Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The best NBA drafts (improved analysis)

(Originally posted on Sunday, 24 July 2016; updated on Thursday, 15 June 2017)

I updated all the results after the end of the 2016-2017 season.

This is an altered version of my previous post on this topic. Now I calculate the draft value a little differently. I also eliminated a minor flaw in my formula for the draft value and now the draft value of a player who played in very few games will be close to zero, no matter how well he played in those games.

In these posts:
How to compare NBA players (improved analysis)
Draft value of NBA players (improved analysis) (updated on 15 June 2017)
I described a way to compare NBA players and a way to calculate their draft value. To compare different NBA drafts I used the values of basketball statistics and the formula for the draft value I had described there.

To compare NBA drafts I needed to gather data for over 2000 players, so at this point I would like to thank Mike from the site
who answered my plea for more precise NBA draft data by explaining to me how I could gather the required data in a very easy way. Thank You!

Mike explained to me that I can “filter by draft year for searches in the player season finder and can set the search for career stats”, with this example:

Now to the point of my post. I decided to gather the data from the last 41 NBA drafts (1976-2016), because the year 1976 was the year when NBA merged with the ABA and the players from that draft were the first ones to play their whole NBA career against all the best players in the world. Obviously the most recent drafts will be properly judged in about 20 years.

When I was doing my calculations I realised that comparing NBA drafts from different times is troublesome. In 1970s and 1980s there were much more rounds in the NBA drafts and much more players from those drafts ended playing in the NBA. A good example is Bill Laimbeer, drafted in 1979 in 3rd round, 65th pick overall, who had the second best draft value from that draft (after Magic Johnson).

Should such players be counted for the draft value of the whole draft? But what about comparing such drafts to drafts from the early 1990s (2 rounds per 27 teams = 54 picks)? On the other hand if one team selected several players and they all came to a training camp, each one of them had a harder time to start playing in the NBA. But was a draft with many unpredictable picks really good or was it just lucky?

The additional reason NOT to discard late draft picks is the problem of Manu Ginobili. If I were to take only the first 54 picks from each draft I would have to discard the draft value of Manu Gionobili, who was selected with the 57th pick in the 1999 draft, even though this draft had only two rounds. That would be as troublesome as discarding the draft value of Bill Laimbeer.

I decided to take into consideration all the players, but use only a particular NUMBER of top players (according to their draft value). There is another reason to do it this way: a bunch of mediocre players can sum up to a draft value of an all-star.

One of the ways to determine the value of a particular draft is to ask ourselves a question: “How do we remember that draft?” It boils down to a question: “How well do we remember players from that draft and how much do we value them?” So, on one hand there is a draft “star-value” and on the other hand there is a draft “longevity-value”. My way of calculating the draft value encompasses both values. The crucial question is how many top players should we analyse? How many players can we remember? I decided to base my calculations on top 15 players (according to their draft value).

I have to point out that some players were drafted twice and one player was drafted even three times! I counted their draft value only for the last draft they were drafted in. The best such players were (in chronological order) Mark Eaton (drafted in 1979 and 1982), Manute Bol (drafted in 1983 and 1985) and Arvydas Sabonis (drafted in 1985 and 1986).

The best NBA drafts (according to my values of basketball statistics and my draft value formula):

1. Draft 1984: 203.2
(Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Otis Thorpe, Kevin Willis, Alvin Robertson, Sam Perkins, Jerome Kersey, Vern Fleming, Jay Humphries, Michael Cage, Sam Bowie, Tony Campbell, Ron Anderson)

2. Draft 1996: 191.0
(Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Stephon Marbury, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Antoine Walker, Marcus Camby, Jermaine O'Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Peja Stojakovic, Erick Dampier, Derek Fisher, Kerry Kittles, Lorenzen Wright)

3. Draft 1985: 186.1
(Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, Detlef Schrempf, Terry Porter, Charles Oakley, Joe Dumars, A,C, Green, Xavier McDaniel, Michael Adams, Hot Rod Williams, Wayman Tisdale, Benoit Benjamin, Gerald Wilkins, Tyrone Corbin)

