Draft Analysis By The Numbers

With the 2007 NBA draft almost upon us, there’s plenty of resources around the web for those craving more information regarding the draft. However I’ve stumbled across three that I thought were particularly interesting. The one thing all of these resources have in common is that they offer a statistical look at predicting incoming NBA players. For some time baseball fans have had a good amount of knowledge on what makes a good professional. College pitchers generally fared better than high schoolers. Minor league pitchers that had a good BB:K and HR:K ratios were more likely to succeed than those who didn’t. In the NFL, footballoutsiders discovered that drafted college QBs who had the most starts and the highest completion percentage did better than the rest of the field.

The first is probably the least well known. HoopsAnalyst has run a 4 part series (hopefully to be a 5 part series) on what stats are most important for aspiring professionals. Ed Weiland has unearthed a few interesting gems. Scoring quantity for shooting guards is more important that scoring efficiency. Also important for shooting guards is those that do better in “athletic” stats (per minute rebounds, steals, and blocks). The reasoning is that players who aren’t physically gifted enough don’t do well at the next level (Shawn Respert, Trajan Langdon, Jarvis Hayes and Reece Gaines). Weiland lumps together college players and international ones. Other than Oden & Durant, Weiland sees a bright future for Horford, Noah, Rudy Fernandez, Wright, and Green.

Next is the WoW Journal, with guest writer Erich Doerr. In his approach, Doerr attempts to apply Berri’s Win Score method to the amateur players. Using this method, the sleepers of the draft appear to be Nick Fazekas, Stephane Lasme, and Rashad Jones-Jennings from the college ranks and Jianlian Yi, Marco Belinelli, Luka Bogdanovic, Jonas Maciulis, Kyrylo Fesenko, and Mirza Begic from the international ranks.

Last but not least, John Hollinger has published his method for digging up potential prospects. Hollinger concentrates on college players and adjusts for both strength of schedule and pace. Like Weiland, Hollinger finds such “athletic” stats as steals, blocks, and rebounds to coincide with future success. His system also adds age, three point shooting, height, and passing (ppr). Good news for (probably) Seattle fans: Durant looks to be the best prospect of this decade. Thaddeus Young, who both Wieland and Doerr are lukewarm on, makes Hollinger’s top 5, along with Oden, Conley, and Wright.

While all three methods don’t always agree, there are a few players that there is a consensus on. Oden and Durant are the obvious examples, but also Brandan Wright, Al Horford, Nick Fazekas, and Joakim Noah on the positive side, and Acie Law, Corey Brewer, and Nick Young on the negative side. But more importantly, it’s great to see that there are a few different people looking into projecting future stars. I guess only time will tell if any of these systems bear fruit.

[NOTE: Apologies to Bret at Hoopinion, who also took a statistical look at this year’s draft class as well. At this moment there are 10 articles posted, with some good tidbits there.]

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

22 thoughts to “Draft Analysis By The Numbers”

  1. One thing I found interesting when looking at Fazekas: just about every web site compares him only to white players. I’ve seen Laettner, Keith Van Horn (Fazekas is more of a true PF at 6-11 than the tweener KVH), Radmanovic (who rebounds like Fazekas only in his dreams), and Rick Rickert (who?).

  2. I am really enjoying this stuff, too, Mike.

    Always good to see new work being done in the analytical field.

  3. I’ve seen a few games of Marco Belinelli in Euroleague, this guy is very talented.
    I really believe that he can have a Ginobili-like career, even if their style are different.

  4. I noticed that a bunch too…white players only getting compared to white players. Can I say that Fazekas is a poor man’s cross between Rasheed and C-Webb, or will I get laughed out of the draft room?

  5. Some people, like Chad Ford, are pretty laughable at the lengths they will go to to find a whitey-whitey comparison. I read the Doerr and Hollinger pieces – Fazekas really jumped out. From the Knicks perspective, he sounds like a better version of Channing Frye. Maybe worth a pick at 23, especially if Frye becomes part of a trade.

  6. Gabe – that’s exactly what I was thinking of. He has Rasheed’s outside touch and Webber’s passing and rebounding. A rich man’s Frye? Why is it so hard to come up with a comparison for a big man that can rebound, shoot, and pass, but not block shots?

    Maybe Kurt Thomas?

  7. caleb – you stole the words right out of my browser. I would be thrilled if the Knicks picked him up if they were going to trade Frye. You have to think that the rebounding (considering he’s 6-11) & shooting will stay with him to the NBA. If he can bring over the passing & post up game, that would be a bonus.

  8. Here’s a link to all my posts regarding the draft.

    As for Fazekas, he was a great college player but unless every team’s scouting department is wrong, he’ll probably struggle in the NBA. He was alomst certainly the best player in the country in 05-06 but couldn’t get a first round guarantee in last year’s weak draft.

  9. any chance the bobcats will trade the #8 pick for curry, crawford or both? i read they’ve been shopping it hard. i know isiah wouldn?t do it, but it?s nice to dream of one day getting under the cap and getting a real franchise player.

  10. Nick Fazekas may play a very similar role to that of Renaldo Balkman in terms of his drafting and being acquired by the Knicks. He seems like a good player that addresses one of our needs, but he can be had for much less than the 23 pick, maybe trading a guy like Nate Robinson to one of the early second round teams would get him for us.

