Statophile 34 | Draft Edition – Finding Value Late and Avoiding Risk Early

The purpose of this post is twofold: 1) To highlight potential "value" picks later in the draft. 2. Try to highlight "risky" players at the 8th spot.

So you’re not exactly thrilled with the 8th pick, eh?

The purpose of this post is twofold:

  1. To highlight potential “value” picks later in the draft.
  2. Try to highlight “risky” players at the 8th spot.

Whether its valuing stocks, houses, or college players, the “secret” is the same – observe factors that are consistently over/undervalued to find opportunities others may be missing.

Often one can find value later in the draft. This draft does not appear to be unique in that aspect – if the mocks are anywhere close to reality.

Several biases have been observed when it comes to drafting players:
David Berri (of Wins Produced fame) and Martin Schmidt from “Stumbling On Wins“:

All else being equal, players will be drafted higher if the player is younger, recently appeared in the Final Four, and is relatively taller.

And it can be signficant:

A player who appears in the Final Four can improve his draft position by about 12 spots.

Most of this is understandable. Scouts and GMs will, in general, give too much credit: A) to one player if his team makes the final four; B) the impact on measurements C) “Upside” and “ceiling”

Sometimes a good rebounder is just a damn good rebounder. I don’t particularly care if he’s 6’8″ in heals or 7’1″ without shoes. If he puts up the numbers, he puts up the numbers. You know where to shove your wingspan numbers.

“… you guys just sit around talking the same old ‘good body’ nonsense like we’re selling jeans.”

I’ll be upfront that “but you NEED TO WATCH THE GAMES!” comments could be particularly valid in this analysis. No, I didn’t have time to watch Kim English’s 35 games played (nether did you, BTW). It’s not the purpose of the article. Most scouts and GMs don’t get to watch all 35 games of 75+ players. Nor do their memories always serve them well.

Our focus is: who has put up the numbers and may be undervalued? As we hinted at above players that: may be a bit older, play for “non-elite” program, and perhaps have a less than ideal wingspan/handwidth/eyebrowlength often emerge as great candidates.

Late 1st round, second round values

The Pint Sized SF/PF Jack of All Trades

He measures under 6’5″ (w/o shoes), is 21 years old (gasp!) and…. is a top 15 defensive rebounder and top 10 in effective field goal% (at 57%). Oh, and he has the sixth best assist-to-turnover ratio in the field (speaks more to him taking care of the ball than dishing out assists).

Source: draftexpress.com

These, and other impressive metrics, led to the third highest Win Score per 40 min in our draft database, 7th in PER, and 6th highest (in all of the NCAA) Win Shares score (including 17th highest in the NCAA for defensive Win Shares). While I won’t like on combine testing for much, I don’t mind the fact he bench pressed 185 lbs more than anyone else there. And he was Big East Player of the Year. Not bad.

Draft Express’ Johnathan Givony had this to say: “One of the most efficient players in the NCAA, on both ends of the floor, Crowder is the heart and soul of a Marquette squad that has exceeded expectations.” Sounds like a Casey-type player.

Is he a top 15 pick? Probably not. Is he potentially very good value in the second round – even late first round? Absolutely.

The Sharp Shooter, part 1

Mr. English has the best effective field goal percentage (64%) in our NCAA database. His 3 point FG% of 45.9% is second in the group, just behind Kentucky’s Doron Lamb. The challenge here – which is why he’s off many radars – is he’s a bit below average on most other metrics for the position. Given the Raptors have another second round pick (at 56th), this could represent good value late in the draft.

The Sharp Shooter, part 2

Mr. Jenkins is projected to go just before the Raptors’ 1st pick of the second round, but if he drops a tad he should be considered. He’s tied for the best True Shooting Percentage in our database (with Anthony Davis and Kim English). His 1.19 points per play is just behind Davis. He gets to the line a reasonably amount at 5.2 times per 40 min (pace adj). The knocks? He is a poor rebounder (even considering his position) and appears to be an unwilling passer at only 1.4 assists per 40. Still worth a close look if he falls to the second round.

