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15 Year NBA Draft Analysis

Discussion in 'Cavs Talk' started by Matches, Dec 5, 2010.

  1. Matches

    Matches Eloquently sarcastic

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    I've been on record here a couple times as steering away from the "blow it up" model, also known as "Look at the Thunder! Let's just do what they did!" I point out the Memphis Grizzlies who had similar W-L records over a similar stretch and instead of coming out with a future MVP and several nice pieces around him like the Thunder, came out with Mike Conley, OJ Mayo and Hasheem Thabeet.

    But I thought I should get some hard data on the draft. What is the success rate of picking in various locations? If we tank get a top 4 pick, what's the likelihood of that player becoming an all-NBA talent that we can rebuild the organization around? If we're in the high lottery (1-7), what are the chanced that the guy busts anyway and never even starts more than 80% of his games? How frequently can you get solid players in that 14-20 range? I didn't want to just spout assertions and pull anecdotes. I wanted hard data. And I didn't want to hoard it.

    So here it is. (The link is to the company gracious enough to host the image)

    Data is from the 1994-2008 drafts (since I could not adequately gauge success rates yet for 2009 or 2010). The criteria are this:

    Gray line: Played in 100 NBA games or more, or will break that mark this season, or would have if he had not gotten into a motorcycle accident, or is named Greg Oden. To not succeed here is considered a complete bust.

    Green lines: MPG for career. The dark green is players who averaged or have averaged at least 16 mpg, the light green mark is 22 mpg. I chose these figures because I consider that a player who does not average 16 minutes a game must be considered a fringe NBA player and anyone drafted in the lottery who misses that mark is a bust. In the low lottery, even this low mark is only about a 75% proposition. The 22 mpg mark represents for me someone who is at the very least, an important bench contributor.

    Red lines: The next tier up in success metrics: percentage of games started. I wanted to see players who were borderline starters (50% or more) and fairly regular starters (80% or more). The scariest stat here is that even drafting #2, you're only slightly above a 60% chance of getting a true NBA starter.

    Blue lines: All-stars. Dark blue line is players who've been all-stars at least once. Light blue is players who made All-NBA teams at least once.
    [​IMG]

    My quick takeaways:

    Please don't say the draft isn't luck. Once you get outside the top 5, you only have a 50% chance of drafting a guy who's simply a starter. That gives credence to the "Tank Now!" camp. On the other hand, if you do "Tank Now", remember that you only have around a 22% chance of getting the #1 pick, and even if you get it, you're more likely to hit on Red or Black in roulette than getting a truly elite talent. And in the top 4, it's only 46.6% that your pick will make a single all-star game.

    That sound you hear is me, in the corner, in the fetal position, crying myself to sleep.


    Esoteric note: The graph here does not represent actual percentages. Since 15 years is not a very large sample size, I normalized the graphs to smooth them out a little. The vagaries of why a player was chosen in a specific slot are not as important as the general trend. For example, for whatever reason, players drafted #11 or #12 over this 15-year stretch have been HORRIBLE. It's a litany of suck and you can still see the dip in the graphs. But this graph smooths things out somewhat - for example the data for the #18 spot is actually an average of the actual 18th spot results, the results from 17 thru 19, and the results from 16 thru 20. Since there's nothing particularly special about the #18 slot - a player picked there could have easily been taken a couple spots earlier or later. This is also why the #30 spot jumps up. Because I was lazy and did #31-36 as an aggregate, I couldn't actually to the average of #28-32 for the #30 spot -- shown here is the actual success rate for #30.
     
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  2. nime

    nime Boilermaker

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    Can we add a PER and a OPP PER line to this graph?
    And also would be interesting to see where teams are picking most over that timeframe.
    Are 7-8 picks bad because the Clippers kept landing there?

    My initial takeaway: It's good to draft 1-6, don't take the risky euro, white, or young player 7-8 instead take the sure thing that is at 9-10.

    And trades for picks that fall in the 17-22 range, Sleeper players a plenty.
     
  3. InBoobieWeTrust

    InBoobieWeTrust Savior of Humanity Staff Member

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    I would say that writing everything off as "luck" is taking the easy way out. There is no doubt that the Chris Wallace, the Kevin McHales, the Mike Dunleavy's, etc. of the world have completely blown their drafts. However, was it bad luck or bad talent evaluation? Probably a combination of both.

    The problem here is that there is luck in every aspect of the game. Those promoting the Pistons model have to realize how insanely lucky the Pistons were in winning that title. Will a player of Rasheed Wallace's caliber be available for pennies on the dollar in the one year you need him the most? Where was our Rasheed last year? We really could have used a prime Rasheed last year... Ultimately, when you let all of the percentages play out, if you ever want to win an NBA championship, you want to take the path that gives you the most UPSIDE, and the draft, especially for a market like Cleveland, is that path, it's the only real path.
     
