Draft Science

John Hollinger’s gone where stat guys normally fear to tread and attempted to devise a formula aimed at projecting college players’ likely levels of NBA success. He backs himself up, naturally, with historical arguments looking retrospectively and what his formula says GMs should have done. Here’s his results for the 2003 draft:

Obviously, if you passed on Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to grab Michael Sweetney, you’d feel pretty dumb, but for every Sweetney there’s a Darko. All in all, the results seem to be okay. The interesting thing, though, is that the formula winds up giving a ton of weight to steals (“This is the one item that gets the most weight, actually — it’s even more important than PER!), to blocks, and to offensive boards along with giving players a big bonus for being young. The formula also tells you to give a boost to guys who nail three pointers, and to watch out for people who are too short — or too ineffective on the boards — for their position.

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At the end of the day, the method winds up sounding a lot like “scouting.” Instead of relying too heavily on how successful a college player the guy was, you look at his game results for signs of athleticism (steals, blocks, offensive boards), specific skills (pure shooting), and appropriate physical assets. You give a big bonus to younger guys, because you figure they’ll learn. The formula doesn’t really have much to add to this. It doesn’t, in particular, do much to resolve any draft conundrums. Faced with an undersized power forward who was a successful rebounder in college, do you think he’ll be one of those guys who continues to enjoy rebounding success despite being short (Paul Millsap) or one of those guys who’s too short to handle the pro game?

A formula that helped answer questions like that would be tremendous. This one, not so much. It does, however, do the good service of cautioning against drafting the Adam Morrisons of the world — guys who seem like unpromising pro prospects but who random sportwriters will just assert possess the “will to win” or something.