players taken in this group. Over 72% of the players taken in the top 4 were named to either the 1st or 2nd rookie team.
All Star Appearances - 48 Top 4 draftees, or about 46%, have been named to at least one All-Star Game. 37 (36%) have made multiple appearances.
All NBA Teams - This is a somewhat more exclusive award than the All Star game. Just under 35% (35) of this group have been named to at least one All NBA Team (1st, 2nd, or 3rd). Twenty five of these (24%) have earned this honor multiple times.
All Defense Teams - Thirteen players in this group (13%) have been named to All Defense team (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) more than once, while two more (2%) earned one mention each.
Individual Awards - Though this is clearly an incomplete sample, there are four players (Worthy, Ewing, Olajuwon, Dominique Wilkins) that have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Six players (6%) have earned MVP's, most of them multiple times. This group has produced 7 Defensive Players of the Year, three Sixth Man of the Years (Manning, Jamison, Ben Gordon), and two Most Improved Players (Ellison, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf). Six of these players have earned Finals MVP's.
FYI, Here are the Group 5 & Group 6 players...(the busts):Code:1. Group 1 7.8% 2. Grp 2 20.4% 3. Grp 3 35.0% 4. Grp 4 28.2% 5. Grp 5 5.8% 6. Grp 6 2.9%
Conclusion on Top 4Group 5: Kwame Brown, Bill Garnett, Marcus Fizer, Darko Milicic, Shaun Livingston, Adam Morrison
Group 6: Jay Williams, Chris Washburn
While this may not come as a surprise to many, it did surprise me how high the success rate was. I was well aware that the majority of the "star" level players were drafted this high, but I had always had the sneaking suspicion that there was a realy high miss rate.
Yes, it is true that the odds are that you won't be drafting a future Hall of Famer or Superstar (only about 28% in Group 1 or Group 2), the difference between drafting in this group and just one group below is far starker than I'd expected. The Top 4 accounted for 8 of the 15 Group 1 players and 21 of the 47 Group 2 players. You're three times as likely to get at Group 1 player from the Top 4 than from the "5 to 7" group, and a stunning 7.5 times more likely than getting a Group one pick from the rest of the Top 30.
Given the Rookie awards, you should also expect contributions almost from the get-go.
That's not to say that you won't end up disappointed. If you are hoping for a savior, as noted above, it's still a long shot. However, you'd basically have to completely screw up (Bill Garnett, Darko Milicic, Kwame Brown, Chris Washburn) or have horrible luck (Jay Williams, Len Bias) to not at least get a functional player out of one of these picks.
Picks 5 to 7 - (78 picks since 1982, 78 played)
Rookie Awards - Players taken in this group accounted for 5 of the 28 (18%) of the Rookie of the Year awards. This represents just over 6% of the players taken in this group. About 54% of the players taken between 5 and 7 were named to either the 1st or 2nd rookie team.
All Star Appearances - 18 draftees in this group, or about 23%, have been named to at least one All-Star Game. 12 (15%) have made multiple appearances.
All NBA Teams - Only about 14% (11) of this group have been named to at least one All NBA Team (1st, 2nd, or 3rd). Nine of these (12%) have earned this honor multiple times.
All Defense Teams - Just three players in this group (4%) have been named to All Defense team (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) more than once, while three more (4%) earned one mention each.
Individual Awards - Though this is clearly an incomplete sample, there is one player (Charles Barkley) that has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Two players (3%) have earned MVP's, Barkley and Kevin Garnett. This group has produced 2 Defensive Players of the Year (Garnett and Alvin Robertson), two Sixth Man of the Years (Roy Tarpley and Mike Miller), and two Most Improved Players (Robertson and Kevin Johnson). Dwyane Wade is the lone Finals MVP.
FYI, Here are the Group 6 players...(the busts):Code:1. Group 1 2.6% 2. Grp 2 12.8% 3. Grp 3 24.4% 4. Grp 4 35.9% 5. Grp 5 17.9% 6. Grp 6 6.4%
Conclusion on 5 to 7Jonathan Bender, William Bedford, Dajuan Wagner, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Russell Cross
This is where you begin to see the "crap shoot" quality of the draft. What you'll see as we walk through the analysis, the chance of landing a really top player (Group 1 or 2) declines rapidly. From the 28% hit rate in the top four, we drop to just over 15% in this group. The bust factor (Groups 5 & 6) triples to about 24%. In other words, you're statistically more likely to get a bust in this group than a top player. While it is not surprise to see this occur in the first round, it is surprising (to me) to happen so early.
If you're looking for what to "expect", it would probably be a solid-to-good player. Probably a starter, but not a difference maker.
Picks 8 to 11 - (104 picks since 1982, 103 played)
Rookie Awards - Amare Stoudemire is the lone Rookie of the Year in this grouping. This represents just under 1% of the players taken in this group. About 30% of the players taken between 8 and 11 were named to either the 1st or 2nd rookie team.
All Star Appearances - 22 draftees in this group, or about 21%, have been named to at least one All-Star Game. 15 (14%) have made multiple appearances.