  11. Cross-racial comparisons seem to be “the next frontier” in sports journalism. If we are to believe the mounting evidence generated by implicit association tests (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/) some will simply not be able to see them.

    Ignoring the social-psych component, and concentrating just on the realm of sports for a moment, the lack of cross-racial comparisons says a lot about how superficial player-to-player comparisons are.

  12. Bobcats will never trade a draft pick for big contracts.

    With Fazekas, I’ll play the race card – if he is a poor man’s anyone, it’s Dirk Nowitzki. Rebounding, hot-scoring jump-shooter, no defense. Obviously, not on the same level, but a similar type of player. Not at all like Webber or ‘Sheed – when those guys came into the like they were like Tyrus Thomas – great hops, great post game – very good defense. Fazekas can’t guard a chair. Now that they’re older, and settling for more jump shots, they’re MORE similar, but the best comparison with them is that Fazekas seems to be a pretty good passer (and is the same height).

    It would take a ballsy move by some GM, but Fazekas would be a decent value around #15 or even higher. The average career of a player that level is around 10 years, I’d guess. That would put him as the 150th best player in the league – a 4th or 5th option on an average team, or a valuable role player on a great team. Based on the statistical analysis – that seems totally believable.

    The counterargument is that you could get him later in the draft, and maybe you could. But I think it’s generally better to take the guy you really want, unless you’re guaranteed to get him later (as in a trade, after the draft). That’s the route Isaiah took with Balkman. Maybe he could have gotten more “value” – but are we complaining now?

    Of the guys who have been mentioned as potential Knicks, Sean Williams also stood out – not surprising, as his off-court issues are the only thing keeping him out of the lottery. Bellinelli, as others have mentioned. The big surprise to me was Daequon Cook.

    I think the biggest takeaway messages from those analyses is: there are very few legitimate NBA players out there. The ones who succeed have it all – solid skills, terrific athleticism and a willingness to focus themselves. Also,older players – Hollinger singled out Al Thornton, who’s 24 – just don’t improve nearly as much as young guys. If you’re over 21, you better be dominant at the college level; you won’t develop into a player later on. And if you can play at 18 or 19 – watch out. If you can get any minutes at all in the NBA at age 19 – it’s a very good chance you will reach All-Star level.

  13. I don’t have a problem comparing white players to other white players. They play a more similar style to each other than black players. Mostly because they aren’t anywhere near as athletic. So in order to make a cross-racial comparison you have to find black players who aren’t that athletic (comparatively).

  14. personally i think hollingers system is crap…he’s been slipping lately. his stuff is more and more unscientific, i feel like he’s around to make casual sports fans feel smarter.

  15. “I think the biggest takeaway messages from those analyses is: there are very few legitimate NBA players out there.”

    Caleb I agree…and what’s funny is if you listen to draft experts (use that term loosely) it would seem as though every first round pick will have a 15 year career adn be an all star. this happens with the nfl draft too, but its weird that analysts dont look back and see that maybe 20 or 30 percent of hte first round is successful at most, and talk about bust potential.

  16. personally i think hollingers system is crap?he?s been slipping lately. his stuff is more and more unscientific, i feel like he?s around to make casual sports fans feel smarter.

    While I basically agree that his draft system does seem to be a bit lacking, in the science, I think he points out that it is still the first draft.

    But yeah, writing for ESPN probably hurts, too, as you can’t get too scientific, or you’ll bore your audience.

  17. “They play a more similar style to each other than black players. Mostly because they aren?t anywhere near as athletic.”

    This is exactly why I hate the comparison. Its likely that black players are more athletic in general, but it’s not like there’s an indivisible line between them. There are highly skilled black players that are unathletic, and white players that are athletic. There’s no logical reason to separate the 2, especially if the comparison isn’t an apt one (Keith Van Horn??)

  18. Re: Hollinger. I don’t get him being un-scientific. Have you seen how he developed PER?

    Personally I like Hollinger’s system as well as the one by Ed Weiland. (Still not sure what to make of Win Shares on the college level).

  19. There are no white players who are nearly as athletic as the most athletic black players. Some players like David Lee, Andrei Kirilenko, Manu Ginobili are surprisingly athletic, but still no where close to the most athletic black players such as Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. The makeup of the two races is fairly different. Even when you talk about black players who are not that athletic (Rasheed Wallace is a good example), they are still not similar to white players because they are usually much more physical. If you do find a black player who is similar to a white player, it’s usually not a compliment to the white player. I mean, you can find unathletic black players who aren’t that strong… Mark Blount perhaps. But does anyone want to be compared to him?

  20. Matthew that is about the most absurd thing I have ever read. I can only hope that your opinion has been shaped by the perception that black players “look” more agile and athletic, because David Lee is not just athetlic for a white guy, but one of the most athletic (read: balance, skill, endurance, instincts, leaping ability, explosiveness, etc.) in the entire NBA. I completely disagree with what you just said.

  21. Re: Hollinger. I don?t get him being un-scientific. Have you seen how he developed PER?

    Personally I like Hollinger?s system as well as the one by Ed Weiland. (Still not sure what to make of Win Shares on the college level).

    Not with PER, Mike, but since he’s been at ESPN.

    When you have to appeal to a mass audience like he has to at ESPN, I think he is trying to be a little less on the science side, to appeal to the masses.

    He’s still a lot better than almost all other sportswriters, though.

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