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  4. Matches

    Matches Eloquently sarcastic

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    If by "we" you mean, "Matches"...not likely. :tongue: This was a Saturday afternoon and almost all the stats I used were on the lovely draft history pages at basketball-reference.com. To go into each player and lookup their PER would be ... another Saturday.

    Another striking thing is how relatively flat the lines are from about 12 through the late 20s, especially for all-stars and 80% starters.

    Also, I'm not writing everything off as luck, I'm just pointing out that it plays a huge factor. The message here is not just "we need to get lucky", it's an educational message about what teams can really expect from the draft. If you "expect" to get an all-star at the #5 spot, then there's a good chance you'll be disappointed because only six #5 picks in the last 15 years have made an all-star team. Only seven at that spot have ended up as regular starters in the NBA.
     
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  5. Sock

    Sock Sixth Man

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    http://numbersdont.com/?p=672

     
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    Last edited: Dec 5, 2010
  6. MYoung23

    MYoung23 12 Reasons to Post

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    I dont give a shit about historical draft analysis because every draft is different and it is one part of the equation.
     
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  7. Czvosec

    Czvosec All-Star

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    In addition to Rasheed, I'd also like to point out that the other 4 were unusual cases as well. Billups was the #3 overall pick in the '97 draft, but didn't really do much until his 7th league in the year. In fact, after he was traded to Denver (the first time), they thought so little of him, that they traded him to Orlando as salary filler (he never played a game for the Magic). It is pretty rare to have to wait 7 years for a top-3 pick to start producing.

    Ben Wallace is the ultimate "where the hell did that guy come from???" player. Everyone talks about how drafting in the top-5 isn't a surefire way to get a superstar, but the odds of an undrafted player from a D-II school becoming the best defensive big man in the NBA are ridiculous. That was like winning the lottery, especially since the Pistons traded Grant Hill for him (for those that don't remember, Grant Hill was really good back then. The trade was considered insanely one-sided).

    Tayshaun Prince, it could be argued, was the best college player in the country his senior season, yet he fell to 23rd in the draft. Again, the odds of a guy like Prince falling to 23, then accepting his role as the 4th option aren't very good at all.

    Rip Hamilton ended up in Detroit because Michael Jordan decided to come back and stupidly traded him for Jerry Stackhouse. Why? Because he felt Stackhouse would be a better fit around himself (Stackhouse's career was never the same after the trade). That one won't be too difficult as long as some team's GM decides to come back and play again and agrees to trade his best player for an overrated, older, overpaid, me-first scorer.


    There's a reason the "Pistons model" has only produced one championship...
     
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  8. tn819

    tn819 Situational Stopper

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    Agreed, 15 years is too small to draw any definitive conclusions. Drafts like 2003 come around from time to time, and then drafts like 2006 come around. You tank for a draft like 2003 where the situation is overall excellent, you trade picks around and target specific players you like on draft day for one like 2006 (Boston and Portland), where your superior scouting/managment lets you find diamonds in the rough.
     
  9. InBoobieWeTrust

    InBoobieWeTrust Savior of Humanity Staff Member

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    Not to mention the Lakers team they beat lost their third best player (Malone) when he blew out his knee and were in the midst of the Shaq and Kobe feud hitting a breaking point and boiling over into a on-court chuckfest where they refused to pass the ball at any point in the games/
     
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  10. Randolphkeys

    Randolphkeys Admittedly Pompous Staff Member

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    If we want to go that route, we definitely should not be tanking this year. Everything changes from December to June, but right now I don't see any franchise players in the college ranks, nor do I see a blue-chip seven footer to bring along. Montiejunas sounds pretty intriguing, but I haven't seen him play yet.

    BTW: Loved the research, Matches. You did the old SCT crew proud.
     
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  11. Dinner Bell Mel

    Dinner Bell Mel Situational Stopper

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    I don't understand the "debate?" For those of you "debating," do you not understand this team sucks? This team will be picking in the top 5 of the lottery as currently constructed. There's no need to try to get worse... we're putrid. We have 7 wins, mostly against garbage teams and one emotional opening night victory. This team will be LUCKY to win 25 games.
     
  12. CalBuckeyeRob

    CalBuckeyeRob Situational Stopper

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    The problem with any analysis is that to be a contender you must get elite players. Since no one can argue that Cleveland will add that guy as a free agent, they have to trade for them or draft them. Teams on occasion make an error and trade a future elite talent before he turns the corner, but it doesn't happen often. So the best chance, and it is still very tough, is to draft one.

    History clearly shows that you are far more likely to get them at or near the top of the draft but even with those high picks you are still unlikely to get the guy that takes you to the top level. The Cavs got lucky and grabbed the top pick when LeBron was the no-brainer pick. Toronto got the first pick in the year that Bargnani was the top choice. Luck is clearly necessary no matter what to build a team from the basement to championship contender.

