Saying All the Right Things, and Seeing Some of the Right Numbers

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 6, 2009 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

I didn’t have a chance to attend the NBA Draft combine first-hand, but plenty of my blogger compatriots provided the eyes and ears on the scene.  Graydon and Tim got the ball rolling at 48 Minutes of Hell, but other bloggers sat down with players in the Mavs’ draft range:

Also, as part of ESPN’s D.R.A.F.T. Initiative (a needless acronym for an in-depth study of the draft), a nameless analyst crunched the numbers on player value based on draft position and by team history (both are accessible to ESPN Insiders only, I believe).  Neither is very optimistic.  Both analyses are based on John Hollinger’s Estimated Wins Added (EWA) metric, a step beyond PER and Value Added (VA) that measures the comparative worth of any player over generic replacement-level talent.  Oddly enough, pick number 22 is tied for the lowest EWA in the entire first round.  In all honesty, this means little; just that in drafts past, the players chosen at 22 haven’t been all that great.  The fact that many late first round selections match or trump the EWA of earlier draft positions should actually give Mavs’ fans great comfort; drafting earlier hardly guarantees a productive player, and drafting later hardly guarantees the opposite.

The team-specific data and grading is another beast entirely.  Teams were ranked based on EWA above or below the expected EWA at each of that team’s picks (to prevent penalty for consistently drafting late in the draft and prevent bonus for consistently picking in the lottery).  Based on that standard, the Mavs ranked 20th out of 30 teams in the last 20 years.  That said, most of the picks that sandbag the Mavs’ ranking took place before Donnie Nelson took over basketball ops in 1998.  Though Donnie is hardly considered a draft prodigy, the Mavs have enough value picks in addition to their two big hits (Dirk and Josh Howard) in that time to propel the Mavs’ EWA through the draft well into the black.  In fact, if you compare the Mavs’ net EWA (actual EWA as compared to expected EWA) during Donnie’s tenure to the other teams’ 20-year rankings, the Mavs would be safely in the top 10.  One incredible player can easily counter a half-decade of failed picks, and that should be taken into account when properly digesting the D.R.A.F.T. Initiative’s numbers.  But if we’re comparing Donnie Nelson to his peers over his tenure, I find that Donnie may be looked on more favorably than one would expect.

  • joe hurley

    This is as good as it gets. Trade Dirk, Howard, and anybodyelse you can get draft picks for.
    Shuffle the deck. Try again

  • Brian D

    Oh yeah that’s a brilliant idea. Trade everybody for picks in one mediocre draft.

    While we’re at it, Cuban should liquidate all his assets, go to the casino, and place it all on one hand of Blackjack.