The Rookie Year Week 2: The Talented Mr. Fields

Posted on 11/12/2010 by


Tom Ripley: I always thought it would be better, to be a fake somebody… than a real nobody. –The Talented Mr.Ripley

Brace yourself gentle readers.

It's good news


It’s weird. 140 posts in 135 days and somehow I’ve feel like I’ve been neglecting you. Let’s try to change that by talking about rookies.

The theme for rookies this week is origins. With rookies, we’re watching their stories be written and futures be defined in real time. Who are they? Who will they be? This is particularly intriguing with players like the talented Mr. Fields and Mr. Wall. Are they superheroes like the son of Jor-El who will turn their basketball teams around? Or are they like Mr. Ripley a more sinister mirage? That’s what we’re going to look at.

Before we start sling tables and numbers, if you’re a rookie here yourself go read the Basics. All the math,numbers, tables, and conclusions are Powered by Nerd Numbers.  Let’s give some background:

Background(in green, fell free to skip)

With this series I will rank and review rookie performances during this NBA season. This will be one of the lynchpins of my blog for this season (and however long we continue to inhabit this space). As longtime readers of this blog know, nothing inspires me like the NBA draft and rookies. To illustrate and provide some background, here are a few of my pieces.

The Draft:

Part 1: Finding Elite Rookies in the NBA Draft or How the NBA Draft is a Lottery

Part1a: The Top 33 Rookies in the Past 33 Years

The WSJ Piece: Arturo Galletti Evaluates 30 Years of the NBA Draft for the Wall Street Journal

Part 2: Ranking 30 Years of Draft Picks

Part 3 :A Sunday Kind of Piece: Return of The Draft

Where I ask How good are GMs at finding talent?

(The answer: Not Very)

Part 3a: The Draft,The Draft,The Draft………

Where I concluded that:

  • Talent is always available in late 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.

This lead to a lengthy draft strategy segment in my guide to running an NBA franchise (Build me a winner rev.2). Which you can go read for detail (it’s really good I swear 🙂 )

Based on my findings I wanted to see if I could build a model to predict rookie performance. So I did.

The Rookie Models:
I built two models (go here for the model build parts 1 & part 2 ). I called them : Yogi and Booboo.

This is a totally legit picture

To give you an idea of the value of the models I decided to look at:

  • The probability of landing a better than average player (>.090 WP48) for his first four seasons
  • The probability of landing a good player (>.150 WP48) for his first four seasons

I also decided to show this for:

  • Any qualifying pick (>400 MP in his rookie Year)
  • Any Top 5 pick
  • Any Top 10 pick
  • Any 1st Round Pick
  • And Both models.

And this was done for 1995 to 2009. The table is here:

The best performing scenario is both models calling for you to draft the player, followed by Yogi then Boo Boo then having the Top five picks. Yogi is more picky, Boo Boo casts a broader net and is more accurate.

So with a good model in hand, I got to work on evaluating the incoming rookie class.

The Rookie Projections for 2010-2011:

The full rookie projection is here

For the reader’s digest version, It took all the player data, fed it into the models and got this (ranked by projected wins):

Only Griffin projected out as a difference maker for his team based on the model and his college numbers.

At reader’s requests, I then added some of the undrafted players:

The final component in this recap is rookie performance for the preseason:

Still here? Good. Now that you’re all caught up on all my silly little stats about rookies and the draft from the preseason we can talk about how the rookies have performed since the season tipped of.

The Rookie Year Rankings for Week#2

Again straight to the numbers. 48 rookies have played so far in the regular season and there are some standouts. As mentioned previously here, the talented Landry Fields is one (as noted by WOW godfather Prof. Dave Berri) as are Favors, Wall , Gary Neal (seriously, pop and San Antonio strike again), Evan Turner and Blake Griffin.

I also talked about before about the perils of  small samples. Rushing to judgement based on a small sample is premature. A larger sample size is called for before we can make any solid conclusions. You could wait a few months before the in-season numbers tell us anything concrete. Luckily you have me to come up with a nifty work-around.


Fun!! (Image courtesy of


Ok, to explain. Here’s what I’ll actually do.


  • The Regular Season Wins Produced numbers and minutes played for each rookie
  • The Preseason Wins Produced numbers and minutes played for each rookie
  • The Projected Wins Produced numbers based on their college performance (for minutes here we’ll treat it as a 5 game sample (this changed) times the minutes played per game in the current season) for each rookie
  • Then we take a minute weighted average of the three and use that to rank our rookies.

The advantage to this is that it increases our sample size and allows us to project the rookies based on a combination of who their college numbers tell us they were, what they showed in the preseason in a small sample and what they’ve done in the pros (so far). As the season goes along our regular season minute sample will increase for players (on average) accordingly and we’ll be inch closer and closer to their true value (and the importance of the projection and the preseason will fall away). I call it the Combo-Breaker.

ēower mǣte sample micelu nāht ætstandan mec

Using this method,the Rookie rankings for week 2 look like this:

Griffin is still number one but Fields and Wall are catching up.  The player some have called a “bust” Evan Turner for not scoring is liked by all parties and comes in at number 5. Evans, Harris and Omer Asik are also liked by all parties involved for 4 thru 7.Favors looks like a stud.  The Golden State Warriors got some steals in Lin and Adrien (even though they’re not using them). So did Cleveland and the Spurs.

The rankings so far  are fairly stable. I would caution that we will learn more as the weeks go along. I’ll leave it here for today (and give you more depth next week). One final note is on Team results so far:

So far, there are 11 teams netting wins from the draft, with the Knicks getting the biggest impact from the 2010 draft (Griffin is from 2009).


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