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NBA Draft Picks:
Expected Performance

by Roland Beech, 82games.com

Thanks to an assist from the wonderful Basketball-Reference.com web site, which kindly publishes year by year charts of draft picks along with career basic stats next to the player, I gathered together the last twenty NBA Drafts (1989-2008) with an array of intended analysis in mind.

First up is a simple, what should you expect, performance-wise from a given pick number? If you have say the 5th pick in the draft, what are your chances on average of landing a star player?

Since B-R provides career games, and then per game points, rebounds, assists and minutes, I have gone with an admittedly highly simplistic look on things by just going with:
Rating = points/game + rebounds/game + assists/game

Why use this definition? It's the data I have easily on hand, which while not a good player rating system is a decent wag for these purposes. Then I group players as follows:

  • Star -- 20+ rating
  • Solid -- 15 to 19.9
  • Role Player -- 10 to14.9
  • Deep Bench -- 5 to 9.9
  • Complete Bust -- less than 5
  • DNP -- (never played in the NBA)
Keep in mind the stats are career per game averages so lower than the peak performance years of a player. Moreover, there is also some bias in that using recent years some of the current players may well spike up their career 'standing' with more years under the belt.

Average Career Stats by draft pick number
Pick
#
Gms
Min
Pts
Reb
Ast
Rtg
Star
Solid
RoleP
DeepB
Bust
DNP
1 20 555 32.9 16.6 7.8 2.7 27.0 70% 25% 5%
2 20 583 29.6 12.9 5.9 2.8 21.6 60% 25% 15%
3 20 535 31.9 15.2 5.1 3.5 23.8 85% 10% 5%
4 20 585 30.5 13.7 5.5 3.1 22.2 60% 30% 10%
5 20 552 28.7 13.4 4.9 2.7 21.1 60% 15% 10% 15%
6 20 406 25.4 10.2 4.6 1.7 16.5 25% 30% 30% 15%
7 20 483 26.8 10.9 4.3 2.6 17.8 30% 40% 25% 5%
8 20 397 22.9 9.3 3.9 1.9 15.2 35% 15% 15% 35%
9 20 460 23.1 10.2 4.9 1.6 16.6 30% 10% 35% 20% 5%
10 20 497 24.6 10.2 4.4 2.2 16.7 35% 25% 25% 10% 5%
11 20 389 19.4 7.5 3.5 1.4 12.4 15% 15% 30% 35% 5%
12 20 372 18.8 6.6 3.7 1.3 11.6 5% 15% 40% 30% 10%
13 20 447 22.7 9.8 3.7 1.9 15.4 20% 35% 15% 30%
14 20 312 21.1 8.8 3.0 1.9 13.7 25% 20% 25% 10% 20%
15 20 348 17.4 6.6 2.9 1.4 10.8 10% 15% 30% 20% 20% 5%
16 20 364 18.2 7.2 2.8 1.6 11.7 5% 25% 30% 25% 15%
17 20 397 20.3 8.1 3.9 1.4 13.4 20% 15% 20% 45%
18 20 317 17.4 6.6 3.1 0.9 10.7 5% 15% 25% 40% 15%
19 20 280 16.5 6.5 2.9 1.0 10.4 5% 15% 20% 50% 10%
20 20 253 16.8 6.2 2.7 1.3 10.2 5% 10% 35% 30% 20%
21 20 384 20.8 7.8 3.3 1.9 13.1 10% 40% 20% 15% 15%
22 20 225 16.9 5.6 3.0 1.2 9.8 20% 15% 65%
23 20 368 19.4 6.8 3.1 1.4 11.4 20% 50% 15% 15%
24 20 350 20.6 7.9 3.0 2.1 13.0 15% 25% 20% 35% 5%
25 20 218 14.6 5.2 2.7 0.9 8.8 5% 5% 25% 50% 10% 5%
26 20 248 15.8 6.0 2.8 1.3 10.1 10% 5% 40% 15% 30%
27 20 293 15.5 5.3 2.9 1.2 9.4 5% 5% 25% 60% 5%
28 20 250 13.3 5.1 1.9 1.4 8.4 5% 10% 15% 45% 15% 10%
29 20 260 12.1 4.1 2.3 0.8 7.3 5% 10% 10% 30% 20% 25%
30 20 250 14.1 5.2 2.6 1.1 8.9 5% 10% 25% 25% 15% 20%
31 20 146 12.1 4.1 1.9 0.8 6.8 5% 25% 25% 30% 15%
32 20 152 11.7 4.0 1.6 1.0 6.6 5% 15% 40% 35% 5%
33 20 144 10.6 3.3 2.1 0.7 6.0 10% 55% 35%
34 20 137 12.7 4.3 2.1 1.2 7.6 5% 5% 5% 55% 20% 10%
35 20 110 9.3 2.8 1.7 0.7 5.3 5% 5% 35% 35% 20%
36 20 140 8.8 3.4 1.5 0.7 5.5 5% 10% 30% 25% 30%
37 20 239 15.0 5.7 2.5 1.4 9.6 10% 10% 30% 25% 25%
38 20 161 10.3 3.2 1.4 1.1 5.7 5% 15% 35% 20% 25%
39 20 146 9.4 3.2 1.2 1.0 5.4 10% 10% 25% 30% 25%
40 20 134 11.5 4.3 1.7 1.0 7.0 10% 10% 40% 15% 25%
41 20 149 10.1 3.6 1.8 0.7 6.0 5% 10% 10% 20% 20% 35%
42 20 116 8.7 3.1 1.5 0.7 5.3 5% 5% 15% 10% 25% 40%
43 20 228 12.8 4.9 2.1 0.8 7.8 5% 5% 30% 20% 20% 20%
44 20 89 4.4 1.5 0.8 0.3 2.6 10% 20% 5% 65%
45 20 197 14.0 4.7 2.1 1.0 7.8 10% 25% 50% 15%
46 20 69 8.0 2.9 1.4 0.5 4.8 10% 5% 30% 20% 35%
47 20 145 12.2 4.6 2.0 1.2 7.8 5% 10% 20% 45% 20%
48 20 103 9.0 3.2 2.0 0.4 5.6 10% 15% 10% 25% 40%
49 20 117 8.8 2.8 1.5 0.8 5.1 25% 25% 15% 35%
50 20 49 5.5 2.0 1.0 0.3 3.2 5% 20% 30% 45%
51 20 86 6.0 2.1 0.9 0.5 3.5 10% 20% 20% 50%
52 20 116 7.1 2.0 1.1 0.6 3.8 10% 25% 30% 35%
53 20 56 5.1 1.5 0.8 0.4 2.6 30% 15% 55%
54 20 97 5.1 1.8 0.9 0.2 2.9 10% 15% 10% 65%
55 14 57 6.8 2.3 1.3 0.4 4.0 7% 7% 21% 14% 50%
56 14 51 6.9 2.3 1.3 0.6 4.3 7% 29% 29% 36%
57 14 43 5.1 1.9 1.0 0.5 3.3 7% 21% 14% 57%
58 11 46 2.2 0.7 0.5 0.1 1.3 9% 18% 73%
59 5 13 2.8 0.8 0.4 0.2 1.4 40% 60%
60 4 7 4.1 0.8 0.4 0.4 1.7 50% 50%

