Hornets Off-Season: The Numbers are Out

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Published: June 23, 2008

This is one of my favorite times of year in the NBA calendar.  I'm a major draft nut, and every day I visit nbadraft.net, DraftExpress, ESPN, and a half-dozen other sites that carry even peripheral information about the draft.  Something about the rampant optimism that leads up to the draft is  attractive to me.  It's such a crapshoot.  It's exciting! 

Recently, I've been trying to get a handle on three things, which I will present to you today:

  1. How deep is this draft, really.
  2. Which players are going to be value picks if they land where projected.
  3. Which players are workout wonders who will end up being taken too high.

Figuring these things out has been made greatly easier over the last week as the major sites all released their statistical analysis for the players in the draft.  Hollinger over at ESPN dropped his over the weekend, and DraftExpress has done some great by-the-numbers stuff for each position.  The Wages of Wins Journal has also spit out a set of draft analysis.  As a stat geek who could only watch College Ball in bits and pieces during the season, these are invaluable to me. 

So the first question – and one that should be most important to Hornets fans since our team holds the 27th pick:  How deep is this draft, really?  A lot of sites have stated that the best feature of this draft is how deep it is.  Most claim that there will still be lots of solid players available in the second round.  Applying my own analysis of the numbers presented above . . . I get right around 28 guys who will be worth drafting.  Is that an unusual number? Let me point you to the "Value of a Draft Pick" post I made before.  Apply those numbers, and you get about 20 guys worth drafting per year.

So yes, this draft seems deeper than usual.  Will that mean if the Hornets trade the 27th pick and pick up one or more mid-second round(40-50) draft picks, they will get a good prospect?  No.  Look at the chart in the Value of a Draft Pick post.  After the 38th pick, you have, on average, a 3% chance of getting someone who will contribute.  3%.  Even if you wanted to stretch and say this draft could possibly be twice as good as any other, you're giving yourself a 6% chance of success.  No thanks.  If the Hornets move the 27th pick for picks later in the draft, I'll be writing off the draft and just be happy that second rounders don't get guaranteed money – and hoping free agency isn't so disappointing.

Here's my list of players who will be value picks:

1) Marreese Speights
This guy could go anywhere from 10th to 30th according to most of the information I've been able to gather, mostly because hes looked somewhat out of shape and teams question his committment to basketball.  Here's the rub:  Statistically, he's probably the best big man in this draft behind Michael Beasley and Kevin Love.  That's with him being fat and possibly disinterested.  Take this guy, get him into an NBA weight training regimen, and see if he doesn't explode.

2) Mario Chalmers
The numbers love this guy.  Chalmers is not mistake prone, an efficient shooter, and does well in stats that most basketball stats guys say are good predictors for athletic success in the Pros.  Chalmers is probably the third, and maybe the second, best point guard prospect in this draft.  If he falls to the Hornets, I'm going to gurgle with happiness.  You heard me.  Gurgle.

3) Richard Hendrix
This guy is almost universally regarded as an early second round, possible late first round pick.  The perception of him is that he's an undersized banger with little skills.  The statistics tell the story that he's good at some things that don't fit that description.  He's a surprisingly good passer, remarkably good at holding on to the ball, and is one of the 5 best rebounders in this draft.  He deserves to go in the early 20s, late teens.

4) DJ White
DJ is the classic tweener that everyone writes off,  allows to slip to the beginning of the second round, and then surprises everyone by playing well.  He's good enough to eventually be the first big man off the bench for a lot of teams, based on his adjusted college numbers.  Like Hendrix, he probably should go in the early 20s.  Instead, he'll probably go at the beginning of the second round.

5) Pat Calathes
Pat has been generally ignored after posting several very good seasons.  Sure, he'll never be an unstoppable scorer.  However, he probably will be the guy who can do all the little things, defend well, get your team a few baskets and be worth 20 minutes a game on the floor.  That means he should go 20th-30th, not 40th to undrafted like he's projected to go.

Players who are workout wonders, but their numbers say they aren't what they look like:

1) Courtney Lee
*Gasp* I hear you say.  Yes.  The player the rumors say the Hornets have identified as a primary target is overrated.  No, I don't think he'd be a terrible pick at 27.  However, the numbers say that Lee feasted on easy competition at WKU and that his stats don't actually stand out that much.  The numbers point him to be about the 30th best player in this draft.  Right now he's getting consideration at 19 or 22.  That's too high to take him.

2) Robin Lopez
His brother Brook is solid.  Robin looks like crap according to any stat line, but it looks like somehow he's worked his stock up a good ten slots or so and will be taken around 15th.  Congrats whoever takes him – they've just picked Rafael Araujo.  I guess its fitting that Toronto seems to like him.

3) Russell Westbrook
Westbrook has worked out so well he's high in the Lottery now.  Every workout is accompanied with raves about his athleticism.  Too bad his career at UCLA produced really crappy numbers.  He was turnover prone, shot poorly, scored poorly, and played a lot of minutes while producing very little.  Even his defensive markers were poor.  It appears the GMs are hoping they are drafting the next Rajon Rondo.  Not a chance.  Maybe the next Fred Jones.

4) Anthony Randolph
Please don't hurt me, LSU fans.  Randolph is actually falling down the charts as a result of his workouts.  He started as a top 10 player, and is now likely to go in the mid-teens.  The problem is, according to his adjusted stats, that's still way too high to pick him.  His numbers are absolutely dreadful, and overall his ranking ends up around 40th overall in this draft.  He's only 18, but that's abysmal.  Someone is going to pick him too high.

So here's my updated list of people I'd love to land at 27.  Keep in mind this is a list of people that COULD fall to us there:

1) Speights(I really doubt he falls past 20)
2) Mario Chalmers
3) Richard Hendrix
4) Chris Douglas-Roberts (His numbers are solid, but unspectacular)
5) DJ White
6) Courtney Lee

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