Hornets Postseason: Determining the Value of a Draft Pick

Published: May 21, 2008

First off, if you haven't read it, go read Ron's last post about his Memories of the season.  If you don't, this post will explode.  Seriously.  Be afraid.  Now, on to the post-season:

The first step of any off-season is the Draft.  As a long-time lover of the draft and the evaluation process that leads up to it, I've spent some time in the past talking about it.  Last night was the Draft Lottery, where the League determines whom amongst the 14 teams that missed the playoffs would gets the top picks of the Draft.(Chicago won it, with only a 1.7% chance of getting it) Happily, the Hornets are not in the lottery.  Sadly, that means we probably aren't likely to get much in the draft.  At my old blog, I generated two posts regarding the draft, and I'm going to re-introduce them here over the next few days before moving on to evaluating the team for the offseason.  I apologize if you've read it before.

An Evaluation of Draft Picks and Their Value

How is this useful?  The Hornets will own the 27th pick of the draft this year.  With this information we can determine if its worth keeping, what we should expect to get in return for it should we trade it, and what should we expect to get if we use it.

To determine the value of a pick, I determined an overall ranking based loosely on the Wages of Wins Win Score(My favorite player eval score) and applied it to all the players who have been taken in the drafts since 1984.  I also cut off my evaluation of players after 2005 since most players don't reach their true level of play until their third season.  Finally I jammed those numbers into a simple Grade ranking. Below is what each grade means, and I give an example player the Hornets drafted.

  • N/A – the player never logged an NBA minute. (Tim Pickett, Andrew Betts)
  • F – The player never developed and earned only minor garbage time minutes. (Kirk Haston, Marcus Vinicius)
  • D – A substitute – possibly in the rotation, but a 7th or 8th man at best.(Lee Nailon, man we had him STARTING?)
  • C – A fringe starter, good backup.(Ricky Davis, JR Smith)
  • B – A good starter (David West, Jamaal Magloire)
  • A – A star(Baron Davis, Chris Paul)

Interestingly enough, when I was doing my analysis, the picks fell rather logically into groups based on their average rating so I’ve collated those groups in the below table and then determined the % chance of receiving each classification of player.

Pick(s) A B C D F N/A Average 
1st 57% 14% 19% 5% 5% 0% B
2-6 20% 24% 27% 19% 8% 1% C
7-11  16% 13% 25% 30% 15% 0%  C- 
12-19 7% 10% 23% 23% 36% 1% D+
20-28 5% 6% 18% 30% 37% 5% D
29-38 1% 4% 10% 28% 40% 17% D-
After 38 1% 1% 1% 17% 29% 43%


So what does this tell us? The 1st pick is worth a lot more than any other pick, period. With the 1st pick of the draft, there is a 70% chance to land a major player. As soon as the pick drops to any of the spots between 2nd and 6th, the team becomes just as likely to get a 6th man as they are to get a star. The team's odds of getting a bust has also now increased to 28%. That's really significant: One out of every four players taken 2 through 6 in the draft is likely to be a bust. That means at least one(and maybe 2) of the following players taken in last year’s draft will probably never pan out: Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Mike Conley, Jeff Green, Yi Jianlin.

I should also note there is no significant difference between picking 2nd and picking 6th. The players taken in those spots produce almost equally in the NBA.

The next group are Picks 7-11. As you can see, the odds of picking up a starting-caliber player or better has dropped to less than one in three. Still, with one of these picks, there is a great chance of landing a useful player(54%), and better than a 6% chance you'll get a star.

Picks 12-19 are where the numbers start bottoming out. While still likely to land a rotation player, the chance of getting a star is small.  You are also more likely to get a total bust(37%) than you are to get a starter.(17%)

20-28 continues the trend, with more players falling into the grades D and F(67%) though it is still possible to land a good player.  The odds are that one of the players picked in this range will at least be a starter, and another one will land in a rotation.  The rest?  Not so good.

Picks 29 through 38 are essentially the last chance to get anyone worth drafting. Almost half the players taken here will stick with a team for a couple years and a rare few will pan out and be good.(5%) The bad news is a team is more likely(17%) to have the draft pick never play an NBA minute than become a valuable contributer to the team.(15%)

Players taken after 38 are pretty much throw-aways. Almost half will never play in the NBA, and a bare 2% will ever be considered good. If the team digs up a rotation sub, they've beaten the odds.