Pick Success Based on Position

 
 by Jon Nichols

            Of the 65 players drafted in the top 5 overall between 1990 and 2002, nearly half of them were either power forwards or centers.  Scouts and GM’s always love a player with height – one of the few things you just can’t teach.  That leads to the question: are big men overrated?  Do teams take a prospect too early just because he tops 84 inches?  Or does any player who plays the same position as Michael Jordan get too much credit?  I performed a study to find out.

            The study is on players drafted between 1990 and 2002.  I divided the players into three groups: those taken in the top 5, picks 6-13 (the rest of the lottery), and the rest of the 1st round.  Each player in each group was then divided into one of three more categories: point guards, swingmen, and big men.  Swingmen are any players listed as a shooting guard or small forward.  Big men are power forwards and centers.  After each player was put into a group, I evaluated which groups were the most successful.

            The first measure of success I used was PER.  PER, or Player Efficiency Rating, was developed by ESPN’s John Hollinger.  According to Hollinger, “Player Efficiency Rating is a rating of a player’s per-minute productivity.”  The league average is set at 15.  More information can be found here: http://www.alleyoop.com/prates.shtm.

            The second measure of success was standard deviation.  A group with a higher standard deviation had more unpredictable picks. More consistency is a good thing; a team wants to be sure that their players are going to perform well.

The third and final measure of success used was a statistic I developed called Success Rate.  For a #1 pick to be a success, he had to have a career PER of at least 16.8.  For a #2 pick, 16.6.  I subtracted .2 from each subsequent required PER, all the way down to pick #30 which needed a PER of 11 to be a success.

Top 5 Picks

 

Average PER

Std. Deviation

Success %

Point Guards

17.1

2.22

63.63%

Swingmen

16.5

2.93

54.54%

Big Men

17.48

4.39

59.38%

            In terms of PER, big men were the most successful in the top 5.  They were also the most unpredictable.  Teams might prefer point guards.  Their future success is much more predictable and their success rate is higher.  Swingmen fared the worst in the top 5.

Rest of Lottery

 

Average PER

Std. Deviation

Success %

Point Guards

14.18

3.48

33.33%

Swingmen

14.42

3.48

34.88%

Big Men

13.77

2.76

28.57%

            Swingmen do much better in the later lottery.  Although the numbers are lower for everybody, their decline is much smaller. 

Rest of 1st Round

 

Average PER

Std. Deviation

Success %

Point Guards

12.67

3.37

58.06%

Swingmen

12.31

3.12

40.28%

Big Men

12.32

2.86

41.38%

            Every group has its strength, and for point guards it’s the late first round.  Although they were the most unpredictable, it was only by a negligible amount.  And their success rate was far greater than the other two groups.

Overall

 

Average PER

Std. Deviation

Success %

Point Guards

13.93

3.54

53.70%

Swingmen

13.68

3.55

41.30%

Big Men

13.82

3.74

40.83%

            As expected, overall the three groups have similar average PER’s and standard deviations.  However, when you take into account expectations, point guards have been the most pleasantly surprising in the draft.  Their success % is significantly higher than the other two groups.  As of now, the data seems to show that teams underrate point guards and overrate swingmen and big men equally.

            For most studies like this, the inferences made to organize the data are not absolute.  Random statistical variation is always a factor.  With more time and more breakthroughs in statistical analysis, the results will become more accurate and reliable.

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