So at a glance you can see the first five picks tend towards stars and solid types with no complete busts.

The 6-10 range show about 1/3 of the picks reaching star status, but lots of role players as well.

The mid first round (11-20) is much more a crap shoot with as many busts as stars.

Late first round (21-30) only 6% of picks become stars, and less than half even make it to role player caliber stats.

In the second round things get ugly, and the odds suggest you're lucky in some ways to find any kind of contributor. Of course some teams do uncover the overlooked talents...and I'll get to some of the best "value" picks of the last twenty years a little later on.

Taking a step back some of the per game averages underwhelm in contrast to the excitement carried in at the arrival of the 'new savior' -- if the team with the #2 pick was told their new star would have expected career averages of 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists it might not do much in the way of season ticket sales!

Yet it's hard not to be envisioning great days ahead when the pick is announced by your favorite team, and while you might wind up with the next Robert "Tractor" Traylor (taken 6th in the 1998 draft and finishing with a 9.2 rating or 'deep bench' status)...you could also get Dirk Nowitzki (taken 9th in '98 and immediately traded for Traylor! Currently at a 34/star rating with many more years to go)

Franchise fortunes hang in the balance!

Wondering who that lowly outlier star is taken with the #57 pick? That would be Manu Ginobili.

Yes, the Spurs have been smart.

That's the warm-up...let's now look at the best/worst drafting teams !!


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