Thursday, December 2, 2010

Top 3 draft picks (part II)

New readers, please read the basics before leaving any comments.

As a follow-up to the last post about top three draft picks, I've made some modifications to my first table (new spreadsheet still here):

Certain people were blinded by some big numbers, so I added some new parts. The first, "title teams without own top 3 draft pick," is pretty self-explanatory, but I figure I'd better explain it anyways. That counts the number of teams that won a championship without having a player on their roster that said team drafted in the top three slots. Any difference between the numbers in this new category and the previous number of 88.9% (40/45) can be explained by trades or free agency. That means that only 29 teams - 64.4% - of teams that won a championship won it with a player that they themselves took with a top three selection. Not as rosy a number, is it?

It's still a rather large number, but as with John McCain, it gets worse (sorry Canadian readers, you'll have to go to the Comedy Network site me, I hate it too). The last category explains the number of top three picks that won one or more championships with the team that drafted them. Of the 135 top three picks taken from 1966-2010, only 13 (not 16 as it says in the table, because Baylor, West, and Barry were drafted before 1966) managed to win a championship with the team that drafted them. Between them, these 13 players have managed to win 27 championships. Who are these players, and how many titles did they win with the team that drafted them?
  • Michael Jordan, 6
  • Magic Johnson, 5
  • Tim Duncan, 4
  • Kevin McHale, 3
  • Hakeem Olajuwon, 2
  • David Robinson, 2
  • Isiah Thomas, 2
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1
  • Bill Walton, 1
  • Wes Unseld, 1
  • Sean Elliott, 1
  • Darko Milicic, 1
  • Cazzie Russell, 1
Of these players, most are all-time greats. Jordan, Johnson, Duncan, McHale, Olajuwon, Abdul-Jabbar, Walton, Unseld, and Robinson fall into this category. Sean Elliott and Isiah Thomas were over-rated scorers - occasionally good players who weren't the real driving forces behind their teams (and Elliott was traded away and then re-acquired prior to winning a title with the team that drafted him). Cazzie Russell played most of his career before turnovers were tracked, but I suspect that he'd fall into the same category as Elliott and Thomas (or worse). And then we have Milicic (no comment necessary, I hope).

The fact is that very few teams that have a top three pick will celebrate a championship with the player they draft; only 9.6% of teams have managed to win a championship with a top three pick that they've drafted (from 1966-2010). In order to be successful, teams need to have several good players and at least one superstar player. Most rookies aren't superstar players, and most top three picks don't play with good teammates. All of this leads me to say (again) that the Raptors need to build a good team, ditch bad contracts, learn how to draft, and stop worrying about tanking.

Next time I talk about top three picks, I'm going to compare championship teams to non-championship teams. Originally I was going to include that analysis in this post, but it's going to take a lot of work and be rather long, so this'll have to tide you over for now.

 - Devin


  1. Devin,
    Love it! Robinson has two championships btw :) Isiah btw was a good player but of course was really second banana to Rodman (think the 80s version of Kobe but he had Jordan and Clyde to keep the media in check).

    Can't wait for part 3. Seriously man if Toronto gets sold their first idea should be to hire you as a stats consult.

  2. Oh crap - I thought I had fixed that mistake earlier. I'll fix it now.

    Isiah had his moments, but he wasn't as good as people remember. Not quite as bad as Iverson, but similar.

    First thing? Hahahaha! I wish. Thanks though!