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Grading the 2014 Draft: Part 2

The NBA draft used to be everything.

Before the 1989 season, about half of the wins in the NBA came from players who were playing during their first four years in the league. Those players were key cogs (or the one principal cog) on championship/finals teams (Magic, Bird, Worthy, McHale, Sampson, Olajuwon, and Rodman are some names that come to mind).

You either won the draft or you were not contending.

But then the world changed. 

Since 1989, only about 35% of the league's wins have come from player's in their first four years. There are many reasons for this (the CBA's loosening of free agency rules, shortening the draft length, adding an age limit, longer careers from better medicine, etc). The draft went from being the key factor in determining success to one of many. Age and experience started to correlate very strongly with playoff success (see below for an average age table from 2003 to 2012).

The draft ceased to be the panacea for all of a team's ailments. What it really became was a way for the best run franchise teams to expand their edge over the rest of the NBA.

The Spurs are the perfect illustration of this. Somehow, they keep drafting outside of the lottery and finding stars to continue to extend their long term dominance.

It's almost like the majority of teams are valuing the wrong variable factor. What could that be?

"Yay Points!", indeed. It's no accident that the prospective draft classes from Draft Express were strongly tilted to Points per 40 and Field Goal Attemps per 40. You'll note that the good unranked seniors are tilted towards true shooting percentage.

Sigh. Rant off. Let's get to part two of the draft grades, shall we? (Part 1 is here, the full draft coverage is here ). My remaining grades (and accompanying pithy attempts at analysis and humor) follow.

Let's refresh with the draft results. I had to make a slight correction, since the Wizards actually traded out of the draft by moving the 46 pick to the Lakers for cash. They've got a young roster and almost made the conference finals, so I'll give them a pass. You'll see the new Lakers table below.

2014 NBA Draft Results

As for the Lakers:

They move slightly down to a B because Jordan Clarkson's numbers are pretty awful.

With that correction out of the way, let's get to the rest of the grades. Part 1 ended with Pat Riley and the Heat. Part 2 begins with Jason Kidd and the Bucks (not a sentence I thought I'd be typing a week ago).

 

For the Bucks' grade, it comes down to how one feels about Jabari Parker. The numbers indicate that he won't be an immediate impact player. He does have skill. He was a top ten % player as a 19 year old in the NCAA. But he can rebound and get to the line and he's projected as a bordeline starter. He has potential. The Bucks' big worry should be that he'll end up being a great player for someone else.

The other two picks were terrible. Inglis was not good in a third tier league. O'Bryant was downright terrible in the NCAA. 

I give them a C-; as much potential as Parker has, surrounding him with bad players increases the likelyhood of him leaving if/when he blossoms.

 

 

Minnesota actually did really well in the 2013 draft. Here's what I said at the time watching it live:

The T-wolves reach as well. To make the case, Dieng is tall and he played for a really, really good team. He put up an excellent 0.267 WP40 last year. The model typically has a blind spot for bigs on deep teams. I like this one.

The lesson is simple: when in doubt, draft tall people from good teams that put up good numbers. Say it with me: there is a short supply of skilled tall people. This year, though, the T-Wolves crapped the bed. With three picks, including the 13th pick (fitting), Minnesota was not able to draft a single player who cracked the top 35% of the league they were playing in. Zach LaVine's best skill sems to be that he's a slightly above average three point shooter. I'm not sure what Glenn Robinson brings to the table other than name recognition and the ability to screw up our databases. I hate legacy picks, they rarely work (see Austin Rivers). Gentile is another below average performer who brings no discernible skills to the table.

The country club gentleman strikes again.

Kevin Love deserves better than this. The Wolves get an F for Free Kevin Love. We'll treat you better in Boston, Kevin!

 

The Pelicans had one late round pick. They took a senior point guard with great NCAA numbers in Russ Smith who is undersized, but projects to be at least a rotation player. Solid pick, made better by where they actually picked.

Solid B for the Pellies.

