Head of the Class: Ranking the 2012-13 NCAA prospects

Life is full of missed opportunities. Should I have taken that job? Turn left or turn right? Not asking out the girl you always crushed on.

A lot of the time we are victims of our own brains. We analyze. We fret. We torture ourselves over what could or might be and fail to capitalize on the opportunity to be successful because we don’t even try.

If you try you might fail, if you never try you’re guaranteed to fail.

To me, the NCAA talent pool provides a perfect illustration of this. A lot of NBA teams bitch and moan about how hard it can be to find talent to fill your roster. They destroy their rosters in an ill-advised quest for a mythical ping pong ball that could maybe possibly give them a chance to get the player they want. Never mind the fact that they might just pick the wrong guy (and somehow I’m looking at the Pelicans for both).

But then you have guys like John Bryant. To quote Patrick Minton’s great piece on the The NBA Geek:

…..Mr. Bryant is pretty much still crushing the competition in Europe. And on the plus side, since he’s shooting 42.6% from three, he probably fits really well in the D’Antoni system.

12/13 Season G MIN fgm fga 3FGM 3FGA FTM FTA ORB DRB TRB AST PF ST TO BLK PTS
Totals 20 578 125 246 23 54 57 73 41 165 206 30 34 8 37 33 330
Per48 n/a n/a 10.4 20.4 1.9 4.5 4.7 6.1 3.4 13.7 17.1 2.5 2.8 0.7 3.1 2.7 27.4
Per40 n/a n/a 8.7 17.0 1.6 3.7 3.9 5.1 2.8 11.4 14.3 2.1 2.4 0.6 2.6 2.3 22.8

eFG%: 61.7%

TS%: 59.3%

3FG%: 42.6% (!)

FT%: 78%

… The next year, Bryant became a truly dominant player, and catapulted to a monstrous 18.3 rebounds per 40, number one in the NCAA. Other players in the top 10 were Faried, Blair, Griffin, Jon Brockman, and Ed Davis. Some of those guys are pretty good at basketball. Oh, and he scored a meager 18 points a game on 64% true shooting! He posted a 21.3 WS/40, which is…well, monstrous (Blake Griffin put up a 21.2)….

One guy doesn’t tell the story right? Then you have other guys like Jeremy Lin. You also have a whole organization like the San Antonio Spurs that seem to thrive on finding no name guys and turning them into NBA players.

What I’m trying to allude to here is my strong belief that the NBA’s talent pipeline is faulty. All the evidence and data seems to suggest that there is more NBA-ready talent out there than what is found on rosters or in the NBA draft. The really interesting part is that I believe that this talent is easy enough to find and identify.

Which is why I’m taking the time to evaluate all the players currently playing in the NCAA.

Win Score = PTS + STL + ORB + 0.5*DRB + 0.5*AST + 0.5*BLK – TOV – FGA – 0.5*FTA – 0.5*PF

That is our quick shorthand for estimating Wins Produced. Combine that with a player’s position (either listed or calculated) and you can get a fairly good idea of of how much better or worse than their peers a player is. Now, we could also go full bore and calculate actual Wins Produced for an even clearer picture but we don’t need to at this point (but it just might be in the works).

Let’s get to brass tacks. There are 4631 players playing Division I basketball this year playing for 347 teams in 32 conferences. That’s a hell of a lot of data to crunch.

Luckily that’s why you have us.

Welcome to Arturo’s inaugural in-season NCAA player rankings.

Here’s the Wins Score data for every player and every team for the season so far, adjusted for listed and calculated position (many thanks to the Sports Reference site for College Basketball)

NCAA 2013 to share

Let’s get down to interesting prospects. We do that by taking a look at everyone who is top 25 for their listed or calculated position either overall or by class or is in Draft Express top 100 prospects as of 02/06/13.

We come up with a 161 names:

Prospect Rank

  • Victor Oladipo, the best player on the number 1 team in the country is easily the best player on this list. Combine that with the fact that he shares the court with the number 9 player in Zeller and that my experience is that tends to depress numbers means that he and Zeller are pretty much no brainers. I’m calling him right now as next year’s Kwahi Leonard. Teams should be wary of getting a trade offer from Popp for him.
  • There are eight seniors in the top 30 (Taylor Smith, Edward Daniel, Zeke Marshall, Pierce Hornung, Ryan Broekhoff, James Hulbin, Fred Hunter and Ian Clark) who are not listed on the Draft Express top 100 (including 7’1″ Zeke Marshall from Akron). A smart team would scout them and start prepping summer league invites right now.
  • Of the rated top three (Nerlen Noel, Ben McLemore and Shabazz Muhammad), Noel looks like a sure thing, McLemore like a slight risk and Shabazz like a bad, bad idea that a team will regret. Particularly.
  • Isaiah Austin, Tony Mitchell, C.J. Leslie, James Michael McAdoo, Archie Goodwin and Le’Bryan Nash all have a giant stay away sign on my draft board.
  • Here’s the underclassman in the top 30 and not rated by draft express (scout early and often):
Player Class Height Pos Calculated Position School
D.J. Stephens JR 77 6ft.5in. F-G 3.2 Memphis
Macolm Miller SO 78 6ft.6in. G 3.7 Southern
DeQuan Hicks JR 79 6ft.7in. F 4.0 Northwestern State
Jameel Warney FR 80 6ft.8in. G 3.0 Stony Brook
Kader Tapsoba JR 82 6ft.10in. F-C 5.0 Texas Tech
Will Artino SO 83 6ft.11in. C 5.0 Creighton
Eric Moreland SO 82 6ft.10in. F 4.2 Oregon State
Ryan Watkins JR 81 6ft.9in. F 5.0 Boise State
Jalen Cannon SO 78 6ft.6in. F 5.0 St. Francis (NY)

We will come back to this closer to the draft of course.

-Arturo

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