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Which Were The Best And Worst Drafting Teams Over The Last Ten Years?

Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Where does your team rank?

A little less than a month ago I wrote a piece for the SBNation Memphis Grizzlies blog, Grizzly Bear Blues, that dispelled the notion that the team has drafted poorly over the past decade, but has rather mismanaged their drafted talent. As a part of the piece, I not only researched the Grizzlies’ draft history, but also the entire draft pool of the league from 2006-2016. Since the scope of my article was Grizzlies focused, 95+ percent of the data I gathered was not used, but that info is still interesting and worth getting out there. So that’s what this article is about.

A few stipulations before getting into the analysis.

1. The data ranges from 2006-2016 because at the time I did most of this research there was no data available for the 2017 draft class. Even so, the season is too young to credibly implement rookie data with any sort of certainty.

2. I found the total win shares, total win shares per 48 minutes, average win shares, and average win shares per 48 minutes for every team’s draft class over the last 10 years. I chose these advanced statistics because I believe they are the most effective advanced stats at signaling a player’s value.

3. If a player was drafted by and played for team X before being traded, waived, or signed elsewhere, all of his career win shares count towards team X. So a player like Dwight Howard, who was drafted by the Orlando Magic in 2004 (and therefore not a part of this study) but has played subsequently for the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, and currently the Charlotte Hornets (no 2017 Hornets data would be considered though), all of his win shares and win shares per 48 numbers go to the Magic. This exercise is about a team’s ability to spot and acquire talent through the draft, not its ability to mold or retain a player’s services.

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Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/GettyImages

4. A team gets a player’s win shares if he played his first game with the team. Example 1: Kevin Love was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008. However, his win shares transfer to the Minnesota Timberwolves because he was traded on draft night for O.J. Mayo, whose win shares go to Memphis. Example 2: Kawhi Leonard was traded by the Indiana Pacers to the San Antonio Spurs on draft night 2011 for then third-year guard George Hill. Both Leonard and Hill’s win shares contribute to the Spurs because both played their first games with the franchise. Example 3: Marc Gasol was drafted by the Lakers in 2007, but not traded to Memphis until February 2008 for his brother, Pau. However, Marc was playing professionally in Spain at the time and played his first NBA game with the Grizzlies the following season. His win shares therefore go to Memphis.

5. I imposed a necessary but controversial average minutes threshold of 500 minutes per season. The minutes limit was necessary because had it not been implemented, the Los Angeles Clippers would have been the worst drafting franchise despite picking Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. And the New York Knicks—the Knicks!!—would have been the best despite not hitting on a pick outside of Kristaps Porzingis over the last decade-and-a-half. These anomalies occurred because Diamond Stone posted a crazily awful -.211 ws/48 in 24 minutes over seven games for LAC last season and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s brother, Thanasis, hit an ungodly .291 ws/48 in six minutes over two games for NYK in 2016-17. These were clearly outlier performances which drastically shifted the data.

However, the minutes limit cut out some key busts including Hasheem Thabeet, number two overall pick in 2009 (when James Harden, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Ricky Rubio, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague, Tyreke Evans, Darren Collison, Taj Gibson, Patrick Beverly, Danny Green, Patty Mills, and others were selected later) by the Grizzlies and Anthony Bennett, the first pick in 2013 (a bad draft, but I mean, c’mon, you gotta do better than that, man) by the Cavs. While these guys probably should be counted, they’re not going to make it into this discussion going forward. Which is a bummer, but it is what it is.

So, now that you know the parameters of this study, let’s get into it.


All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference

The results aren’t too surprising. You have your obvious top teams like OKC, San Antonio, Golden State, and the Clippers, while your bottom teams are either in the midst of a rebuild like the Sixers and Suns, haven’t drafted many players over the past 10 years like Miami, or both like the Lakers. 

Boston comes up low on both the average WS and average WS/48 lists due to the fact that so much of their team is so young. Several of their players—Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier—have made significant leaps since last season. Their other main contributors outside of their stars are rookies like Jayson Tatum, Semi Ojeleye, and Daniel Theis. The contributions of these rooks weren’t figured in, hence why the team ranks low.

Additionally, Brooklyn is near the top of both lists even though it is mired in a painful rebuild stemming from the disastrous Celtics trade in 2013. Only seven Brooklyn players met the above criteria, four of which posted 20+ career WS and > .130 WS/48. That was enough to place them in the top six in both categories.

Middle-ish teams like Milwaukee and Minnesota look to be on the ascent while teams that were playoff bound the last 10 seasons yet still scored highly like Chicago and Memphis appear to be trending downward.

Edited by Jeremy Losak.

SQuiz
Who was not a top five pick in the 2004 NBA Draft?
Created 12/4/17
  1. Dwight Howard
  2. Ben Gordon
  3. Al Jefferson
  4. Shaun Livingston

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