The Draft According to YODA

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Over the past couple months, I’ve been posting regularly in the draft threads on the Wizards board at RealGM about my research into evaluating NCAA draft prospects. The project is an effort to use college stats, as well as measurements, times and scores from draft combines to project which players are most likely to become good professionals.

The system I’ve come up with involves using per minute stats, includes an accounting for level of competition, and adjusts for age — a great performance from an 18-year old freshman is more impressive than the same performance from a 23-year old senior.

After referring to “the system” several times on the boards as Ye Olde Draft Analyzer, someone dubbed it YODA and the name stuck. The results? Time will tell on this year’s draft class. In previous years, YODA’s predictions have been good, but that’s the subject for a later post at some point in the future.

Below are the players as they’re rated by YODA. I’ve divided them into “tiers” — basically groupings of players by quality. The separation between Tier One and Tier Two is significant; the differences between players in the same tier are insignificant.

Here’s how I think about the tier system. Teams generally give themselves a better chance of succeeding when they pick best player available rather than focusing on specific roster needs. This should limit “reaches.” Plus, getting the best player gives the team another asset for trade purposes. Of course, it’s not always clear who the “best player” actually is.

That’s where the tiers enter the picture. Players who are “about the same” fall into the same tier. When a team’s pick comes around, they can use this process to pick whichever player on the same tier best fits their needs. They should avoid “reaching” into a lower tier to pick for need.

Anyway — the prospects according to YODA (along with sample players through the years who rated on the same tier):

NOTE: The tiers are numbered for this year only. They’re not historical tiers — that’s a work still in progress.

Tier One

Historical: Kevin Durant, Greg Oden

  • Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky — Davis posted the most impressive freshman season I’ve analyzed. He’s the second rated prospect in YODA behind Shaquille O’Neal’s sophomore season. Similar YODA scores: Kevin Durant and Greg Oden.

Tier Two

Historical: Allen Iverson (SO), Zach Randolph (FR), Carmelo Anthony (FR)

  • Jae Crowder, SF, Marquette
  • Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina

Tier Three

Historical: Jason Kidd (FR), Josh Howard (SR), Tim Duncan (JR)

  • Marcus Denmon, SG, Missouri

Tier Four

Historical: Paul Pierce (JR), Tony Allen (SO), Gilbert Arenas (FR), Ty Lawson (FR)

  • Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky

Tier Five

Historical: Caron Butler (SO), Brandon Roy (JR), Rudy Gay (FR), Mike Miller (SO)

  • Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
  • Draymond Green, PF, Michigan State
  • Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
  • Will Barton, SG, Memphis
  • Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse

Tier Six

Historical: Ryan Anderson (SO), Ben Gordon (JR), Roy Hibbert (SR), Karl Malone (FR)

  • Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
  • Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
  • Miles Plumlee, F/C, Duke
  • Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
  • Terrence Jones, F, Kentucky
  • Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut

Tier Seven

Historical: Antawn Jamison (SO), Deron Williams (SO), Jordan Crawford (SO)

  • Darius Johnson-Odom, SG, Marquette
  • Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut
  • Ricardo Ratliffe, PF, Missouri

Tier Eight

Historical: Chris Singleton (JR), Jarrett Jack (SO), Harold Miner (FR), Charlie Villanueva (SO)

  • Jeff Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt
  • John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt
  • Orlando Johnson, SG, UCSB
  • Tony Wroten, PG, Washington
  • Quincy Miller, SF, Baylor

Tier Nine

Historical: Jared Dudley (JR), Gerald Wallace (FR), Hakim Warrick (FR), Lester Hudson (JR), Morris Almond (SR), Michael Redd (SO)

  • John Henson, PF, North Carolina
  • Reggie Hamilton, PG, Oakland
  • Kevin Jones, PF, West Virginia
  • Jordan Taylor, PG, Wisconsin
  • John Shurna, F, Northwestern
  • Devoe Joseph, SG, Oregon
  • Drew Gordon, PF, New Mexico

That’s enough to get through the first round. Tier 9 players are average prospects historically, according to YODA. In the “historical” sections, I’ve included a few representative players. It’s worth nothing that good pros have come from many “tiers,” which is demonstration of the reality that a) evaluating prospects is an inexact science; and b) that MANY young players have the capability to be quality professional players if they work hard enough and smart enough. The reality is that EVERY player arriving in the NBA needs to improve. The difference between a kid who becomes an All-Star and a kid who’s out of the league in three years is very much about the amount of purposeful, deliberate, well-considered work each player puts into developing his game and his body.

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