The Most Successful Draft Classes
One of the accepted assumptions in the NBA is that, a very talented player who can change the fate of a team enters the league every 10 seasons. The examples are Michael Jordan in the 80s (the only player who changed not only a team’s fate but also the perception of the basketball as a sport worldwide), Shaquille O’Neal or Tim Duncan in the 90s, and LeBron James in 2000s.
Of course, the talent pool that enters the NBA draft each year is not the same. In some years a very talented and solid group of prospects are eligible in drafts but in some years the draft can be very uninspiring and can’t produce any superstar level player. It’s the misfortune of the teams that must waste their higher picks on those years.
Taking into account the draft years between 2000 and 2013, the following table consists of the players who play on the same team that drafted them; the second one contains all players including the undrafted players. The scores are calculated according to seasonal efficiency points of players multiplied by their endurance coefficient.
At first glance, we can easily notice that 2008 is the best class and the 2013 is the worst one. But beware that 2013 class players (2012 is similar) were in rookie seasons and it is possible that they can turn things around (also Nerlens Noel will eventually play in 2014-15 season). However, it is an agreed fact for everyone close to NBA that the 2013 class is the worst draft class of the last 15 years
2008 is a very special draft year with star players like Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Brook Lopez, Serge Ibaka, Roy Hibbert, Deandre Jordan, Goran Dragic and Nicolas Batum and also there are no complete busts in its first round. The second most successful draft year is the sensational 2003 which produced superstar players such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
In order to move the draft year analysis one step forward, we look also the efficiency points of players and categorized them according to their scores. In this way, we will get the clue of which types of players enter the league in each draft year.
- Superstar — 18,75+ score
- Star — 12,95 to 18.75
- Solid – 9 to 12.95
- Role Player — 4,9 to 9
- Bench Warmer — 1,9 to 4.9
- Complete Bust – less than 1,9
- DNP – Never played in the NBA
According to this table, 2008 draft class has the most number of superstars, stars and solid players combined within the last 14 years. 2003 has the most superstars.
We see that at each draft year there is 1 or 2 superstars and 5 or 6 star caliber players on average.
Although there isn’t any superstar players yet after 2009, individuals’ efficiency scores of Damarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe from the 2010 draft class, and Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond and Damian Lillard from the 2012 draft class are so high that they are very close to being superstars. Assuming they can play one more season with this momentum, they will break into the superstar level next season.
Starting from the 2000 drafts, a total of 1075 players (included undrafted ones) has played in the NBA. But only 12 of them performed in the superstar caliber (this is our categorization per efficiency points, we can higher or lower this level as well). These 12 players are all from the lottery picks: 4 of them is the first pick selection and the last selected is Stephen Curry at #7.
The 40 most efficient players of 2000-2013 draft classes are:
Only 9 of them is outside the lottery pick and only 3 of them are from the second round.
According the drafts of 2000-2013, in the previous table, we see the odds how a player become in the league regarding the draft picks ranks. In other words, it is the table where we can predict how each draft pick player will perform.
The first 8 pick is crucial in order to possess a superstar player (or not possess a complete bust player). There is %65 possibility that a first pick player will become a star.
The odds of selecting a star player from the second round is very slim (%10), and most probably that kind of player will become a bench warmer type player or a complete bust. The ceiling for an undrafted player is most probably being a role player.
As a summary, this table shows us the importance of draft pick’s order for the team’s success.
Most Successful Draft Selections According to Draft Picks
In another post, we had calculated a value coefficient for each draft pick. When we adjust the player efficiency scores by this picks value coefficient, we can compare players easily and conclude what are the best draft selections.
The best and worst 10 players selected from the top 3 draft picks are given in the table below:
If Kevin Durant was selected as a 1st pick, he would have been just below LeBron James (Durant’s average efficiency score is slightly lower than his), but we multiplied each score with its pick’s value so Durant passed LeBron in the draft success leaderboard.
The worst 10 draft picks (from the top 3) are so obvious that there is no need to make additional comments. Otto Porter and Anthony Bennett (from 2013 draft), are the lowest performers, just below Hasheem Thabeet and Adam Morrison.
The most successful selections from the second round are:
Although Isaiah Thomas has been selected from the 60th pick, he is performing as a star player and hence is the most valuable second round selection.
All these players are performing like a star in fact.
As a final point, let’s look at the undrafted players beyond 2000. The notable ones are Wesley Matthews, Jose Calderon, Udonis Haslem, Jeremy Lin, Kelenna Azubuike, Andres Nocioni, Smush Parker, Charles Hayes, Brian Roberts and Anthony Morrow.