4. Draft 1999: 165.0
(Elton Brand, Shawn Marion, Andre Miller, Baron Davis, Lamar Odom, Jason Terry, Steve Francis, Manu Ginobili, Metta World Peace, Richard Hamilton, Andrei Kirilenko, Corey Maggette, Wally Szczerbiak, James Posey, Kenny Thomas)

5. Draft 1987: 163.4
(David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, Kevin Johnson, Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson, Horace Grant, Armen Gilliam, Muggsy Bogues, Derrick McKey, Kenny Smith, Reggie Lewis, Ken Norman, Olden Polynice, Reggie Williams, Winston Garland)

6. Draft 1981: 158.9
(Isiah Thomas, Larry Nance, Buck Williams, Tom Chambers, Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman, Eddie Johnson, Orlando Woolridge, Herb Williams, Kelly Tripucka, Danny Ainge, Jay Vincent, Danny Schayes, Alton Lister, Frank Brickowski)

7. Draft 2003: 157.0
(LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, David West, Mo Williams, Kirk Hinrich, Chris Kaman, Boris Diaw, Josh Howard, Luke Ridnour, Kyle Korver, Zaza Pachulia, T.J. Ford, Leandro Barbosa)

8. Draft 1998: 153.6
(Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Mike Bibby, Rashard Lewis, Al Harrington, Cuttino Mobley, Larry Hughes, Ricky Davis, Jason Williams, Rafer Alston, Bonzi Wells, Matt Harpring, Raef LaFrentz)

9. Draft 1977: 146.4
(Jack Sikma, Bernard King, Marques Johnson, Walter Davis, Norm Nixon, Ray Williams, James Edwards, Cedric Maxwell, Otis Birdsong, Greg Ballard, Eddie Johnson, Robert Reid, Rickey Green, Kenny Carr, Brad Davis)

10. Draft 2001: 143.9
(Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, Tony Parker, Joe Johnson, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Tyson Chandler, Richard Jefferson, Gerald Wallace, Mehmet Okur, Troy Murphy, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Battier, Jamaal Tinsley, Brendan Haywood)

The best draft – the draft 1984 suits my taste perfectly. Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley were all simply awesome! John Stockton was awesomely durable and he was a fantastic pass-first point guard. Kevin Willis and Otis Thorpe were sooo TOUGH and sooo businesslike! They were all true professionals! The best NBA draft ever!

Here is the list with all the analysed drafts:

1. Draft 1984: 203.2
2. Draft 1996: 191.0
3. Draft 1985: 186.1
4. Draft 1999: 165.0
5. Draft 1987: 163.4
6. Draft 1981: 158.9
7. Draft 2003: 157.0
8. Draft 1998: 153.6
9. Draft 1977: 146.4
10. Draft 2001: 143.9
11. Draft 1978: 138.1
12. Draft 1992: 134.5
13. Draft 1989: 131.3
14. Draft 2004: 127.1
15. Draft 1979: 126.2
16. Draft 1988: 126.2
17. Draft 1983: 125.9
18. Draft 1982: 124.7
19. Draft 1995: 122.7
20. Draft 2005: 121.0
21. Draft 1976: 117.7
22. Draft 1993: 116.7
23. Draft 1994: 115.3
24. Draft 1997: 109.2
25. Draft 1986: 107.5
26. Draft 1990: 107.0
27. Draft 2008: 105.8
28. Draft 2009: 103.0
29. Draft 2007: 101.4
30. Draft 1980: 98.3
31. Draft 2002: 96.0
32. Draft 1991: 94.5
33. Draft 2006: 85.3
34. Draft 2010: 75.5
35. Draft 2011: 72.9
36. Draft 2000: 68.0
37. Draft 2012: 52.7
38. Draft 2013: 34.4
39. Draft 2014: 23.4
40. Draft 2015: 16.7
41. Draft 2016: 3.6

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