The Final Four Winners

The impact a Final Four appearance has on a player’s draft position is one of the stories Henry Abbott highlighted in his very lengthy discussion of Stumbling on Wins (currently available – as I might have mentioned — at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and Borders.com). 

Our book reports that a player who appears in the Final Four can see his draft position improve by about 12 slots.  This effect is only seen in the year the player appears in the Final Four.  If he returns to college, and fails to return to the Final Four, the effect vanishes. And there is no link between NBA production and Final Four appearances.  So for those who believe decision-makers are perfectly rational, this would be a troubling result.

Although troubling to some traditional economists, such a result can be quite beneficial to the players lucky enough to appear in the Final Four.  And now that the Final Four is set, let’s see who might be the real winners in the 2010 Final Four.

Let’s begin with a list of players who might be drafted.  Such a list can be constructed from the following:

Chad Ford’s Top 100 (insider access required)

DraftExpress 2010 Mock

NBADraft.net 2010 Mock

These three lists provide us a list of seventeen players who participated in the Elite Eight.  Players on four of these teams – Duke, Michigan State, West Virginia, and Butler – are in position to earn the Final Four bonus.  Players on the other four teams – Baylor, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Kansas State – fell just short.

The following table reports where the players who will be in the Final Four are currently ranked. 

Table One: The Elite from the Elite Eight

As one can see, the best player in the Final Four – according to DraftExpress – is Butler’s Gordon Hayward.  Currently he is listed as the 26th best prospect.  By appearing in the Final Four, though, his draft position could be enhanced.  It’s important to emphasize that the results from the draft model we report are simply what we see in general.  It may not hold true for any specific individual. That being said, if this result holds, Hayward will hear his name called earlier in the 2010 draft  (and therefore earn more money).

The statistics also indicate that Hayward is an above average player.  To see this point we need to consider Position Adjusted Win Score (PAWS). Specifically – as the following list indicates — we know the average Win Score at each position [from all players drafted from 1991 to 2008].

Center: 12.3

Power Forward: 12.5

Small Forward 9.9

Shooting Guard: 8.4

Point Guard: 7.3

Average across all players: 10.1

To determine PAWS40 [Position Adjusted Win Score per 40 minutes] we simply determine each player’s Win Score per 40 minutes (WS40).  We then subtract the position average from each player’s WS40 and add back the overall average.

For Hayward, this calculation would be as follows:

Hayward PAWS40 = 11.9 – 9.9 + 10.1 = 12.1

Of the players listed above, only Hayward and DeMarcus Cousins are listed as above average.  And Cousins is missing out on the Final Four.

It’s important to emphasize why Cousins is missing out on the Final Four.  Against West Virginia, the Wildcats of Kentucky missed 28 three-point shots and 13 free throws.  Had Kentucky maintained its average performance at the line they would have scored six to seven more points (Kentucky lost by seven).  And had they maintained their average performance from beyond the arc, Kentucky would have scored 21 more points.  Yes, West Virginia’s defense might have impacted Kentucky’s shooting from the field.  But it does appear that Kentucky also suffered from bad luck (i.e. sometimes the shots don’t fall). 

This bad luck will probably benefit Devin Ebanks, Da’Sean Butler, and Kevin Jones of West Virginia.   Ebanks is considered a potential first round pick while Butler and Jones are regarded as potential second round choices.  With a Final Four appearance, though, these players might be taken much higher.

Let me close by noting that I have heard that this particular result is being discussed by at least some people in the NBA.  So one might expect that although this result held in the past, it may not appear in the future.  At least, as an economist, I fully expect that once people see and understand a result it does eventually get incorporated into their thinking (our critique of traditional economics is simply that this process takes much longer than is generally argued).   

Surprisingly – in conversations with people in the NBA – I have been told otherwise.   In other words, the people I have spoken too fully expect the Final Four payday to continue. This is good news for the players who will appear in the Final Four this year.  But this may not be good news for the teams – and fans of these teams – who expend a higher draft choice on a player just because that player got lucky during March Madness.

- DJ

The WoW Journal Comments Policy

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at wagesofwins.com provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.

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