A Very Early Look at the 2011 NBA Draft

On Saturday night I watched Jimmer Fredette (who scored 42 points) and BYU defeat Colorado State (where Martin Schmidt, Stacey Brook, and I received our Ph.Ds back in the 1990s).  Throughout the broadcast I got to hear much about the greatness of Fredette.  And that led me to wonder, how good is Fredette?

Fredette currently leads the NCAA in points scored per game.  The mock drafts I have seen, though, only rank Fredette as a late first round or early second round selection in 2011.  For example, Draft Express currently lists Fredette as the choice of the Sacramento Kings with the 32nd pick (which is similar to what we see at ESPN and NBA Draft.net).

Beyond consulting mock drafts, though, we can also look at each player’s numbers.  Specifically, Draft Express – which seems to have any number you might want to see – reports each player’s Win Score per 40 minutes (WS40).   To interpret these numbers, though, we have to consider positions played.  And here are the average WS40 for each position for each player drafted out of college from 1995 to 2009 (and I will update these numbers for 2010 at some point).

  • Point Guard: 7.40
  • Shooting Guard: 8.40
  • Small Forward: 9.95
  • Power Forward: 12.59
  • Center: 12.32
  • All Positions: 10.17

Prior to Saturday night, Jimmer Fredette had a WS40 of 9.6 (Draft Express says it is 9.9 after Saturday night).  Fredette is listed at point guards, so his PAWS40 (Position Adjusted Win Score per 40 minutes) would be as follows:

Fredette PAWS40: [9.6 – 7.40] + 10.17 = 12.37

Again, average is 10.17.  So relative to the players drafted from 1995 to 2009, Fredette  has above average college numbers.  His WS40 last year was 9.5, so the numbers we see this year are not a one-year wonder.  But how do they compare to the other players who might be drafted next summer out of college?

To address this question, let’s look at PAWS40 for each of the college players listed in the mock draft at Draft Express.  There are 50 such players, and the following two tables reports where each player ranks in terms of the Draft Express mock draft and PAWS40.

The first table reports the players ranked in the first round (24 college players are listed in this group).  The second table reports the 26 college players listed in the second round.

Before we discuss the numbers, let’s repeat something said before.  There is a statistical link between college numbers and what we see in the NBA.  But these numbers do not predict perfectly.  In other words, players who are ranked low in PAWS40 are not guaranteed to be poor NBA players (although there is a tendency for this to happen) and players ranked high in PAWS40 are not guaranteed to be productive NBA players (although there is a tendency for this to happen).  The college season is only about 30 games long (and so far we are only looking at about half of that small sample) and even players from the top conferences are primarily playing against players who will never be in the NBA.  So it is not reasonable to expect these numbers to predict the future perfectly. But these numbers do give us something to think about with respect to these players.

Okay, with caveats in mind, let’s talk about the numbers. 

  • Of the players ranked in the top 10 in the mock draft, the following are also in the top 10 in PAWS40:  Kyrie Irving (PG, 15.47 PAWS40), Jared Sullinger (PF, 14.17 PAWS40), Kemba Walker (PG, 13.97 PAWS40), and Marcus Morris (PF, 12.97 PAWS40).  Of these players, Irving has only played eight college games.  So the sample for Irving is very, very small. 
  • And of the players ranked in the top 10 in the mock draft, the following are in the bottom 10 (i.e. ranked 41 or lower) in PAWS40: Perry Jones (PF, 7.17 PAWS40), Josh Selby (SG, 5.66), and Harrison Barnes (SG/SF, 4.99 PAWS40).  Of these players, Selby has only played nine games (again, that is a very, very small sample).  Barnes was listed as the number one pick by some before the season started and Jones has been listed by others as the first choice right now.  The PAWS40 numbers, though, suggest the NBA’s losers should think twice about drafting these players (but again, PAWS40 numbers are not a guarantee – so after thinking twice it might still be a good idea to take these players).
  • If we look further down the list we see five names ranked in the top 10 in PAWS40 but not ranked in the top 10 in the mock draft.  Derrick Williams [PF, 13.87 PAWS40] is listed in the 11th spot in the mock draft.  So Williams just misses the top 10.  Kenneth Faried [PF, 16.67 PAWS40], Markieff Morris [PF, 14.47 PAWS40], Rick Jackson [PF/C, 14.41 PAWS40], Justin Holiday [SG/SF, 14.09 PAWS40], and Kawhi Leonard [SF/PF, 12.90 PAWS40] are ranked further down in the mock draft. 
  • Of these, Faried is a player who should generate quite a bit of conversation.  Faried is the subject of an article in the January 24 issue of Sports Illustrated.  As the article notes, Faried is a monster on the boards.  But he also plays at Morehead State.  So will he be a productive pro?  Well, rebounding is a number that translates from college to the pros.  In other words, players who rebound well in college – or don’t rebound well in college – tend to follow this pattern in the NBA.  Then again, players from bigger conferences tend to do better as well.  Faried is currently listed as a potential lower first round pick.  So my guess is that he has the potential to join a contending NBA team – and assuming we get a 2011-12 season – could be a factor for a 2012 playoff team. 

Let me close by noting that it is possible to find productive players outside the NBA lottery (so Fredette — the player who got this story started — might be a productive NBA player even if he is not taken in the lottery).  The most recent example is Landry Fields.  Last year Fields had a PAWS40 of 13.6, and yet was left off of most mock drafts.  As we can see at the automated Wins Produced numbers (from Andres Alvarez), Fields currently ranks second among rookies in Wins Produced (behind Blake Griffin).  When we consider WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes], Fields ranks first among rookies who have already played 500 minutes.   Looking at these same numbers, though, we also see that only three rookies – Fields, Griffin, and Ed Davis – have played more than 500 minutes and posted a WP48 mark beyond 0.120.  And that is consistent with a story also told before.  Rookies generally don’t help much.  So the NBA’s losers — despite what we see from a few rookies this year – should generally not expect the players we see in college this year to transform their NBA roster next season.

- DJ

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