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Help is Not on the Way (at least not immediately)
by: Paul Gearan - BBIQ Research and Development
June 28, 2006
Paul Gearan
Senior Consultant
Rexer Analytics
www.rexeranalytics.com


NBA draft week is a time of infinite hope, even in a year when the prospects are considered relatively weak Fans begin to speculate on whom would fill that hole in the rotation, how that “piece” is out there if their GM is just savvy enough to obtain him. For teams ready to compete sooner rather than later, there is deep consideration given to the more “NBA ready” player, sometimes code for those college seniors who have refined their game. But infused in much of this talk, is the belief that, at least by the player’s second year certainly, he will begin to meaningfully contribute to the team’s success.

I do not write to praise these dreams, but to bury them.

Below are the findings of an analysis of two-year outcomes of the 117 players drafted in the first round from 1980 to 1984 versus the 143 players drafted in the first round from 2000 to 2004. The college senior was a draft expectation, not exception, in the early 80s, and the emergence of the international player was very much in its nascent stage. Thus, the early 80s provides a good comparative context to this decade’s trends.

Some of the primary questions to be addressed are:

What, in this era, can reasonably be expected in the short run (i.e. over the first 2 seasons) from draft picks?
• Does the uncertainty of making high picks on such young players, make late first round picks more valuable?
• Does drafting a college senior increase your odds of getting a player who can help you immediately?
• Is the inclusion of high school and international players completely to blame for the potential lack of production over the first two years in the league?
• Do some positions have more of an immediate impact in the league than others?


Greater detail on the methodology of how player position and outcome (in that article over the first 5 years, here the first two) was determined can be found here.

Finding I: If you want immediate help from the draft, go back and draft in the early 80s. A third (33%) of the players drafted in the first round from 1980-84 were at least solid NBA starters by their second season compared with only 15% of those drafted from 2000-04 (Figure 1). Over a third (35%) of the players drafted from 2000-04 were sitting at the end of benches (or out of the league) in their second year. If you wanted an immediate star in this decade you could not dawdle: five of the six players drafted from 2000-04 (at least in this rating system) who were stars by their second season (Yao Ming, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade) were drafted among the top 5 picks (only Amare Stoudemire [9th] defied the odds).



As most star players are found at the top of the draft, perhaps limiting ourselves to this portion of the draft would be provide a different outlook; however, it is just as pronounced a difference. Over half (53%) of the players drafted in the top half of the first round from 1980 to 1984 were at least solid starters by their second season (Figure 2). However from 2000 to 2004, only a quarter (25%) of top-half picks were solid NBA starters by their second seasons.



Finding II: The bottom half of the first round is faring no better than it did in the early 80s; in fact, it does slightly worse. Late first round picks have rarely been players of much immediate impact: they have the dual barriers of not being generally as talented as those drafted above them and playing for better teams who have set rotations, thus providing less opportunity for young players. But, some have still wondered: with so many highly talented but speculative young layers drafted early, maybe there are some good deals late in the round? As Figure 3 illustrates, there are precious few immediate impact players to be garnered. Only 5 of the 73 players (7%) drafted in the bottom half of the first round of the 2000-04 drafts had become solid starters by their second seasons (Tony Parker, Tayshaun Prince, Josh Howard, Jameer Nelson, and Delonte West). Even in the early 80s, significant success was rare for late first round picks (9 of 60 at least solid starters [15%]). There are not, and have never been, many instant pearls found late in the first round.



Finding III: The reduction in early NBA production from the early 80s this decade is not just a high school and foreign player effect: Because only 19 high school and 28 foreign players were drafted in the first round from 2000-04, this making of firm generalizations is tenuous at best. However, for the small sample we do have, about 16-17% of both college and high school players drafted in the first round in this era are at least solid starters by their sophomore NBA season. Of course, for the most part, only the top high school players are drafted in the first round, so their lack of experience is somewhat balanced by their superior talent. But, fundamentally, very few high school or college players are making a great impact.

“Yes, but” you say “it is those college seniors who will be able to step right in and contribute” The only 10 college seniors drafted in the top half of the first round from 2000 to 2004 are: Kenyon Martin (drafted #1), Etan Thomas (12), Courtney Alexander (13), Mateen Cleaves (14), Shane Battier (6), Melvin Ely (12), Fred Jones(14), Marcus Banks (13), Rafael Araujo (8), and Luke Jackson (10). Certainly Martin had an immediate impact in his first two seasons, but Battier is the only other member of this list who came into the NBA and made some noise right away (and he had his best offensive year as a rookie and tailed precipitously after that). Out of the remaining eight: a couple are already out of the NBA (Alexander, Cleaves), others are barely hanging on (Araujo, Jackson), and the rest have been primarily bench players during their NBA careers. Once again, the top college talents are leaving school early, leaving the second tier talents as the ones more likely to stay for four years. College experience certainly helps most players’ development; however, top talents in this decade are generally not getting the full benefit because they have been (until Wednesday’s draft) skipping college altogether or greatly abridging their college careers.

Players entering the NBA directly from foreign leagues have even slightly lower rates than college or high school players of being at least solid starters (11%).

Finding IV: Simply, there is no position that performs that much better within the first two seasons than others from 2000-04. The rates of second year player being at least solid starters are virtually identical for point/combo guards (15%), wings (17%), and centers (14%). Wing players (55%) are slightly more likely to make it as marginal starters or rotational bench players than are point guards (44%) or big men (47%) within the first two years.

Conclusion

One of the most difficult experiences in life is the uprooting of passionate, yet unrealistic, expectations. So many high school, college, and international players look like potential NBA stars to fans, from what they see and read. A few will have immediate success, but for most, even those who will become good players eventually, the modern era of basketball demands patience and level-headedness from its fans. The NBA draft is a long-term investment, not a quick fix. Most teams who want immediate help from draft picks should probably trade them for NBA veterans who have proven value. Otherwise, settle in and watch your investment grow, slowly.
 


