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The 2014 Draft Preview Part 1: The NCAA Numbers


"The tactical result of an engagement forms the base for new strategic decisions because victory or defeat in a battle changes the situation to such a degree that no human acumen is able to see beyond the first battle. In this sense one should understand Napoleon's saying: "I have never had a plan of operations."
Therefore no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force."

-Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

Every year at around this time, I break out the tools and proceed to analyze and shed light on what is one of my passions. I am always up for writing about the NBA draft.

Welcome then, to the start of my fifth annual draft preview and rankings, where I take it upon myself to write, project, and speculate about the NBA draft using a surprisingly effective draft model to predict player performance using data publicly available on the internet.

We've had some successful graduates. Using this data, I built two models to predict the future performance of NBA draft picks (go here for the model build parts 1 & part 2 ). In very general terms, the models use the available data to predict future performance for each player coming into the draft from the NCAA. Based on that prediction, a ranking is done and a draft recommendation is generated.

It has performed at a very high level. For the full history you can go to:

A neat little summary of how the model does is this:

As always, we are going to try to make it bigger, better and 100% more awesome.

I think this year we outdid ourselves. We start with the NCAA numbers. We will follow with the international numbers in part 2 and finally, the full model with draft recommendations in part 3.

Before we get to the numbers, I need to adress the elephant in the room. You see, I had a plan and it was going to be great. I had all my draft numbers crunched and I was quite ready to wax lyrical about one of the truest truisms in basketball. You see, building a basketball team can be simplified down to the art of properly managing the short supply of skilled tall people. This draft then offered a stark and obvious choice to a team that has meandered away their draft capital. 

The Cavs are on their third number pick in four years and have very little to show for the first two so far. The third then should obviously be spent wisely on the surest possible thing in the NBA, the franchise big. We've seen this story again and again in the NBA. Russell, Wilt, Kareem, Shaq, KG, Duncan, the road to the title is built on these dominant big men and the Cavs looked to have found their man in Joel Embiid.

Then this happened:

If you don't follow Jeff Stotts (@RotowireATC) and his fabulous injury blog, shame on you. The long and the short of it is Embiid suffured a foot injury that will require surgery and takes him out for the year. The injury is one that may indicate a broader systemic issue that could shorten his career and severely limit his production. Or it might not. Were I advising Cleveland, knowing the particular adversarial theological relationships the city's franchises hold, I would have to advise them to avoid this kid like the plague without thorough medical assurances that this is not going to be an ongoing problem.

Bummer. There goes my initial narrative and a potential franchise cornerstone for the Cavaliers.

Let's get to the numbers to see why. This year I'm doing things slightly different so I'll make with the explanations first. With a large assist from Professor Dave Berri over at Wages of Wins, I put together the Wins Produced, Win Score, Position Adjusted Win Score for every player in the NCAA for the 2013-14 season.

  • Wins Produced/Wins ( is of course our main regression based metric on this site. Player value will be shown here shown as the W/L% contribution for a player if he played 48 minutes. In simple terms, a team composed of .100 (10%) players would be expected to win half their games. A team composed of .200 (20%) players would be expected to win all their games (obviously, there are diminishing returns). I've also taken the time to adjust for strength of schedule for each player as well (a big issue in the NCAA).
  • Win Score/Position Adjusted Win Score: Simplified Version of Wins Produced. It’s a measure of net positive things happening on court as a function of a player’s boxscore statistics.  Win Score =  Points + Steal + Offensive Rebounds + 0.5*(Defensive Rebounds +Assists + Blocks) – Turnovers – Field Goal Attempts  – 0.5*(Free Throw Attemps + Personal Fouls). For Position Adjusted Win Score (PAWS) we simply subtract the average performance for players at each position.
One thing that's new is the idea of Ratings.  For each measure we look at, I’ve calculated the mean and standard deviation for all players with a minimum of 12 minutes played per each game played by their team. I’ve then used that to work out the percentile value for each player stat. In layman’s terms, a player with a 10 Rating is better than 10% of all players at his position in the particular stat or component. A 50 Rating means an average player. A 90 Rating means better than 90% of all players. 
You will then see a Wins Rating, a Wins Score/PAWS40 Rating and a Net Rating which combines the two. You will also see ratings for every relevant player statistic (spoilers). 
The NCAA Wins Produced numbers then look like so: (Editor's note: These are just the NCAA numbes and not the final draft projection. Those are coming later)
That table includes all ranked prospects from Draft Express as well as the top 50 unranked seniors.
A sorted version of that table looks like so:
Lot's of good information on all the players but it doesn't really provide a lot of detail. What if I gave you the tools to find that detail?

NCAA Interactive Player Ratings


That table has every single qualifying NCAA player and shows their rating for every single important category so you can see why the overall numbers like or dislike them.

But what if you wanted to compare players? Knock yourselves out:

NCAA Player Comparison Tool

That should be more than enough to get your feet wet. Next up, international prospects,but you'll have to wait for that until Part 2