Do Big Men take Longer to Develop in the NBA?

The following question was asked by Ethan Strauss and thrown my way on twitter by Kevin Draper:


Turns out I have the data lying around. I did have to clean it though. I ended up using the first ten years of every player with at least ten seasons played with >400MP and grouping them by career average position played. The result is below:

The simple answer seems to be no. Shooting Guards are the fastest (3nd season). Point Guards are the slowest (5th season). SF and PF seem to hit at the same time (4th Season). Centers do seem to peak twice (3rd and 5th). This seems to indicate that some big men do take longer than others.

This might very well be an artifice of age, college or european pro experience. The indication would seem to be that Raw big men take longer to develop. I may come back to this soon.

Oh, We had a follow question that said we were not accounting for Individual Defense. So I went ahead and used the same data set with DRating, ORating and Win Shares per 48 as detailed in Basketball on Paper and archived at Basketball Reference. The result?

Couple of really interesting findings:

  • There’s functionally zero growth shown on defensive rating. We are talking a plus minus of about a point per 100 possesions. This tells me that by the time they get to the NBA, player D is very hard to change.
  • Offensive skills is where the growth is for the most part. With a change of about 10 points per 100 possessions being the norm.
  • The Peaks using this metric seem to be:
    • PG: Year 5 (model  1 is Year 5)
    • SG: Year 3 (model  1 is Year 3)
    • SF: Year 4  (model  1 is Year 4)
    • PF: Year 5 (model  1 is Year 4)
    • C  : again a double peak in Year 3 then Year 6 (model  1 is Year 3)

The finding really doesn’t change.




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