The Knicks and Phil Jackson are still in their honeymoon period. So far, I've been fine with what Phil has done. He looks like he's going to let the supremely overrated Carmelo Anthony walk and get some assets back from the team that wants him in a sign and trade (that really worked out well for the Nuggets, who proceeded to set a franchise record for wins after trading their "franchise" player). Phil also looks like he's trying to put the band back together. I would not be surprised if somehow Pau wound up in New York (Pau sign and trade for Bargnani's expiring contract?). 

However, this draft doesn't look as good. The model does not like Early at 34, because despite being a 23 year old, his rating was only an 83. He can score at a high rate and with good efficiency. I could see him contributing. The Knicks have shown a uncanny tendency to find some late gems (*cough* illegal workouts *cough*). But then there's the next pick. Thanasis Antetokounmpo was the worst projected player in our analysis. Every number on him leads us to the conclusion that the Greek Freak prequel (Thanasis is actually the older brother) is not as good as the original. 

Finally, Phil rolled a natural 20 saving throw on his last pick. Louis Labeyrie had excellent numbers in the French league last year and (in limited minutes) put up the best projected Wins Produced per 48 minutes in our database. The sample is small but the cost is miniscule.

Given all that, I'm giving Phil a C but history could prove me wrong (in both redirections).

 

Sam Presti is supposed to be brilliant, right? That means I should grade him on a curve. The Thunder have been excellent at drafting during Presti's tenure. Steve Adams was just the latest in a string of relatively cheap gold star finds. Mitch McGary at 21 is an excellent prospect with great numbers who's underpriced because of injuries and a marijuana suspension. Good pick for them. John Huestis was just OK in college but it's who they didn't pick at 29 that is the problem. There is no way that the Thunder should have let the Spurs get Kyle Anderson at 30. No way. Major deduction for Presti on that one. Christon is meh.

Presti gets a B- because he should have thrown his body in front of the Spurs pick.

 

The models look at Aaron Gordon and shake their heads. I know he's 18, but an 85 rating in the NCAA is way below what I want from a number 4 pick. Particularly when these numbers might be inflated because he had to play center on an undersized college team. He's my pick for most likely bust of the draft. The Magic make up for it though by trading for Payton at 10. He was very productive in college and has some exceptional skills (getting to the line, passing, steals). I wouldn't be surprised if Payton is starting next year. Roy Marble is a chucker but the model seems to think he could stick on a bench (0.07 WP48 projection), 

Two lottery picks and a second rounder with an expected value of a starter, a bench player and a bust? I give the Magic a C simply because of the players that were available at number 4 (Julius Randle was right there).

 

Philadelphia picked six times in the 2014 draft. All part of Sam Hinkie's master plan. I've explained before why this is a great idea.

You put a young team together through multiple draft picks. If you assume the draft is a coin flip, more picks are better, as you can bring multiple guys in and keep those you like. Once you put a winning young team together, you keep them together and watch them grow into a contender. Hinkie and the Sixers started this last year very successfully by drafting the 2014 rookie of the year Michael Carter Williams and the likely 2015 rookie of the year Nerlens Noel (who would still be considered the best prospect of all of this year's rookies).This year, they add Joel Embiid (possible 2016 rookie of the year) with the 3 pick and possible 2017 rookie of the year Dario Saric. 

The Sixers knoked it out of the park with those first two picks this year. KJ. McDaniels and Jerami Grant are not loved by the model but have very good NCAA numbers and should be able to play in the NBA. The last two picks look like a Euro stash in Micic and a pure chucker in McRae.

I think Hinkie is doing a brilliant job so far. The only reason this grade is not better is that I disliked their later picks and would have liked for tham to take another seven footer (Tavares comes to mind).

The Suns had a surprisingly good team that was unlucky to be in the Western Conference. Had they been in the East, there is a very good chance they go the Conference Finals.

I did not love their draft.

