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Thread: Tools vs. Production

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    Default Tools vs. Production

    http://myespn.go.com/blogs/truehoop/...roduction.html

    Videos, measurements, combines, stats, psychological profiles, interviews, scrimmages, references ... All over the NBA, smart people are overloading themselves with information in preparation for next week's draft.
    It's nervous work.
    The fact is, this is one messy draft, and a lot of people are going to be made to look foolish. (Primary goal of a lot of NBA general managers: To keep their jobs.) With so much parity, it's possible -- even likely -- that a lot of the higher picks will have inferior careers to some of those picked well after them.
    There are questions about literally every player in this draft.
    And as the information abounds, the second-guessing gets easier. In many ways, the job of making basketball decisions for an NBA team is getting worse.
    Let's just say, for instance, that Ty Lawson is one of those later picks that ends up playing much better than the players taken ahead of him. Back in the day, a basketball staff could have reminded an owner that every darned year there's someone like that. (And besides, you don't use high lottery picks on a guy who measures 5-11 without sneakers.)
    But this year, you'd have John freaking Hollinger, a week before the draft, sharing his sophisticated analysis which looks at good NBA players and what their production was like in college. Lawson, by this measure, was the best player in college.
    That hurdle wasn't there in 1985.
    But it's here now!
    At the core of what has been changing is an old debate about tools vs. production. A 6-5 point guard has a tool -- his height. That's something a traditional scout can fall in love with. But in a data-driven world, we're learning more and more that tools are only useful if they're useful. A 6-5 point guard ought to get easier shots, have fewer turnovers because he can see better, grab more rebounds and be a more effective defender. Well, does he do those things? Players who know how to get production out of their tools tend to, you know, get production.
    No matter how great their tools, there are not a lot of players who produce miserably before turning professional, but become much more productive with age. It happens, but not nearly as much as we hope it will -- and it's not much of a basis for a draft strategy. (And generally player development is not something the NBA is good at.)
    This is something I first learned about in Moneyball, when author Michael Lewis sat in as Oakland A's GM Billy Beane did 2002 draft preparations with his scouting staff. They say basketball is five or ten years behind baseball in integrating new statistics, so this might be about where some teams are right now. An excerpt:
    One by one Billy takes the names of the players the old scouts have fallen in love with, and picks apart their flaws. The first time he does this an old scout protests.
    "The guy's an athlete, Billy," the old scout says. "There's a lot of upside there."
    "He can't hit," says Billy.
    "He's not that bad a hitter," says the old scout.
    "Yeah, what happens when he doesn't know a fastball is coming?" says Billy.
    "He's a tools guy," says the old scout defensively. The old scouts aren't built to argue. They're built to agree. They are part of a tightly woven class of former baseball players. The scout looks left and right for support. It doesn't arrive.
    "But can he hit?" asks Billy.
    "He can hit," says the old scout, unconvincingly.
    Paul reads the player's college batting statistics. They contain a conspicuous lack of extra base hits and walks.
    "My only question is," says Billy, "if he's that good a hitter why doesn't he hit better?"
    "The swing needs some work. You have to reinvent him. But he can hit."
    "Pro baseball's not real good at reinventing guys," says Billy.
    There's no real magic formula here. The player the old scouts hate the most out of Beane's picks is a catcher named Jeremy Brown. He doesn't look like a pro, and after six years of trying, he proved the old scouts right. He should not have been a first-round pick.
    But what we do know is that production matters far more than we used to think it did. And certain kinds of production matter more than others. And over time, you can do better by mastering the art of understanding what production in college, high school, the D-League or overseas means for a prospects chances in the NBA.
    The front offices that get that right will please their owners and win games. The front offices that don't? Well, that's why I said this is a nervous time.
    Thought this did a nice job of getting to the heart of some of the debates/discussions that have been taking place recently about potential vs. production basically. Take it for what it's worth. Obviously there's no foolproof way to draft. I happen to think Bird values production over tools though. That's not to say that tools don't play a factor however. If they think Lawson is slightly better than Maynor, but still like Maynor a lot, maybe they prefer him because of his height being a "tool" that Lawson doesn't have. It's a possibility.

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    Administrator/ The Real Jay ChicagoJ's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tools vs. Production

    Nice find.