    Ownership has a tough decision to make. It is certainly possible in the Eastern Conference to spit and glue together a team to 35-40 wins and slip into the back of the playoffs. To some fans that will be entertaining enough, for others that will get old real quick after the recent run of success. It is the NBA equivalent of being a fan of Purdue in Big Ten football. They hover in the lower middle of the conference and every now and then will do a bit better. But they will never be an elite team. I suspect Gilbert is not content with being Purdue. I will be surprised if they don't gut the team at mid-season.

    Ultimately it may be that Cleveland has a 1 in 20 chance of getting very good again if they gut it, and 1 in 50 if they don't. Either way the odds suck but one method improves your chances.
     
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  13. slp447

    slp447 Situational Stopper

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    This is a great post. It is common practice to factor in talent over blind luck when evaluating people's success in their jobs. It gives us a feeling that we have much more control over our success than we really do. Remember, those of you who are considering this "too small a sample size," that you must also consider sample size when evaluating a "draft guru."

    Note: for the rest of this post, I will use impact player = 85% starter, all-star, or all-NBA

    If we manage to grab a top-5 pick for five years in a row, assuming Chris Grant can hit on an impact player 70% of the time, no matter where he is in the top-5, there is still a 46% chance that we would come out of this with three or fewer impact players. So, there is a 46% chance that Grant would come out of FIVE years of drafting with a record of 3 out of 5, worse than his true ability (70%).

    There is also a 15% chance that we only get two or fewer impact players. That's for FIVE full years of picking in the top-5. With a GM that hits on picks significantly better than average.

    So, even with someone who is quite above average at picking in the draft, there is still that very statistically significant 46% chance of only getting 3 impact players (and remember, these impact players could all be just serviceable starters...) out of FIVE full years of tanking. If we are unfortunate enough to land in that 15% after tanking for five years, and all we have are two serviceable starters and a bunch of role players, I don't think many people will be very happy. Chances are, Grant would be fired after 2 or 3 screw-ups, and Byron would be fired after 2 years, even though neither would have made it long enough to truly evaluate them. My point is, Gilbert needs to keep asses in seats, and with the downside of tanking being that people lose interest, I don't think that it makes much sense to deliberately go for the top-5 pick for 4 or 5 years straight. The chances just aren't good enough to do it.

    Are you guys willing to spend five years of total suck just to have a (almost) 50/50 shot at getting a really good team with an All-NBA player, an all-star, and a good, quality starter?

    Or, would you rather have 7 years of the "treadmill of mediocrity," where you are picking in the 11-20 range? Assuming Grant is also good at drafting in the middle of the draft, he will get an impact player (starter or better) 20% of the time. This gives a 36% chance of getting 3 or more impact players over those 7 years of drafting. I would much rather watch 7 years of decent basketball and have a 36% chance of being really good than watch 5 years of absolute shit basketball for only a 54% chance of being really good.

    The best - and most fun - thing we can do is make smart moves, not overpay, acquire more picks to increase probabilities, keep asses in seats, and get lucky!

    The biggest thing that people should get out of this is, that there is very little difference in the probability of getting an impact player at 11 and the probability of getting an impact player at 28, 29, or 30. The flip side is that there is a clear difference in probabilities of having a top-5 pick and the rest...but the Cavs still need to make money, even while rebuilding. The other flip side is that we appear to be awful and are headed for a top-3 pick anyway :(

    Also, Matches, the probability of hitting a Red or Black in roulette is 36/38 ;) great post though!
     
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  14. InBoobieWeTrust

    InBoobieWeTrust Savior of Humanity Staff Member

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    With the treadmill of mediocrity, you get 7 years of it, get your 11-20 range picks, and then the players that made you mediocre get old, the 11-20 range guys become overpaid role players elsewhere, and you're heading straight towards being trash anyways, just 7 years of boring uneventful basketball until you ultimately start the true process.

    If the team has no interest in building for an NBA championship, what's the fucking point? Some people may be content with "decent" all the time, but I'm not. I have yet to see a "treadmill team" that was fun or even interesting to watch. The only mediocre teams I have seen that I enjoyed are teams who made the jump from bad to mediocre because their newly drafted studs finally started winning them some basketball games here and there and you know that their ceiling is sky-high.
     
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  15. slp447

    slp447 Situational Stopper

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    Look, you can argue the entire first paragraph to be against the 5 years of sucktitude by just changing a few words. If your argument is that players are going to leave, then that negates any argument for building a team.

    Here's where our viewpoints may differ: I believe that watching a team compete for a playoff spot, and maybe making the playoffs a few times in 7 years will be much more fun to watch than a team competing for the number 1 pick for 5 years. The probabilities of building a successful team in each of those two scenarios are close enough to justify choosing the more entertaining one!