T.J Warren was not a high level NCAA player. His skills were a) putting up a lot of shots (which is not a very valuable one) and b) getting to the line. Not sure how that is particularly valuable to a team with Goran Gragic and Eric Bledsoe. Phoenix would have been a great home for Capela. I'd have been happy if they took Tyler Ennis at 14 and not 18. Ennis was a more interesting prospect with good numbers -- particualrly for a 19 year old. Again, I am confused by the fit next to Dragic and Bledsoe. And Bogdan Bogdanovic is a terrible pick. A 21 year old average player from the Adriatic league who shoots terriblly and puts up a ton of shots is not someone I want on my team. Alec Brown is another questionable pick. He's tall and he likes to shoot. Good blocker but terrible rebounder. Unproductive seven footers who shoot threes can be a terrible thing. At least they didn't pick him number 1.

I give them a D-. Yes, they did well with the 18th pick, but I don't get the fit with their roster. It was a bad use of their draft capital.

 

There was a lot of hoopla made about the Kings crowdsourcing their draft. I was very interested to see the result. I don't think that went very well at all. With the eight pick they selected Nick Staukas, who was just an 87 in the NCAA. His one skill appears to be that he's a very accurate shooter and I think that has some very real value, but I will point something out: Jimmer Fredette was a really good shooter and couldn't get on the court in Sacramento.

Bad fit for the roster and terrible value for their draft position. Only reason I don't give them an F is that Staukas can shoot.

I was utterly stunned that the Spurs were able to get Kyle Anderson with the 30th pick. Stunned. A super productive hybrid point wingman who's physical skills and actual stats compare to Magic. He's an elite passer with a nose for steals who can play four positions. He couldn't be a better fit for their system. The only knock on him is that he's not in great shape (and it's not like the Spurs have a track record of getting players in shape, right?  ...oh wait.). Go take a look at his scouting video. There is a whole section on him passing the ball like a magician. I love him so much I have a friendly wager going with @glorioushubris where I have the over at 1700 minutes for him next year

It made me think this tweet might actually be on point for the Spurs.

As for the second rounder they picked? Almost feels like they were throwing a scout a bone. Dangubi is not actually good at anything.

I give them a B+ simply because they could have actually tried with that last pick but don't be surprised if in five years we look back on this draft as a draft win as big as the Kawhi Leonard draft for the Spurs.

 

I had a conversation with an NBA insider at Sloan who swore that Andrea Barganani was a Masai guy in Toronto. We know that Masai could trade honesty to Congress, but are we sure he's any good at drafting? If we go by the evidence from this draft and that conversation, I'm going to have to go with "no, we are not sure".

My jaw actually dropped on our podcast when Toronto picked Bruno Caboclo. He's an 18 year old who's played twenty games in the Brazilian League. He's not on the National team or the Junior National team from Brazil. It's the equivalent of the Yankees drafting some kid who plays semi pro double A ball in Puerto Rico. Patrick swears this is a cost saving move. If that's the case, why not just sell the 20th pick and select Caboclo in round 2? I'm pretty sure he would have been there at 37. DeAndre Daniels was a 64 in the NCAA and he's not projected to be an NBA level player. I mean, if you actually needed a wing, Kyle Anderson was available.

WTF Toronto. WTF.

I came around on Dante Exum. Yes, there was no hard data, but the data that did exist pointed to him being at least a decent NBA point guard. There is also an argument to be made that he has a significant level of upside. Utah is a team that, given its location and market, needs to take some gambles to succeed. They also had nothing at the point last year. Yes, it's a gamble, but it's the right team to take that gamble. The Rodney Hood pick was the opposite of the Exum pick. We have hard data that suggest that he's not a very good player. He was an average NCAA player last year. He seems to be at least a decent if not great shooter but it's a terrible use for the 23rd pick.

I'm giving the Jazz a D for lots and lots of doubt.

Wrapping Up

That covers every single team. Let's give  a quick recap.

All grades are in. Time to hit the beach!

-Arturo