The Glass Cleaner

Drew Gordon is another 21 year old that is likely to be overlooked in the first round. He ranks third in WS/40 in our database, driven largely by his 2nd best (behind Thomas Robinson) rebounds per 40 min (pace adjusted) metric. Mr. Gordon keeps his fouls in check, with only 2.9 PFs per 40 minutes. His 57% true shooting percentage of 58% is just above the average in the database. A big certainly isn’t a primary need, but Gordon could serve as a utility backup if one of our PFs are moved – or play spot duty at the 5. He could go late in the second, where he have the 56th pick.

Options for our 8th pick?

Mr. Average at 8th?

Jeremy Lamb is pegged by a few big boards as our probable pick at the 8th spot. While my expectations aren’t high for an eighth pick, this choice seems especially underwhelming. His PER is only ranked 31st of the 53 NCAA players we track. That’s not good for someone who like someone who likes to shoot (~15 shots per 40; 0.13 assist-to-FGA ratio).

Source: draftexpress.com

His WS/40 is even lower at 36th in our database as he doesn’t rebound much either (only 5.2 per 40 min). His TS% (59%) and eFG% (56%) are both a couple percentage points above the group averages, but not exactly in the top tier. Defensive performance is tougher to measure, but this interview is also a bit cause of concern (~ 2:15 mark). One shouldn’t have to “find ways to keep (their) energy up” at an elite level.

Rivers Doesn’t Flow

On the Raptors facebook page, it asked fans who they liked among Lamb, Rivers or Barnes (who were all in Toronto for workouts). Surprisingly a large number of fans picked Rivers, likely remembering amazing moments like this. This numbers paint another picture however. Rivers is 2nd from last in both WS/40 and PER. His effective FG% (50%) is ranked 43rd. His assist to turnover ratio is under 1 and he rebounds at a rate of <4 per 40 minutes. Yes, he's only 19 (soon to turn 20), but he needs to improve dramatically to be worthy of an 8th pick.
Source: draftexpress.com

Could be Worth Waiting on Waiters

Mr. Waiters has been heavily rumoured to be squarely in the Raptors’ sights. I wasn’t initially impressed as I look at his shooting stats (both his eFG% and TS% are almost dead average in the field of draft candidates). But on closer inspection, some interesting numbers pop out. He’s ranked 11th in PER and have a very nice assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.92 (ranked 3rd). He gets to the line more than most guards at 5.4 trips per 40 minutes where he makes 72.9% of his FTs (just above average). While defense metrics are always a bit limited, his 3.0 steals per 40 is best among all players (2nd is Jae Crowder btw). Mr. Waiters also led the Orageman in AdjDRating – by a large margin. SI.com’s Luke Winn noted “It’s not a surprise that Waiters is the team leader, creating a turnover on 5.8 percent of his possessions played, and on an amazing 38.8 percent of the possessions in which he directly engages.” Also sounds like a Casey-type player.

Source: draftexpress.com

Likely the best choices?

8th Pick

Mr. Lillard is ranked 2nd in PER behind, of course, Anthony Davis. Obviously his numbers were put up against lesser competition than most players in our database. But he also wasn’t playing with a squad full of NCAA superstars either, which also enabled defenses to key in on him. What we like is ability to take care of the ball (1.73 assist/turnover ratio; ranks him 5th), his ability to get to the line (a 3rd best clip at 9.1 times per 40 minutes), his database best 88.7% FT% when he gets there, his 5.7 rebounds/40 (this 6’3″ guard had the highest “no-step” vertical in the combine at 34.5 inches).

Source: draftexpress.com
I also like his ability to be effective from deep (40.9%) – ranking him 7th of those players who take more than 2.5 attempts per game. His 3pt and FG efficiency lead to a 4th best True Shooting percentage in the group.

37th Pick Jae Crowder, Marquette
57th Pick Kim English, Missouri (other options Jenkins [above] or Will Barton [not mentioned], Memphis if they drop)

You may see an obvious problem with these picks. Our biggest need is at the wing. While we’ve picked up good value and potentially quite productive wings, they are not likely starting caliber wings right away. We’ve added another PG with a top pick when we have two capable players already on the roster. Its why, if the rumours are true, we’re looking to make a trade for a stud wing. While I wouldn’t like to part with Calderon, it may make sense to package him with our glut of PFs to acquire a wing. If you move Calderon, draft Lillard. If you happen to find a good deal to move Bayless, you draft Waiters. I rather try to work a trade than draft a mediocre wing at the 8th spot.