The Value of a Draft Pick – and the Hornets Picks

Published: June 22, 2012

It’s time for my annual “Value of a Draft Pick” post, where I once again point out what a crapshoot the Draft is for anyone not picking at the top of the draft. Oh wait, we’re picking first! Pessimism Begone!

As always, I’ll start by explaining my methodology and ranking system, and then summarize the value of picks in the draft before getting to the Hornet’s picks specifically. If you only care about how the 10th and 46th pick historically perform, or the performance of pairs of picks the 10th could be traded for, then skip to the second half of this post.

Determining the Value of a Pick

To determine the value of a pick, I assigned an overall career ranking based on PER and a bastardized Wages of Wins Win Score and applied it to all the players who have been taken in the draft since 1984. Â I also cut off my evaluation of players after 2008 since since it is hard to judge a career trajectory in three seasons. Finally I jammed those numbers into a simple Grade ranking. Below is what each grade means, and I give an example player:

  • 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. (Hilton Armstrong, Cedric Simmons. Yay 2006 draft!)
  • D – A substitute – possibly in the rotation, but a 8th or 9th man at best. (Aaron Gray, Julian Wright)
  • C – A fringe starter, 6th-8th man sort. (JR Smith, Jason Smith)
  • B – A solid starter (David West, Jamaal Magloire)
  • A – A star (Pre-fat 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 57% 13% 22% 4% 4% 0%
2-5 34% 23% 24% 13% 5% 1%
6-10 17% 17% 22% 28% 16% 0%
11-18 8% 13% 20% 28% 30% 1%
19-27 5% 8% 20% 31% 32% 3%
28-37 2% 5% 10% 28% 40% 15%
38-60 1% 2% 10% 19% 29% 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 70% chance to land a major player.(We’ll pause here for you to feel smug . . . okay, let’s go) 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 for Drummond, maybe?). 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 reasonable 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(66%) though it is still possible to land a good player. The odds are that one of the nine 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 throwaways. 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.

10th Pick Specifics – and Trading Down

Here are the stats specifically for the 10th pick of the draft, which is currently held by the Hornets:

Pick A B C D F N/A
10th 17% 26% 22% 26% 9% 0%

Now it depends on how you want to look at it. Glass half full – you have almost a 50% chance at a starter-quality player or better. Glass half empty – you have a 1 in 3 chance of getting garbage. Some players of note who were taken 10th: Horace Grant, Eddie Jones, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. Some you probably haven’t heard of: Luke Jackson, Sene Mouhamed, Adam Keefe.

Now, we can’t really leave it there, though. There are a lot of suggestions that the Hornets trade down in this draft, with the obvious targets being Houston, who owns the 14th and 16th picks, and Boston who owns the 21st and 22nd. I’ve said before on the podcast that trading with Houston is probably too much to ask for the 10th, and Boston is too little. Especially when you consider the Thunder gave us the 21st and 26th a few years ago for the 11th pick, but the Thunder had to take Morris Peterson’s corpse as well. Still – what are the numbers?

Pick A B C D F N/A
14th 17% 9% 13% 26% 35% 0%
16th 4% 13% 13% 43% 26% 0%
21st 4% 22% 22% 22% 30% 0%
22nd 0% 13% 13% 43% 30% 0%

What does that tell us? Historically, trading the 10th for the 21st and 22nd wouldn’t have turned out well. The chance of getting a star plummets, and though the chance of getting a decent player increases slightly, there is also a great chance of ending up with two dead weight players getting paid guaranteed money and sucking up minutes to “develop”.

The 14th and 16th pick trade, however, isn’t as good for the Hornets as I thought it would be. In fact it’s almost a wash. It would slightly increase the chance at a star, but also hugely increase the risk at having dead weight guaranteed contracts on your books.

So would I make either of these trades? I’d do the one with Houston, since this is reportedly a deep draft. For the same reason, however, I think Houston would turn down the offer.

Last, the 46th pick of the draft

So, what did Ariza and Okafor land us other than some money to spend on free agents? This:

Pick A B C D F N/A
46th 4% 0% 17% 17% 26% 35%

So, as far as 2nd round picks go, the 46th pick performs about as well as you’d think. Someone got lucky once, (1986 – Jeff Hornacek) a few people got some nice subs, and 60% of the time, nothing came of it.(Erazem Lorbek anyone? Becirovic Sani? How about DeeAndre Hulett or J.R. Koch? No?)