All NBA Teams - Only about 12% (12) of this group have been named to at least one All NBA Team (1st, 2nd, or 3rd). Seven of these (7%) have earned this honor multiple times.
All Defense Teams - Just five players in this group (5%) have been named to All Defense team (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) more than once, while two more (2%) earned one mention each.
Individual Awards - Though this is clearly an incomplete sample, there are no players that have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Dirk Nowitzki is the lone MVP drafted in this section. This group has produced no Defensive Players of the Year, two Sixth Man of the Years (Detlef Schrempf and Rodney Rogers), and three Most Improved Players (Dale Ellis, Rony Seikaly, and Tracy McGrady). Paul Pierce is the lone Finals MVP.
FYI, Here are the Group 6 players...(the busts):Code:1. Group 1 2.9% 2. Grp 2 6.8% 3. Grp 3 21.4% 4. Grp 4 29.1% 5. Grp 5 26.2% 6. Grp 6 13.6%
Conclusion on 8 to 11Todd Fuller, Shawn Respert, J.J. Redick, Lancaster Gordon, Trajan Langdon, Kedrick Brown, Ed O'Bannon, Rafael Araujo, Jerome Moiso, Bo Kimble, Keith Edmonson, Luke Jackson, Mouhamed Sene, Patrick O'Bryant
The steep decline in "stars" continues, with Group 1 and Group 2 players dropping by 1/3 to just under 10%, while the "bust factor" (Groups 5 & 6) jumps to almost 40%. In other words, history says you're four times more likely to end up with a "bust" than a "star" drafting in this range. You're fifty/fifty on getting a solid-to-good player.
The expectation in this range is that you should think it's slightly more possible that you'll end up with a starter/rotational player, but historical results should make you less than comfortable.
Picks 12 to 17 - (156 picks since 1982, 155 played)
Rookie Awards - There have been no Rookies of the Year during this time frame. About 15% of the players taken between 12 and 17 were named to either the 1st or 2nd rookie team.
All Star Appearances - 16 draftees in this group, or about 10%, have been named to at least one All-Star Game. 10 (6%) have made multiple appearances.
All NBA Teams - Only about 6% (10) of this group have been named to at least one All NBA Team (1st, 2nd, or 3rd). Eight of these (5%) have earned this honor multiple times.
All Defense Teams - Just seven players in this group (5%) have been named to All Defense team (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), all of them earning multiple mentions.
Individual Awards - Though this is clearly an incomplete sample, Clyde Drexler is the only player that has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Surprisingly, three players (Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Karl Malone) have been named league MVP. Our beloved Ron-Ron is the lone Defensive Player of the Year. There have been three Sixth Man of the Years (Dell Curry, Aaron McKie, and Corliss Williamson), and five Most Improved Players (Dana Barros, Jalen Rose, Alan Henderson, Jermaine O'Neal, and Hedo Turkoglu). There have been no Finals MVP.
Going the other way, here are the Group 1 and Group 2 players...(the stars):Code:1. Group 1 1.3% 2. Grp 2 3.2% 3. Grp 3 11.0% 4. Grp 4 27.1% 5. Grp 5 31.6% 6. Grp 6 25.8%
Conclusion on 12 to 17Group 1: Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant
Group 2: Clyde Drexler, John Stockton, Tim Hardaway, Steve Nash, Josh Smith
We've now reaching the tipping point where, historically, more players have busted out of this draft group than have been average, above average, or star type players. Groups 5 & 6 account for over 57% of the players here. Busts have occurred almost 13 times more often than stars (<5%). Less than 16% are Group 3 or better.
This group is of interest to us, as both of our rooks (Brandon & Roy) fall into this group. I'm working on another analysis to look at the production by year (i.e. - what to expect in the rookie year, 2nd year, etc.), we can take something from these numbers. To this point, Brandon has been slightly above average for this group, while Roy has been slightly below average. This makes some sense, since Brandon was drafted near the top of the range (13), and Roy at the bottom (17).
So, what does it mean? Depends on whether you're a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of guy. Essentially, they're performing as to be expected for their draft range. Unfortunately, this draft range regularly produces busts.
Picks 18 to 30 - (338 picks since 1982, 320 played)
Rookie Awards - Mark Jackson is the only Rookie of the Year during this timeframe that was taken this late. About 8% (26) of the players taken between 18 and 30 were named to either the 1st or 2nd rookie team.
All Star Appearances - 22 draftees in this group, or about 7%, have been named to at least one All-Star Game. 10 (3%) have made multiple appearances.
All NBA Teams - Only about 2% (7) of this group have been named to at least one All NBA Team (1st, 2nd, or 3rd). Four of these (1%) have earned this honor multiple times.
All Defense Teams - Just 10 players in this group (3%) have been named to All Defense team (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), eight of them earning multiple mentions.