    That's why I value winning more than "mad skillz". You learned a lot about Brandon Rush at last year's Final Four, for example. Brandon Rush made good to great plays under pressure. I'm not worried about his success at the NBA level. If we had the fifth pick, he was still the guy I wanted going into the draft last year.
    Why do the things that we treasure most, slip away in time
    Till to the music we grow deaf, to God's beauty blind
    Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart?
    Till we fall away in our own darkness, a stranger to our own hearts
    And life itself, rushing over me
    Life itself, the wind in black elms,
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    The Dude Abides MrSparko's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tools vs. Production

    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoJ View Post
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    Nice find.

    That's why I value winning more than "mad skillz". You learned a lot about Brandon Rush at last year's Final Four, for example. Brandon Rush made good to great plays under pressure. I'm not worried about his success at the NBA level. If we had the fifth pick, he was still the guy I wanted going into the draft last year.
    So do you want Tyler this way around? I honestly have no idea I just want your opinion. I loved getting Rush from the start too.
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    Administrator/ The Real Jay ChicagoJ's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tools vs. Production

    Yes, but with a lower pick than #13. And I think Blair might have some of those traits as well. My thought is that if Blair is gone, trade down and get Tyler.

    Value and talent do matter. Rush, I thought, had the skills and altheticism to go high in the draft and I still can't figure out how he fell so far.

    Maybe Tyler's not the starting PF of our future, but he should be able to play an important role in the rotation. And when you're drafting at >16, that's all you are hoping for. Maybe there is no long-term starter for the Pacers in this draft, period.

    In a weak draft, as you all say this is, getting a rotation player in the teens is a great accomplishment.

    Or we could pray that somebody takes Ford in exchange for a pick between 15 and 20 to get Tyler. Then you could take one of the PGs at #13.
    Why do the things that we treasure most, slip away in time
    Till to the music we grow deaf, to God's beauty blind
    Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart?
    Till we fall away in our own darkness, a stranger to our own hearts
    And life itself, rushing over me
    Life itself, the wind in black elms,
    Life itself in your heart and in your eyes, I can't make it without you


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    Redemption. docpaul's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tools vs. Production

    Quote Originally Posted by ESutt7 View Post
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    http://myespn.go.com/blogs/truehoop/...roduction.html

    Thought this did a nice job of getting to the heart of some of the debates/discussions that have been taking place recently about potential vs. production basically. Take it for what it's worth. Obviously there's no foolproof way to draft. I happen to think Bird values production over tools though. That's not to say that tools don't play a factor however. If they think Lawson is slightly better than Maynor, but still like Maynor a lot, maybe they prefer him because of his height being a "tool" that Lawson doesn't have. It's a possibility.
    I love that you brought this up. I never really knew how to on the board.

    I'm one of those geeks who loves following stats and I dabble in some predictive modeling as well. I've found in general that those who like data tend to value production over potential, as there's more commonly hard data to base one's assumptions off.

    The key hangup though, is that data generated from college play is often "polluted" by weaker opponents and differing styles of play / coaching. It's like scoring in the top percentile on a standardized biology test in a college biology class vs. the middle of the pack in medical school. The denominator basis is very different in most cases.

    A blog I follow fairly often struggles with this very idea and discusses it in an informative way:

    http://dberri.wordpress.com/2009/06/...-point-guards/

    We are now less than a week from the 2009 NBA Draft. In looking over Chad Ford’s latest mock draft at ESPN one is struck by how many point guards are projected to go in the first round. Nine of the thirty players Ford thinks will go in the first round are classified as a point guard.
    Beyond the number of point guards ranked is the ordering of the players. There appears to be a substantial disconnect between the ranking of these players and how these players performed in college.
    Table One reports what the seven of these lead guards did in college last season (Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings didn’t play college basketball). The players are listed in the order provide by Ford in his mock draft. In looking over the list the play of Jonny Flynn and Ty Lawson stand out. Of the guards listed, Flynn was the least productive in college last year. Yet Flynn is considered a possibility for the Sacramento Kings with the fourth pick and certainly a lock for the lottery. Meanwhile, Lawson was easily the most productive point guard last year and only DeJuan Blair and Blake Griffin posted a higher Position Adjusted Win Score per 40 minutes (PAWS40). Lawson, though, is not considered a possibility for the lottery. In sum, the consensus appears to be that Flynn is clearly better than Lawson. But last year in college it wasn’t even close. Lawson was more productive with respect to shooting efficiency, rebounds, steals, turnovers, and assists. Flynn only has advantage with respect to personal fouls.
    It’s important to emphasize that college numbers are not a perfect predictor of future NBA performance. So it’s possible the consensus is correct here. That being said, there is a statistical relationship between what a player does in college and in the NBA. And Flynn did do far less than Lawson. That suggests that supporters of Flynn need to offer some explanation for why the differences we saw between Flynn and Lawson last year in college are going to reverse once these players enter the NBA.
    By the way, PAWS40 is not the only metric that ranks Lawson ahead of Flynn. John Hollinger ranks Lawson and Griffin as the two best players in the draft (insider access required). Hollinger’s PERs model does have problems if you are trying to explain wins. But it’s a great model if you are looking for a summary statistics that captures perceptions of performance (NBA Efficiency is also a great model if you just want to consider perceptions).

    Given this characteristics of PERs, one might wonder if the consensus regarding Lawson will change as we approach the draft. Ford currently argues that seven point guards will be taken before Lawson. But with PERs ranking Lawson as the top point guard, will Lawson still last until the 23rd pick?
    ...and:


    http://dberri.wordpress.com/2009/06/...the-nba-draft/


    Here is an interesting factoid about the NBA Finals. Since 1978 (the first year we can calculate Wins Produced) no team has won an NBA title without one regular player (minimum 41 games played, 24.0 minutes per game) posting at least a 0.200 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes]. Only one team – the 1978-79 Seattle Super Sonics [led by Gus Williams with a 0.208 WP48] – managed to win a title without a regular player crossing the 0.250 threshold. And only four other champions didn’t have at least one player surpass the 0.300 mark. This tells us – and hopefully this is not a surprise – that to be an elite team you must have at least one elite player.

    Okay, now let’s connect this factoid to the draft. Since 1995, no player who posted a below average college PAWS40 [Position Adjusted Win Score per 40 minutes] his last year in college managed to post a career WP48 above the 0.200 mark (after five seasons, minimum 5,000 minutes played). So although college numbers are not a crystal ball (and really, college numbers are not perfect predictors of what a player will do in the NBA), it does seem like players who don’t play relatively well in college are not likely to become superstars in the NBA.

    Now let’s apply these two pieces of information to the upcoming NBA draft. What do Jrue Holiday, Jonny Flynn, DeMar DeRozan, and Jordan Hill have in common?

    1. These four players represent picks 7 through 10 in Chad Ford’s current mock draft.

    2. All four players posted below average PAWS40 numbers last season.
    An average player drafted since 1995 posted a PAWS40 of 10.13. Here is what this quartet offered last year:
    Jrue Holiday: 9.17
    Jonny Flynn: 8.64
    DeMar DeRozan: 7.76
    Jordan Hill: 9.95

    And when we look at picks 11-20 we see the following names and numbers:

    Gerald Henderson: 9.70
    Austin Daye: 9.23
    Earl Clark: 8.53
    B.J. Mullens: 7.74
    Jeff Teague: 9.97
    Sam Young: 8.33

    These players were also below average with respect to PAWS40 last season. And given what we have seen in the past, none of these players are likely to become superstars in the NBA. So if Chad Ford’s latest mock draft is accurate, we have some evidence – before any of these players start playing in the NBA – that half of the first 20 players selected will not become NBA superstars. And it is likely – before we ever see the broadcast on draft night – that at least some of these players will be touted as potential superstars when they are drafted.

    One last note on the subject of superstars: Since 1977-78 there have been 848 teams. Of these, only 216 – or about 25% — had a regular player with a WP48 beyond the 0.300 mark. Another 183 teams – or another 22% — had a player with a 0.250 WP48. So this means over half of all teams did not have one player that seems a prerequisite to win a title. And it tells us that New York, Toronto, Utah, Phoenix, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City, Washington, Denver, New Jersey, Memphis, and Sacramento have at least one move to make if they wish to contend for the 2010 title.
    Last edited by docpaul; 06-22-2009 at 01:10 AM.

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