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NBA Draft Analysis:
Best/Worst Drafting Teams

by Roland Beech, 82games.com

[Thanks to an assist from the wonderful Basketball-Reference.com web site, I gathered together the last twenty NBA Drafts (1989-2008) with an array of intended analysis in mind.]

In the first part of this series on "NBA Player Development" I studied the average performance of players by their draft pick number. In part two I will take a look at the specific teams and how they have fared!

To recap a few principles, since B-R provides career games, and then per game points, rebounds, assists and minutes, I have gone with an admittedly highly simplistic look on things with:
Rating = points/game + rebounds/game + assists/game

Why use this definition? It's the data I have easily on hand, which while not a good player rating system is a decent wag for these purposes. Then I group players as follows:

  • Star -- 20+ rating
  • Solid -- 15 to 19.9
  • Role Player -- 10 to14.9
  • Deep Bench -- 5 to 9.9
  • Complete Bust -- less than 5
  • DNP -- (never played in the NBA)
Keep in mind the stats are career per game averages so lower than the peak performance years of a player. Moreover, there is also some bias in that using recent years some of the current players may well spike up their career 'standing' with more years under the belt.

Now to try and gauge drafting performance it is not enough to simply look at average stats, rather we need to adjust by the expected stats for the pick # -- so from our chart in part one, the #1 pick averages 16.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, etc and we need to compare that to the actual stats of a team picking at #1 to get a sense of the net...did they over or under-achieve for the pick.

Obviously there are a lot of issues with this approach, such as do you reward San Antonio for taking a consensus #1 in Duncan? The answer to me is yes, because we are talking not only about drafting but about hopefully some measure of player development which is the bigger theme in play.

On account of this, one additional point to mention is in the event of draft day trades, the team winding up with a player after the trade is counted as 'drafting' the player. So for example Dallas gets credit for Nowitzki even though the Bucks actually drafted him (but then moved him on the the Mavericks). It may be I missed some of these transitions as well if they were sometime after the draft, in which case I'll post a corrected version later on.

To calculate value I compare a player's career stats to the average stats for his draft pick number. For example, Kobe Bryant averages 25.0 pts per game for his career, but the average for a #13 pick (including Kobe) is just 9.8 pts per game so his team gets credit for +15.2 points per game for his pick and so on.

Draft picks 1989-2008 Pick Performance vs. Expected Perf.
Team
Picks
Gms
Pts
Reb
Ast
Rtg
Gms
Pts
Reb
Ast
Rtg
Star
Solid
RoleP
DeepB
Bust
DNP
 Milwaukee 40 299 7.1 2.9 1.7 11.7 45 1.1 0.2 0.5 1.8 6 8 7 12 3 4
 Phoenix 41 226 5.5 2.4 1.0 8.9 30 1.1 0.3 0.2 1.5 6 4 3 10 13 5
 L.A. Lakers 36 341 6.0 2.4 1.5 9.8 110 1.0 0.1 0.4 1.5 5 3 7 12 2 7
 San Antonio 30 227 5.5 2.0 1.3 8.8 46 1.0 0.0 0.3 1.2 4 2 6 6 3 9
 Cleveland 36 302 6.5 2.7 1.6 10.8 50 0.7 0.0 0.4 1.1 5 4 8 8 7 4
 Golden State 47 262 7.2 3.3 1.3 11.8 -9 0.6 0.5 -0.1 1.0 9 5 7 16 6 4
 Boston 41 263 6.6 2.7 1.4 10.7 9 0.6 0.1 0.1 0.8 6 6 5 14 4 6
 Sacramento 43 309 6.4 2.8 1.4 10.6 50 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.7 5 8 9 11 3 7
 Memphis 18 207 8.1 3.7 1.5 13.3 -111 0.3 0.5 -0.2 0.7 4 3 4 5 1 1
 Utah 38 253 5.0 2.3 1.3 8.6 44 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.4 3 3 7 12 8 5
 Miami 36 224 6.5 2.4 1.3 10.1 -38 0.6 -0.3 0.0 0.3 4 5 7 9 7 4
 Washington 35 308 6.3 2.9 1.2 10.4 47 0.2 0.1 -0.1 0.2 4 2 13 10 2 4
 Charlotte Hornets 20 402 7.4 3.2 1.5 12.1 85 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.1 5 1 5 5 3 1
 Seattle 48 260 5.5 2.4 1.1 9.1 17 0.0 -0.1 0.0 -0.1 5 7 8 8 7 13
 Detroit 37 245 5.0 2.3 1.0 8.4 26 -0.1 0.0 0.0 -0.1 3 3 7 9 8 7
 Vancouver 14 334 7.9 3.1 1.8 12.7 8 0.1 -0.3 0.1 -0.1 4 0 2 6 0 2
 Philadelphia 44 225 5.6 2.6 1.0 9.2 -9 0.0 0.0 -0.2 -0.1 5 6 8 9 6 10
 Indiana 33 315 5.3 2.7 0.9 8.8 71 -0.2 0.3 -0.3 -0.2 2 4 9 7 3 8
 Chicago 51 239 6.0 2.7 1.5 10.2 -33 -0.3 -0.1 0.1 -0.3 7 5 8 17 7 7
 Orlando 41 243 6.2 3.1 1.1 10.4 -37 -0.2 0.2 -0.2 -0.3 6 4 5 14 8 4
 Dallas 45 236 5.2 2.4 1.1 8.7 -5 -0.2 -0.1 -0.1 -0.3 5 2 9 13 5 11
 Houston 45 204 4.7 2.1 0.9 7.7 -9 -0.2 -0.1 -0.1 -0.4 5 2 6 11 8 13
 New Orleans Hornets 11 129 5.8 2.4 1.4 9.5 -160 -0.4 -0.5 0.2 -0.6 2 1 1 2 3 2
 New Jersey 35 255 6.2 3.1 1.3 10.6 -34 -0.6 0.1 -0.2 -0.6 7 3 5 9 7 4
 Portland 40 218 5.7 2.4 1.1 9.2 -47 -0.3 -0.3 -0.1 -0.7 5 4 8 8 8 7
 Charlotte Bobcats 10 112 7.7 3.4 1.9 13.0 -243 -0.8 -0.1 0.1 -0.8 2 2 1 3 2 0
 Minnesota 40 277 6.0 2.6 1.4 10.0 4 -0.7 -0.2 0.0 -0.8 6 3 9 7 7 8
 Toronto 24 244 6.8 2.8 1.2 10.8 -69 -0.5 -0.4 -0.3 -1.1 5 3 0 7 3 6
 Denver 42 305 5.9 2.7 1.2 9.9 20 -0.8 -0.1 -0.2 -1.2 6 8 6 9 5 8
 L.A. Clippers 44 268 6.0 2.9 1.2 10.1 -27 -1.0 -0.1 -0.3 -1.4 2 14 7 10 4 7
 Atlanta 44 176 4.8 2.3 1.1 8.2 -76 -1.0 -0.3 -0.1 -1.5 3 3 8 18 6 6
 New York 32 197 4.6 2.2 0.9 7.7 -55 -0.9 -0.3 -0.3 -1.5 0 4 8 9 5 6

