Editor’s Note: I love what Devin has done here. That said, I feel compelled to say that Patrick Minton had a great piece on the same subject up in minutes of the draft at the NBA Geek. You should check that out first. We’ll wait.
As previously mentioned, Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley conducted the Rising Stars Challenge draft on Thursday evening, dividing the pool of 20 players (Ricky Rubio and Isaiah Thomas were added just prior to the draft) into two teams.
Here are some observations of the proceedings:
- Shaq had the first pick and went with the likely Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard. Lillard leads all rookies with 18.4 points per game, but does not lead the rookies (or sophomores) in efficiency (WP48) or wins.
- Chuck made a solid pick with Anthony Davis at #2.
- Shaq then picked the player he should have picked first (if he was going for a PG): Kyrie Irving. Irving is the most productive PG of the group by far, which is sad, because Irving only produces 0.135 wins per 48 minutes.
- Chuck made another great choice in Kenneth Faried at #4. He now has two excellent players who could take his PF and C spots.
- Shaq lucks into Andre Drummond at #5. Drummond has been the most efficient player of this group — and the league — so far this season.
- Chuck takes Kawhi Leonard at #6. Another excellent choice, Leonard is the best SF available. Chuck now has an excellent SF, PF, and C.
- Shaq takes Klay Thompson at #7. Like Lillard, Thompson scores a lot of points but isn’t very productive. At this point three out of Shaq’s four players are guards.
- Chuck makes his first bad choice, picking Bradley Beal at #8. Beal has been an average rookie, but that still means he’s been below-average. At least he plays a different position than the other three players.
- Shaq picked Harrison Barnes at #9. Barnes is a decent rookie SF, but still below-average…and Shaq really needed to get some big men on his team.
- Chuck covers his last position by picking Ricky Rubio at #10. Rubio had a decent rookie season, but was seriously injured and hasn’t returned back to his previous level of play so far this season. However, the pool of players at PG is poor, and Rubio isn’t that bad a choice in that context.
- At #11, Shaq goes with Chandler Parsons. Parsons is a good SF, but Shaq needed a big man here. You can probably get away with playing Parsons as a PF, but there were better options available for that position.
- At #12, Chuck picks the best player remaining: Tristan Thompson. Chuck now has three excellent bigs.
- Desperately needing a good big man, Shaq picks another overrated guard with the #13: Dion Waiters. Waiters has actually created negative wins for his team this season. At this point Shaq has four guards, two small forwards, and one centre.
- Smelling blood, Chuck takes the remaining competent big man, Nikola Vucevic, at #14. This leaves Tyler Zeller as the only big man left.
- Shaq picks Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the #15. MKG is a productive rookie SF, so at least Shaq didn’t pick an unproductive player.
- Chuck counters with Brandon Knight at #16. He needed some more guards, but Kemba Walker would’ve been the better option here.
- From here on out, the final two rounds were determined by Kenny Smith. For the first round of two, Smith gives Shaq a big man and picks Tyler Zeller with the #17. Unfortunately for Shaq, Zeller has been a negative win producer so far this season.
- Smith gives Chuck Isaiah Thomas at #18. Thomas had a good rookie season, but has struggled this year. Perhaps Smith liked the name and was feeling nostalgic….
- The final round of two is done randomly. Shaq gets Kemba Walker and Chuck gets Alexey Shved. Chuck should’ve picked up Walker earlier; Shaq ends up with the three most productive PGs in the pool. Then again, Shaq only has one productive big man.
Who will win?
When we look at the numbers for the season so far, Chuck’s team has the better players. When we analyse the rosters further, we do see that Shaq has the three most productive point guards. But point guard is the weakest position in the pool, and we also see that Shaq has only one productive big man — compared to Chuck’s four. While it’s hard to know how well the players’ productivity will translate to the glorified pickup game that is the Rising Stars Challenge, Barkley made the better decisions. It’s hard to see how Shaq’s small team is going to cover Chuck’s productive big men.
Verdict: Team Chuck