Sunday, June 26, 2011

Quick thoughts: 2011 NBA Draft

New readers, check out the basics before leaving any comments.

I’ll offer more in-depth coverage shortly, but here are my quick thoughts on the 2011 NBA draft. If you need more draft data in the meantime, take a look at my full draft prospects preview.

Importantly, my evaluations rely on Position Adjusted Win Score (PAWS). PAWS takes Win Score per 40 and adjusts it by position, because each position has different average values. To calculate this, take the WS/40 of a player, subtract the average positional value, and then add the average value for all players. The average values that I'm using are the same ones used by David Berri, who is one of the brains behind Win Score and Wins Produced. With players who are listed as playing two positions, I use a simple average of the two positional values in question. For those who are curious, the values are as follows:

  • PG: 7.4 
  • SG: 8.4 
  • SF: 9.95 
  • PF: 12.59 
  • C: 12.32 
  • All players: 10.17 

Ranking all players by PAWS gives us a good idea of how well a player performed in their various leagues. A word of warning, though: NCAA PAWS/40 does not correlate perfectly to NBA success, and Euroleague PAWS/40 is even worse. There are players with historically good NCAA PAWS (like Michael Beasley) who don't turn out to be good players, just as there are players with poor or mediocre NCAA PAWS who turn out to be pretty decent players (John Wall and Derrick Rose come to mind). For the most part, though, players with a PAWS of 10 or higher usually end up being good NBA players, and players with a PAWS of under 7 end up being below average players. Euroleague PAWS are far less reliable due to the way basketball is played overseas, and to my knowledge, no one has examined how well Euroleague PAWS correlate with NBA productivity. Keep this information in mind while using this data.

1. Who won the draft?

Without question, the Denver Nuggets made the best choices on draft night. With the #22, the Nuggets managed to get the NCAA player who posted the highest PAWS/40 (17.28) in the draft, Kenneth Faried. Then they picked up Jordan Hamilton at #26, who posted the 21st best PAWS/40 (at 10.72) in the draft. Of course, the cost of acquiring the #26 was swapping Raymond Felton for Andre Miller, but (ignoring age) that was largely a lateral move, as Felton and Miller produce at about the same rate and are very close matches salary-wise. With a lineup of Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Jordan Hamilton, Faried, Nene, and Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Chris Andersen coming off the bench (or a similar permutation), Denver looks really scary.

2. Who lost the draft?

With the #6, #18, and #34 picks, the Wizards had a chance at a huge draft haul. Instead, they walked away with Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, and Shelvin Mack. Vesely posted a PAWS/40 of 6.76 overseas, which was only good enough for 66th place among all the players who were drafted. Singleton (8.50, 47th) and Mack (8.67, 43rd) weren’t much better, but at least they were somewhat close to average (PAWS/40 of 10) and not below the cutoff line (PAWS/40 of 7).

3. Who made the biggest steal?

There were a lot of second round steals this year, but to me, the team that had no business getting what it got was the San Antonio Spurs. In exchange for George Hill - an average guard still on his rookie contract - the Spurs got Kawhi Leonard, who posted a PAWS/40 of 13.02, which was good enough for 4th amongst all drafted players. The really amazing part about the trade is that they still have a strong guard rotation (Parker, Ginobili), it shores up the Spurs’ weakest position (small forward), and takes minutes away from the unproductive Richard Jefferson. Now the Spurs can trot out a starting lineup of Parker, Giniobili, Leonard, DeJuan Blair, and Tim Duncan, and try for one last ring before Duncan retires.

4. Who made the biggest reach?

Canadian Tristan Thompson had a PAWS/40 of 8.18, which put him 51st out of all the players who were drafted, and yet the Cavs selected him at #4. While I’m glad they did - it certainly removed any chance that my favourite team, the Raptors, would draft the hometown boy one pick later - it was not a good pick. They made the right choice by picking Kyrie Irving with the #1, but man...there were much better options available at #4. Honourable mentions go out to Washington (Jan Vesely, picked 6th, ranked 66th) and Detroit (Brandon Knight, picked 8th, ranked 65th).

5. How did the Raptors do?

With the #5 pick, the Raptors selected Lithuanian centre Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas didn't play very many minutes last year and his stats are from overseas, so it's hard to say what kind of a player he will turn out to be. But the stats that he put up were impressive (all rate stats are per 40 minutes):

  • Pts: 20.4
  • FG%: 70.0%
  • FTA: 4.6
  • FT%: 91.7%
  • Reb: 14.6
  • Stl: 0.6 
  • TOs: 3.7 
  • Blk: 1.7
  • Ast: 0.6
  • PF: 8.3
In limited minutes, his shooting was incredibly efficient and his rebounding was excellent. The turnovers and fouls need some work, but hopefully that was due to the aggression that many bench players suffer from (they have limited minutes, so when they come into the game they tend to force the issue). As far as PAWS/40 goes, he was the highest rated international player and had the 5th largest PAWS/40 of any player in the entire draft, at 12.95. Valanciunas was indeed a mystery box option, but he was the best mystery box option, and I'm rather happy with this pick. Given that all signs were pointing towards a Brandon Knight, Bismack Biyombo, or even Tristan Thompson, I'm glad the Raptors ended up with the Lithuanian, even if he won't make it here until the 2012-13 season. As a bonus, centre is the one position that the Raptors desperately need to improve, and this pick points towards a Bargnani trade in the near future. I don't get to say this very often, but kudos to Bryan Colangelo for a job well done!

- Devin


  1. Not to mention the Euroleague is better competition than the NCAA.

  2. That's true, although the limited minutes still leave me somewhat concerned. With small sample sizes, crazy things can happen!