The Value of a Draft Pick

Published: June 9, 2009

Now that I’ve finished speculating(read: drooling) over trades that will most likely never occur, it’s time to move on to the draft.  Through various methods, the Hornets have indicated that they are most likely not selling their pick this year, and intend to use it. 

(Now, to me, that means we’ll probably see a trade (Tyson Chandler probably) on draft night.  Jeff Bower is a pretty conservative GM, so he’s not likely to be willing to take on a guaranteed rookie contract unless he already has something in place to start cutting salary.  I both fear and anticipate the outcome.)

Anyways, the purpose of this post is to get an idea exactly what draft picks are worth historically.  Long time readers of this blog or the blog I wrote before Niall paid me one billion dollars to join him here at Hornets247 will be familiar with this post, since I’ve done it the past two years.

Evaluating the Value of a Draft Pick

To determine the value of a pick, I assigned an overall career ranking based on a bastardized Wages of Wins Win 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 – and I haven’t yet been able to upload this seasons stats.  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 – or was really, really bad. (Cedric Simmons, Marcus Vinicius)
  • D – A substitute – possibly in the rotation, but a 7th or 8th man at best. (Lee Nailon)
  • C – A fringe starter, sixth man sort. (JR Smith)
  • B – A good starter (David West, Jamaal Magloire)
  • A – A star (Baron Davis, Chris Paul)

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” Ranking
“B” Ranking “C” Ranking “D” Ranking “F” Ranking “N/A” Ranking
1 55% 18% 23% 0% 5% 0%
2-5 35% 23% 22% 15% 5% 1%
6-10 17% 17% 21% 30% 15% 0%
11-18 8% 14% 20% 28% 30% 1%
19-27 5% 9% 18% 34% 32% 3%
28-37 2% 5% 9% 27% 41% 15%
38-60 1% 1% 10% 18% 30% 40%


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 72% chance to land a major player.  However, as soon as the pick drops to any of the spots between 2nd and 5th, only a little more than half the players are starter quality, and one out of five will be awful(D ranking or worse). I should also note there is no significant difference between picking 2nd and picking 5th. The players taken in those spots produce almost equally in the NBA.

The next group are Picks 6-10. As you can see, the odds of picking up a starting-caliber player or better has dropped to one in three. Still, with one of these picks, there is a great chance of landing a useful player(54%), and a solid 17% chance you’ll get a star.

Picks 11-18 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(31%) than you are to get a starter.(22%)

19-27 continues the trend, with more players falling into grade D and lower(69%) though it is still possible to land a good player.  The odds are that one of nine the players picked in this range will at least be a starter, and another two will land in a rotation.  The rest?  Yuck.

Picks 28 through 37 are essentially the last chance to get anyone worth drafting. Almost half the players taken here will only stick with a team for a couple years while a rare few will pan out and be good.(7%) The bad news is a team has the same chance that a draft pick will never play an NBA minute(15%) as it does finding a valuable contributer.(16%)

Players taken after 37 are pretty much throw-aways. Almost half will never play in the NBA, and a bare 2% will ever be considered good. Two teams will probably dig up decent rotation players, but they’ve clearly beaten the odds.

Value of the 21st Pick

To wrap this post up, here are the stats specifically for the 21st pick of the draft, which is currently held by the Hornets:

Pick A B C D F N/A
21 0% 23% 18% 27% 32% 0%


The numbers are slightly misleading as Michael Finley was a 21st pick, but due to the last few years of low production on the Spurs, has slipped to a “B” ranking for his career.  Rajon Rondo was also taken 21st, but was drafted in 2006, and I didn’t include players drafted after 2005.  Other than those two, players like Boris Diaw, Jeff Foster, Anthony Parker and some guy named Erick Murdock top the rankings, with  Morris Peterson, Nate Robinson and Jon Barry not far behind.  Of course, there are also disasters like Pavel Podkolzine, Qyntel Woods, Joe Forte, and Dickey Simpkins.