Individual Awards - Though this is clearly an incomplete sample, Joe Dumars is the only player that has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
No players have been named league MVP. Dennis Rodman is the lone Defensive Player of the Year. There have been four Sixth Man of the Years (Ricky Pierce, Toni Kukoc, Bobby Jackson, and Leandro Barbosa), and six Most Improved Players (Scott Skiles, Don MacLean, Gheorghe Muresan, Zach Randolph, Gilbert Arenas, Boris Diaw). There have been two Finals MVP's: Joe Dumars and Tony Parker.
Going the other way, here are the Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3 players...(the stars):Code:1. Group 1 0.0% 2. Grp 2 0.3% 3. Grp 3 8.8% 4. Grp 4 22.8% 5. Grp 5 25.9% 6. Grp 6 42.2%
Conclusion on 18 to 30Group 1: None
Group 2: Gilbert Arenas
Group 3: Michael Finley, Vlade Divac, Latrell Sprewell, Andrei Kirilenko, Reggie Lewis, Tony Parker, Mark Jackson, Terry Porter, Dennis Rodman, Josh Howard, Sam Cassell, Joe Dumars, Mark Price, A.C. Green, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Zach Randolph, Tayshaun Prince, Rod Strickland, P.J. Brown, Kevin Martin, David Lee, Morris Peterson, Vern Fleming, James Posey, Roy Hinson, Jameer Nelson, Ricky Davis, Rajon Rondo
Here, we see examples of players whose production doesn't match their actual quality. Included in Group 3 are players like Joe Dumars, Tony Parker, Mark Price, and Mark Jackson. These are great or borderline great players. I'll take this time to remind you of two things: (1) the bucketing is not perfect and based purely on production, but directionally correct, and (2) Groups 1, 2, & 3 represent only the top 16 percent of the league. Most can be considered elite players, though in Group 3, you begin to see merely solid players.
As to expectations, essentially two in three players drafted in this area of the draft fall into the "bust" categories of Groups 1 & 2. There were no Group 1's and only one Group 2 (Gilbert Arenas). If you're picking here, you are basically hoping for a solid rotational player, but you should expect the player not to make it.
The "Second Round" (31 to 60) - (720 picks since 1982, 482 played)
Rookie Awards - No Rookies of the Year during this timeframe were taken this late. About 2% (17) of the players taken between 31 and 60 were named to either the 1st or 2nd rookie team.
All Star Appearances - 13 draftees in this group, or about 2%, have been named to at least one All-Star Game. Two have made multiple appearances.
All NBA Teams - Only about 1% (5) of this group have been named to at least one All NBA Team (1st, 2nd, or 3rd). None of these have earned this honor multiple times.
All Defense Teams - Just 5 players in this group (1%) have been named to All Defense team (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), one of them earning multiple mentions.
Individual Awards - Though this is clearly an incomplete sample, Drazen Petrovic is the only player that has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
No players have been named league MVP or Defensive Player of the Year. There have been three Sixth Man of the Years (Anthony Mason, Clifford Robinson), and four Most Improved Players (Kevin Duckworth, Isaac Austin, Bobby Simmons, Monta Ellis). There have been no Finals MVP's.
Going the other way, here are the Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3 players...(the stars):Code:1. Group 1 0.0% 2. Grp 2 0.6% 3. Grp 3 2.3% 4. Grp 4 9.1% 5. Grp 5 22.4% 6. Grp 6 65.6%
Conclusion on "Second Round"Group 1: None
Group 2: Carlos Boozer, Jeff Hornacek, Rashard Lewis
Group 3: Mehmet Okur, Manu Ginobili, Michael Redd, Cuttino Mobley, Nick Van Exel, Anthony Mason, Clifford Robinson, Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, Hot Rod Williams, Doc Rivers
There's no question that the two lists above have some very productive players, but you shouldn't let that fool you for expectations. The numbers say that a full 1/3 of all the second round picks taken over the last 26 years have never played a game in the NBA. If you add that to the Group 5 and Group 6 players, almost 92% of the players taken in this range have not given meaningful production (or even minimal) production to the team that drafted them.
Anything better than a fringe role player, deep bench guy could be considered between very and wildly optimistic for this range.
From before this analysis, I think I've grown to value 1st round picks a little bit more overall. I had always assumed that the hit rate (Group 4 and above) on 1st round picks was about 1 in 3. These numbers indicate that it's closer to about 50/50.
Also, the quality of return on the top 4 picks is much higher than I thought. They aren't guaranteed stars, by any stretch of the imagination, but if you don't get a good starter out of one of those picks, you've really hurt yourself.
However, it did not change my mind about mid-to-late first round picks, or about second round picks. I would not trade a player that I considered a solid starter for any pick really after about 12. Though I'll need to look at each individual pick to see if there's a different breaking point, the numbers certainly indicate that, if you trade a starter for any pick in or after this range, you're more likely to end up with a worse player.
Also, there's really no evidence to support putting much stock in second round picks. Therefore, the idea of taking a flyer on a Euro that you can park overseas for awhile seems to have some merit. It's basically a no risk way to try to develop a player.
To those who made it all the way through this, I offer you both my thanks and my apologies.