Value of a Draft Pick: 6, 39 and 40

Published: May 18, 2016

And with the results last night, it’s time for my “Value of a Draft Pick” post, where I once again point out what a crap-shoot the Draft is for anyone not picking first! And we’re not! Damnit.

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 Pelican’s picks specifically. If you only care about how the 6th, 39th and 40th picks historically perform, 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 and 2012 (I cut if off there because 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 Pels/Hornets player:

  • N/A – the player never logged an NBA minute. (Tim Pickett, Andrew Haluska)
  • F – The player never developed and earned only minor garbage time minutes – or was really, really bad. (Darius Miller, Hilton Armstrong, Austin Rivers)
  • D – A substitute – possibly in the rotation, but a 8th or 9th man at best. (Brandon Bass, Julian Wright)
  • C – A fringe starter, 5th-8th man sort. (JR Smith, Jason Smith)
  • B – A solid starter (David West, Jamaal Magloire)
  • A – A star (Pre-fat Baron Davis, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis)

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 62% 10% 17% 7% 3% 0%
2-5 37% 20% 25% 13% 4% 1%
6-10 19% 19% 23% 24% 15% 0%
11-18 8% 15% 23% 28% 26% 1%
19-27 5% 12% 22% 30% 29% 2%
28-37 3% 5% 13% 27% 39% 12%
38-60 1% 2% 11% 20% 30% 35%

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. 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 good player(38%), and an okay (19%) chance to land 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(27%) than you are to get a starter.(23%)

19-27 continues the trend, with more players falling into grade D and lower(61%) 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.(8%)

Players taken after 37 are pretty much throwaways. Almost a third will never play in the NBA, and a bare 3% will ever be considered good. Out of 22 picks, two teams will probably dig up decent rotation players, but they’ve clearly beaten the odds – and historically the ones that are decent are also ones that take a few years to arrive. (Ginobili, Marc Gasol, Splitter)

6th Pick Specifics

Here are the stats specifically for the 6th pick of the draft, which is currently held by the Pelicans:

Pick A B C D F N/A
6th 21% 10% 10% 34% 24% 0%

Alright, deep breath people. Historically, the 6th pick in the draft has actually performed worse than any other pick in the top 10. There have been some pretty solid guys taken at six, but there are also very very few in between guys, and half of the players taken have just been bad. In other words, it’s been boom or bust for teams picking in this spot. I have a feeling this happens because all the clear blue-chippers are off the board at this point, and teams start grabbing “upside” prospects, for need, or for the Random Senior Who Played Well In College But No One Ever Seriously Thought He Was NBA Material Before But Hey He Won The College Player Of the Year Award So Lets Get Him.

For reference, some of the good players taken 6th over the years include Damian Lillard, Brandon Roy, Kenny “the Jet” Smith, and Shane Battier.

Some of the bad? Yi Jianlin and his chair, Jan Vesely and his girlfriend, and Johnny Flynn, who was selected before Curry and expected to be the Timberwolves PG of the future.

The 39th and 40th picks of the draft

So what did trading Ish Smith net the Pelicans besides lots of minutes for Norris Cole to abuse?


Pick A B C D F N/A
39th 0% 4% 21% 32% 29% 14%
40th 0% 7% 14% 24% 31% 24%

You may have noticed – but these picks are at the top of the final tier of picks – mostly because this is where picks start to generate, at best, one star over the 30 years of picks I’m evaluating. As you can see, neither of these picks have generated a star. The best players these two picks have produced are Khris Middleton, chain-smoking Dino Radja, and depending how you feel about them, Monta Ellis, Will Barton, and Lance Stephenson.

Of course, more than 70% of the players taken in these spots have simply been bad – and many of them didn’t play a minute in the NBA. Remember that when you are talking yourself into Chinanu Onuaku or DeAndre Bembry falls out of the first round ALL THE WAY TO US!!


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