Anthony Davis checks the stats and proves the numbers don’t lie.

The following uses draft research done by our resident NCAA expert James Brocato

Here at the Wages of Wins, we were already fans of Anthony Davis based on his numbers. “Check my Stats” was displayed on a shirt he wore recently to an interview. It’s a great piece of advice that many NBA teams seem to forget come draft time. They focus on other things and miss out on talented players. If you check his stats then Anthony Davis does indeed come out looking amazing. Another top five draft prospect, Thomas Robinson, apparently had a different take (via Sports Illustrated).

If you wanted to check the stats, then I’d be the No. 1 pick easily — if that’s what you want to do. I should get one of those shirts. I’ll get a shirt that says, ‘Numbers don’t lie.’

While Thomas Robinson and Anthony Davis may want to colloborate on a t-shirt business that I would certainly buy from, Robinson will unfortunately find out the numbers are not in his favor. Let’s check the stats and look at the numbers and see what they tell us.

The nice thing about Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson is that they both play the same position (PF), played almost the same number of games last season (40 and 39) and played roughly the same minutes per game (32.0 and 31.8) As such, a direct comparison works out quite nicely. Let’s run down their per game numbers and see how things shake out.

I’ve taken both Anthony Davis’ and Thomas Robinson’s numbers and converted them into their Win Score value. The basic gist is that a point is worth…well a point, a miss is worth a point. Offensive Rebounds and Steals are also worth a point each and Turnovers cost a point. Blocks and Defensive Rebounds cost half a point and Personal Fouls cost half a point.

Stat Anthony Davis Thomas Robinson Winner Edge
Misses from Two Point Range -2.7 -6.4 Anthony Davis 3.7
Blocks +2.4 +0.5 Anthony Davis 1.9
Turnovers -1.0 -2.7 Anthony Davis 1.7
Two Pointers +5.2 +6.5 Thomas Robinson 1.3
Defensive Rebounds +3.7 +4.5 Thomas Robinson 0.8
Free Throws +2.0 +2.4 Thomas Robinson 0.4
Personal Fouls -1.0 -1.4 Anthony Davis 0.4
Steals +1.4 +1.1 Anthony Davis 0.3
Assists +0.7 +0.9 Thomas Robinson 0.2
Three Pointers +0.2 +0.4 Thomas Robinson 0.2
Misses from Three Point Range -0.4 -0.2 Thomas Robinson 0.2
Offensive Rebounds +3.0 +2.9 Anthony Davis 0.1
Free Throw Misses -0.7 -0.8 Anthony Davis 0.1

When it comes down to it, Anthony Davis is a much better player. The major key to his success is his shooting efficiency. While Robinson earns his team +6.5 points from the two pointers he makes, he also costs them -6.4 points from the two pointers that don’t go in, netting them +0.1 points for his trouble. Anthony Davis on the other hand actually gets his team +2.5 points when you take into account both makes and misses.

Another key area that Anthony Davis wins on is turnovers. Robinson turns the ball almost three times as often as Davis. The one area Robinson does win solidly on is defensive rebounds. When Dave updated Wins Produced a finding in the numbers was that defensive rebounds are “shared among team mates.” About half the time you get a defensive rebound, it turns out your team mate probably would have gotten it anyway. Why does this matter?

When Thomas Robinson says his numbers indicate he should be the number one pick here’s his logic I assume:

  • Thomas Robinson – 17.7 Points per Game, 11.9 Rebounds per Game
  • Anthony Davis – 14.2 Points per Game, 10.4 Rebounds per Game

From a totals perspective Robinson looks better. That is of course, if you leave out the misses on offense and pretend all rebounds are created equal. Additionally, where Robinson “wins” on rebounds there’s another important fact. Robinson’s defensive rebounds are retrieving a miss that would sometimes be retrieved by a team mate. Davis’ blocks on the other hand prevent the ball from ever reaching the rim! The only way Robinson can say the numbers favor him, is if he leaves some of the important ones out. This seems kind of like lying to me.

Of course, Robinson’s mindset is not unique. It turns out that when it comes to things like Turnovers and Fouls, most NBA managements don’t care. When it comes to scoring, the total points are worth much more than the efficiency. At least this is the case when we look at what teams like in the draft. In fact, the real reason Davis may be the consensus #1 pick is the simple reason that his team won the NCAA tournament, whereas Robinson came in second. Davis’ view that the numbers clearly show he is the number 1 pick mesh with reality. Robinson’s mesh more with conventional wisdom.

What about the value of shot creation?

This comparison is as good a place as any to bring this up. Some will claim the value of being able to take a shot increases Robinson’s stock. Davis is much more efficient but clearly we couldn’t expect him to keep the same efficiency up if he took more shots, right? Well we have a nice baseline though. Robinson takes roughly five more shots a game than Davis. Of these five extra shots, 1.3 go in. The question then becomes, if we asked Anthony Davis to take five more shots a game, could he maintain a 26% shooting efficiency on those shots? This would be 2.5 times worse than he currently shoots. It’s a thought experiment to be sure. I can’t believe that somehow in his first 12 attempts in a game Davis would be amazing and on his next five he would somehow become the worst player ever.

Summing up

In the end the numbers have spoken and they fully support Davis as the #1 pick. In fact, the end result is a bit crueler to Robinson. If we look for power forwards and centers with better numbers we find that Robinson is not jostling with Davis for the top spot (which how the current draft predictions are playing out) No, Robinson is actually the 10th best big man available in the draft based on his numbers. This means fans of New Orleans will be very lucky and that fans of Charlotte will be quite unlucky. Of course, this is nothing new.



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