The Draft,The Draft,The Draft………

Posted on 09/20/2010 by


Fractals are created by the repetition of geometric patterns via a process of iteration. Because they look similar at any zoom level, fractals are often considered to be infinitely complex. Multiple objects in nature are approximated by fractals (clouds, mountain ranges, lightning bolts, Troy Polamanu’s hair).

So it’s no surprise that some of our analysis of the draft is starting to follow patterns found in nature. My last post was a  draft post in response to a reader comment and this post? A draft post in response to a reader comment. So hey, aren’t  fractals awesome?

The comment in question is from neal frazier:

so only 9 of 35 top 5 picks actually became top 5 players(hereinafter TT5) – an awful success rate of ~25%, but only 15 of 175 picks 6-30 became TT5 – a success rate of ~8% and only 11 of 210 second round draft picks became TT5 – a success rate of ~5%. If getting one of the TT5 is your goal, then a top 5 pick is still about 3 times as valuable as a later first round pick.

This begs the question of how big is the difference between someone who became TT5 from someone who became TT6-30 – ie what is the value of a near miss? The 6-30 picks should have a virtually identical, if not somewhat higher, chance of landing someone who was actually a TT6-30 pick than a top 5 pick has. If a TT6-30 pick has nearly the same productivity as a TT5 pick, then the value of a 6-30 pick moves closer to a top 5 pick – just eyeballing your chart it looks like the TT5 guys average around 0.170 WP48. This is substantially higher than the average 0.100 WP48 that TT6-30 guys are likely to be around. Since you would always give up two 0.100 WP48 guys for a single 0.150 WP48 guy, this near miss value is minimal.

I guess what I am saying is that these numbers convince me that I would trade 2 later first round picks for a top 5 pick in a heartbeat – it gives me 1.5 times (25% to 16%) the chance of getting a TT5 guy and the combined salary of the 2 guaranteed contracts I am getting out of is probably higher than the salary of the one guy that I end up with (not sure how steep the salary curve is…).

related conclusion – I would never give up 2 second round picks for a later first round pick because I would be decreasing my chances (~10% to ~8%) of getting a TT5 guy and taking on more guaranteed salary – a double loss.

Seperate topic: I wonder if GMs used to have more success identifying TT5 guys back before players started leaving early – were the top 5 picks from the 80′s TT5 guys more frequently than they are now that the top 5 picks consist almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores?

Awesome comment. Let’s take it by parts. First the background.

Some quick background
This article uses Wins Produced and WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] to evaluate player’s performance.* This measure uses three key components to evaluate a player:

  • The player’s per minute box score statistics
  • The player’s team’s per minute box score statistics
  • The average performance at the player’s position (PG, SG, SF, PF or C)

A full explanation can be found here. To give a general scale, an average player has a WP48 score of 0.100. The very best players in the league usually have a WP48 over 0.300. To put this in perspective; an average player who plays a full season at 24 minutes a game would generate around four wins for their team.  In contrast, a player posting a 0.300 WP48 would generate more than twelve wins in this time on the court.

Average Value of Players Drafted in WP48

If we look at the the best twenty players available for each draft (1st 4 Years in the League
Greater than 1599 Minutes Played ranked by WP48) we get the following table:

And as a chart:

So netting a TT5 (Top 5 Player) in the last 2 decades gets you a >.150 WP48 player (6 wins at 24 minutes played per game or about $10.2 million in value at $1.7 mill per win).  So netting a TT12 (Top 12 Player) in the last decade gets you a >.100 WP48 player (4 wins at 24 minutes played per game or about $6.8 million in value at $1.7 mill per win). After that you get marginal starters and bench guys (assuming of course that no one slipped through the tracks, a large assumption actually). The best player is about twice as valuable on average than number 8 and 2 twice the value of ten. So any two picks that net two player in the top 10 are netting you more total wins (granted all things being equal you’d rather have one player that wins 12 than two who win six each). Since, I wouldn’t however give up two .100 for a  .150  getting a top five guy is only about 30 to 40% more valuable than getting a 6 to 10 guy (in terms of wins).

Average Pick of the Top Twelve Players Drafted ranked by WP48

If we now look at the the best twelve players drafted (1st 4 Years in the League
Greater than 1599 Minutes Played ranked by WP48) in terms of draft position we get the following table:

By the numbers, Pick 10 gives you a chance at a top three guy every year.  The majority of the time, Quality players (TT5) are always available in the draft no matter where you pick in the first round and availability is the key here. If I’m picking randomly then volume matters but if I can figure out how to pick better than the other guy? Then a latter position where I know my guys will be available for cheap is preferable.

My conclusion is that:

  • Talent is always available in the first round.
  • The trick is finding it with some accuracy (which I postulate we can do).
  • Given that the identification is risky a later,cheaper pick is better.

Finally, the last topic was if GMs used to have more success identifying TT5 guys. One final table reveals:

Not really.

Tomorrow we break out of our recursive loop and go back to our regularly scheduled topics (I have no clue which one though)

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