    Also, do note that there is also a 50/50 shot that you won't see that "jump from bad to mediocre," even after 5 years of picking in the top-5 of the draft. There is, however, an almost 40/60 shot that you will see a jump from mediocre to very good (or even great) after 7 years of picking in the 11-20 slot.
     
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  16. Matches

    Matches Eloquently sarcastic

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    I should point out that I only did 15 years because going back farther than that, it seemed to start getting into drafts that seem kind of...archaic....the years before high schoolers and international players were taken. Going back too far, felt like the data would start to be a little irrelevant to the modern NBA.

    I also want to say - to CalBuckeyeRob , you mentioned that we can all agree that Cleveland will not get an elite player as a free agent. Strangely enough, the NBA is a league that severely discourages players moving teams in free agency. I tried to think of the last "elite" player to change teams via free agency and I still haven't come up with someone. That's not counting this 2010 offseason, which, depending on your definition of "elite", saw James, Amare, Boozer and Bosh all switch teams. This was likely due to teams clearing cap space for the bonanza. But I looked back to the 04-05 season for an elite (All NBA 1st, 2nd, or 3rd team) player to have changed teams in free agency and i I don't think it ever happened. Anyone have any ideas?

    In normal circumstances, the system works. Teams keep their players because the rules let them pay more. When high quality players do move in free agency, it's when a team dramatically overpays for less-than-elite talent. To sign an elite talent, you need quite a lot of cap space, and only quite bad teams have the kind of cap space to do it, so the match is rarely made. Let's not feel sorry for ourselves as Cleveland fans and say no great free agent will sign here because great free agents rarely move in that way. That's why we ended up with Larry Hughes when (I don't care what the front office said) we really wanted Michael Redd or Ray Allen.

    Trades is where it has to happen. Gotta find the morons who are dealing the Pau Gasols of the world for next to nothing. Also it's unfortunate that Jamison seems to have somewhat diminishing skills because his big fat expiring contract next year would have been nice to acquire some legitimate talent from a contending team, if they were desperate for PF help. Say we sucked bad both this year and next - 2 shots at top 5 picks, plus a little somethin' somethin' for that 15 million expiring might be the beginnings of a plan.
     
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  17. CalBuckeyeRob

    CalBuckeyeRob Situational Stopper

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    Trying to get a key piece in a trade ultimately will need to be part of any winning plan. That is probably why I would aggressively explore getting a guy like Oden if Portland would prefer to get something they can use right now for him. No idea if he will ever be 100%, but he is still no older than a typical guy that spent 4 years in college, and for now Oden would do nothing to help the Cavs stay out of the top of the draft.
     
  18. InBoobieWeTrust

    InBoobieWeTrust Savior of Humanity Staff Member

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    It's a damned shame that opportunities like this barely ever come around and when they do the Lakers, Celtics, Knicks, and Bulls will always get first crack. If that's our plan, I don't see why people are complaining about all the luck it would take goint the lottery route.

    Getting an elite player is a long-shot any which way you spin it, but for this city, the way that gives us the best chance, WITHOUT a doubt, to get that type of player is the draft.
     
  19. weepinwillow

    weepinwillow the nba: it's faaantastic

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    Injury prone players tend to remain injury prone players.. I don't have the time to put up a pie chart a'la Matches, but I can tell you from my 16 plus years of roto-baseball and basketball drafting strategy it's true (hey, I'll take a flyer on Juan Gonzalez, if he stays healthy I've got 25+ HR's and 90+ RBI's!). Maybe Oden turns into Z as far as his return to health, but I gotta think Greg is all but done. He'd be a better fit for a team like Boston, who doesn't need him but if he hits, good for them, you now have a double double center and a top flight PG as your team transitions. A team like Cleveland would NEED him to find his health.

    Matches, I wonder if the mid/late round surge in player productivity vs the middle of the draft is due to players being drafted to good situations where their roles are better defined, as opposed to losing situations where they are expected to do more but ultimately can't.
     
  20. irbg

    irbg Rookie

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    The only "elite" player (that I am aware of - other than this year, of course) to change teams as an unrestricted FA was Shaq in 1996 - he went from Orlando to the Lakers.

    Very interesting post and data - some more interesting "data":

    For the last 20 drafts.

    Record (1 is worst)//number of times getting the first overall pick


    1. 3
    2. 1
    3. 5
    4. 2
    5. 4
    6. 2
    7. 1
    8. 0
    9. 1
    10. 0
    11. 1
    12. 0
    13. 0
    14. 0


    So, having the worst overall record gets you the first overall pick (only)15% of the time. From the data, you have a better chance of getting the #1 pick if you have the third worsdt overall record.
     

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