In the Paint
Join Date: Dec 2007
Simmons: the draft is a crapshoot
The Ultimate Crapshoot
Hmmmm...sounds kinda familiar
Yup … three of the 2013 draft’s four best assets weren’t top-10 picks. What if I told you this wasn’t an aberration? What if I told you that, other than the no. 1 overall spot, your draft position matters less than we thought? What if I told you that tanking was overrated, and that Philly’s 2014 tanknado masterpiece might have been a waste of time? I never fully comprehended this until I combed through every NBA draft since 1995, the first year that high schoolers and one-and-doners started hijacking the process. (Eventually, hard-to-evaulate foreign players would join them.) Then, I re-ranked everyone from those 19 drafts, placing them in the following categories:
• Superduperstar (*****)
• All-Timer (****)
• Franchise Guy (***)
• All-Star (**)
• Quality Starter (*)
• Lottery Rotation Guy
• Rotation Guy
• Lottery Whiff (or Possible Lottery Whiff)
• Not Good Enough to Be Mentioned
• Hasheem Thabeet
From there, I tried to answer the following questions …
Question 1: How important was it to get the first overall pick?
That spot yielded two superduperstars (LeBron and Duncan), two all-timers (Howard and Iverson), three franchise guys (Davis, Rose and Griffin) and five All-Stars (Irving, Wall, Yao, Brand and Martin). Three others (Joe Smith, Andrea Bargnani and Andrew Bogut) became quality starters for a few years. Three crapped out: Greg Oden, Kwame Brown and Michael Olowokandi. And it’s too soon to decide on Anthony Bennett, especially if you have a soft spot for undersized, poorly conditioned forwards who suffer from sleep apnea. (I’m a sap, but I still think he’ll be a top-five player from that draft.) The final numbers: In six of the last 19 drafts, the first pick became the best player in his draft. Twelve of 19 times, he became one of the three best picks.
(My conclusion: It’s good to get the no. 1 overall pick. Wow, aren’t you glad I’m here! Hold on, this is about to get more interesting.)
Question 2: Were the no. 2 and no. 3 overall picks sure things?
No! No!!!!!!! Only three no. 2s and three no. 3s became top-three players from their drafts, only 19 percent in all (7-for-38). Our only All-Timer? Durant in 2007. Our only franchise player? Carmelo in 2003. That’s it. For 19 drafts. You had a better chance of drafting a punch line, as the gentlemen who selected Michael Beasley (second), Derrick Williams (second), Thabeet (second), Adam Morrison (third) and Darko Milicic (second) would tell you.
Question 3: Is there any rhyme or reason to landing a superduperstar, franchise player or even an all-timer?
A top-five pick gives you a better chance, just not an overwhelmingly better chance. There were 23 “special” rookies in the past 19 drafts. I put their draft spots in parentheses.
Superduperstars: Duncan (1), LeBron (1), Kobe (13)
All-Timers: Iverson (1), Howard (1), Durant (2), Garnett (5), Wade (5), Nowitzki (9), Nash (15)
Franchise Guys: Griffin (1), A. Davis (1), D. Rose (1), Carmelo (3), C. Paul (4), Westbrook (4), Harden (3), R. Allen (5), Love (5), Curry (7), McGrady (9), P. George (10), Pierce (10)
Good luck finding a pattern: seven of 23 were picked first, nine of 23 were picked 2-through-5, and seven of 23 were picked 6-through-16. Durant and Carmelo were the only sure things. Multiple teams blew it with Paul, Curry, Pierce, Wade and Love.2 Nowitzki and George were high-ceiling prospects who panned out and then some. Kobe, Garnett and T-Mac were undervalued high schoolers. Harden and Allen went in the right spots to the right teams. And Nash … who the heck can figure out what happened with Nash??? He’s probably the one mega-outlier — well, until Tyler Ennis becomes the next post-lottery Canadian point guard to win two MVPs and get his own Grantland series.
Question 4: Is there any rhyme or reason to snaring one of the best three picks in an NBA draft, period?
I know, I know … we’re dealing with a fairly small sample size, and I’m definitely not trying to out-FiveThirtyEight anyone over at FiveThirtyEight. This column is for entertainment purposes only, and really, just a convoluted excuse for me to redraft everyone from 1995 through 2013. But here’s where the best, second-best and third-best players were drafted over the past 19 years.
Best picks: nos. 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 4, 4, 5, 9, 9, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 28
Second-best picks: nos. 1, 1, 1, 1, 3, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7, 9, 9, 9, 11, 15, 21, 43, 57
Third-best picks: nos. 1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 5, 5, 8, 10, 14, 15, 17, 30, 34, 47, 48
That’s 57 picks in all. Twelve of 57 were drafted first overall; 18 of 57 were drafted 2-through-5; 16 of 57 were drafted 6-through-14; and 10 of 57 were drafted 15th or later. Even if you don’t land a top-five pick, there remains a 40 percent chance of drafting a top-three player. If you don’t get a top-three pick, you maintain about a SIXTY percent chance of landing one of the best three players. But hey, keep tanking your buns off, everybody.
Super long piece follows where he goes through 20 years worth of drafts. He ranks DeMar's class as follows
1. Blake Griffin (1)***
2. Stephen Curry (7)***
3. James Harden (3)***
4. Ty Lawson (18)**
5. DeMar DeRozan (9)*
6. Taj Gibson (26)
7. Jrue Holiday (17)*
8. Ricky Rubio (5)7
9. Danny Green (46)
10. Jeff Teague (19)
11. Tyreke Evans (4)
Lottery Whiffs: Hasheem Thabeet (2), Jonny Flynn (6), Jordan Hill (8), Terrence Williams (11), Earl Clark (14)
Lottery Rotation Guys: Brandon Jennings (10),8 Gerald Henderson (12), Tyler Hansbrough (13)
Rotation Guys: James Johnson (16), Eric Maynor (20), Darren Collison (21), DeJuan Blair (37), Jodie Meeks (41), Patrick Beverley (42), Marcus Thornton (43), Chase Budinger (44), Nick Calathes (45), Patty Mills (55)