Feedback for this article may be sent to p.gearan@comcast.net .

 

Yao Ming
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 5"
Weight: 296 lbs.
Birthday: 09/12/1980
34 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #1 in 2002 Draft
by the Rockets
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: C,
Possible: C
Quick Stats:
10.2 Pts, 5.4 Rebs, 0.8 Asts


LeBron James
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 245 lbs.
Birthday: 12/30/1984
29 Years Old
Teams:
High School: St. Vincent-St. Mary
Previous Team: Cavaliers , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #1 in 2003 Draft
by the Cavaliers
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
15.0 Pts, 4.0 Rebs, 5.0 Asts


Carmelo Anthony
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 7"
Weight: 233 lbs.
Birthday: 05/29/1984
30 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Oak Hill Academy
Previous Team: Syracuse , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #3 in 2003 Draft
by the Nuggets
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
15.2 Pts, 5.2 Rebs, 2.8 Asts


Chris Bosh
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 11"
Weight: 225 lbs.
Birthday: 03/02/1984
30 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Lincoln
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #4 in 2003 Draft
by the Raptors
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF
Quick Stats:
17.8 Pts, 7.8 Rebs, 1.4 Asts


Amare Stoudemire
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 10"
Weight: 233 lbs.
Birthday: 11/16/1982
31 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Cypress Creek
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #9 in 2002 Draft
by the Suns
Positions:
Current: PF/C,
NBA: PF/C,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
6.8 Pts, 4.6 Rebs, 0.6 Asts


Tony Parker
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 177 lbs.
Birthday: 05/17/1982
32 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #28 in 2001 Draft
by the Spurs
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
18.0 Pts, 2.3 Rebs, 4.8 Asts


Tayshaun Prince
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 215 lbs.
Birthday: 02/28/1980
34 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Dominguez
Previous Team: Kentucky , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #23 in 2002 Draft
by the Pistons
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
2.5 Pts, 1.3 Rebs, 0.3 Asts


Josh Howard
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 6"
Weight: 202 lbs.
Birthday: 04/28/1980
34 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Robert B. Glenn
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #29 in 2003 Draft
by the Mavericks
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
6.7 Pts, 3.3 Rebs, 1.0 Asts


Jameer Nelson
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 0"
Weight: 193 lbs.
Birthday: 02/09/1982
32 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Chester
Previous Team: St. Joseph's , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #20 in 2004 Draft
by the Nuggets
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
9.4 Pts, 3.6 Rebs, 4.6 Asts


Delonte West
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 183 lbs.
Birthday: 07/26/1983
31 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Eleanor Roosevelt
Previous Team: St. Joseph's , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #24 in 2004 Draft
by the Celtics
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: SG,
Possible: SG
Quick Stats:
6.0 Pts, 3.3 Rebs, 2.3 Asts


Kenyon Martin
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 230 lbs.
Birthday: 12/30/1977
36 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Bryan Adams
Previous Team: Cincinnati , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #1 in 2000 Draft
by the Nets
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF
Quick Stats:
4.3 Pts, 4.2 Rebs, 1.6 Asts


Etan Thomas
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 256 lbs.
Birthday: 04/01/1978
36 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Booker T. Washington
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #12 in 2000 Draft
by the Mavericks
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: C,
Possible: C
Quick Stats:
2.5 Pts, 1.8 Rebs, 0.2 Asts


Courtney Alexander
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 205 lbs.
Birthday: 04/27/1977
37 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Charles E. Jordan
Previous Team: Fresno State , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #13 in 2000 Draft
by the Magic
Positions:
Current: G,
NBA: G,
Possible: G
Quick Stats:
7.9 Pts, 1.8 Rebs, 1.2 Asts


Mateen Cleaves
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 210 lbs.
Birthday: 09/07/1977
37 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Flint Northern
Previous Team: Michigan State , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #14 in 2000 Draft
by the Pistons
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
12.7 Pts, 3.4 Rebs, 8.0 Asts


Shane Battier
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 229 lbs.
Birthday: 09/09/1978
36 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Detroit Country Day
Previous Team: Duke , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #6 in 2001 Draft
by the Grizzlies
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
4.1 Pts, 1.9 Rebs, 0.9 Asts


Melvin Ely
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 10"
Weight: 240 lbs.
Birthday: 05/02/1978
36 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Thornton Township
Previous Team: Fresno State , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #12 in 2002 Draft
by the Clippers
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: C,
Possible: C
Quick Stats:
15.8 Pts, 5.5 Rebs, 1.3 Asts


Fred Jones
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 4"
Weight: 218 lbs.
Birthday: 03/11/1979
35 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Barlow
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #14 in 2002 Draft
by the Pacers
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: SG,
Possible: SG
Quick Stats:
15.0 Pts, 2.0 Rebs, 2.0 Asts


Marcus Banks
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 220 lbs.
Birthday: 11/19/1981
32 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Cimarron-Memorial
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #13 in 2003 Draft
by the Grizzlies
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
8.8 Pts, 1.2 Rebs, 3.2 Asts


Rafael Araujo
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 11"
Weight: 280 lbs.
Birthday: 08/12/1980
34 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Padre Anacleto
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #8 in 2004 Draft
by the Raptors
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: C,
Possible: C
Quick Stats:
5.5 Pts, 3.9 Rebs, 0.8 Asts


Luke Jackson
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 7"
Weight: 212 lbs.
Birthday: 11/06/1981
32 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Creswell
Previous Team: Oregon , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #10 in 2004 Draft
by the Cavaliers
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
8.3 Pts, 2.8 Rebs, 1.0 Asts


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