I was surpised by how this look came out...Milwaukee as the best drafting team of the past twenty years? In looking over the actual picks though it makes more sense: six "stars" taken -- Glenn Robinson, #1 in '94 and a 29 rating... Ray Allen at #5 in '96, also 29 rating... Redd at #43(!) who has a 27 rating... Vin Baker at #8 in '93 who had a 24 rating (yes he had good years before the problems)... Bogut #1 in '05 and a 23 rating... T.J. Ford at #8 in '03 with a 22 rating. Now Bogut is actually an under-achiever to this point (especially since they could have had Paul, etc) but the Bucks also have scored with lots of other second round picks besides Redd like Sessions, Alston, Phills, Snow, Flip Murray, Bogans...all of whom way surpassed expectations for their lowly pick number.

Then you have the Suns who sparkle with their star picks -- Amare (a #9), Marion (#9), Nash (#15), Finley (#21), Stephen Jackson (#42), and Cedric Ceballos (#48).

The Lakers secured Kobe (#13) by trade, but also had stars in Van Exel (#37), Divac (#26), Eddie Jones (#10), and Marc Gasol (#48 but later traded of course...), as well as a slew of solid players like Elden Campbell (#27), Bynum (#10 and climbing in the career averages), and Fisher (#24).

The Spurs have Duncan (#1) as well as Parker (#28) and Ginobili (#57) as the foundation to their multi-title teams. They also nabbed Scola at #55 who is nearing star territory in the career rating, Barbosa at #28, Salmons #26, Udrih #28...

Cleveland is a much more mixed record. A huge lift up for LeBron (no brainer), but they did also tab Boozer at #34, Andre Miller at #8, Ilgauskas at #20, Brandon at #11 for their other stars. Some top ten misses though in Mihm (#7), Wagner #6), Ferry (#2), and Diop (#8).

And for the bottom of the table New York Knicks? Not a single star among the thirty-two picks made, with David Lee at 19.9 rating pushing the envelope to perhaps become the first one soon. Nene was another good pick for them, taken at #7, but their second round picks with the exception of Ariza have been poor performers, and few players who made much noise whatsoever in the NBA.

Then there's the Clippers of the Korolev (#12), Randy Woods (#16), Kimble (#8), Ely (#12), Dooling (#10), Livingston (#4), Olowokandi (#1) horror show. Elgin may want to rethink his discrimination lawsuit, seems like there was some just cause perhaps at work here. The Clippers had 11 top ten picks in the twenty years, and only one of these top ten guys (Odom taken at #4) became a star. Now of course, you could argue and I might that the bigger issue isn't the drafting but the player development once the player gets to the team...more on this later!

Now due to the recency bias (players drafted this year for example have just over half a season as their 'career' stats and will likely improve in some cases considerably on them with a few more years) we must give some excuses for the new to the party teams like the 'New Orleans' Hornets and the Charlotte Bobcats, but you can get a reasonable sense of the distribution of stars/solids/roleplayers/deep bench/busts and DNP's through the years.

I will be formatting a seperate page for the team by team looks so you can see all the hits and misses of your favorite franchise.

Moving on, next I've looked at the best and worst value picks of the last twenty drafts!


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