Greg Oden. Anthony Bennett. Andrea Bagnani. Kwame Brown. Markelle Fultz?
While it’s no easy task to be in an NBA front office leading up to draft night, fans certainly put all the pressure on teams for poor draft choices despite the fact that most “terrible draft picks” were picked at an appropriate ranking. If any other team had the same pick or one within two or three spots with that player still available, they’d most likely still have drafted that Greg Oden or Sam Bowie (the second overall pick in the 1984 draft…selected right ahead of Michael Jordan). An exception to this would be the 2013 Cavaliers selecting Anthony Bennett first overall … because the NBA’s official consensus mock draft had him going 6th.
Anyways, what does the number pick a player goes tell us about his career based on previous players? Looking at the careers of players drafted since 2010, players drafted have a 85.6% chance of at least playing in the NBA after getting drafted. Here’s a few more results from the data:
• Since 2010, no player drafted 59th overall has ever played in an NBA game. While we only looked at players drafted in 2010 or later, that streak actually goes back even further – to 2007 draft pick DJ Strawberry. Strawberry, the 59th overall pick to the Phoenix Suns, played 33 games in 2007 but has not played in the NBA since.
• The 2011 draft class has the highest average VORP per season played with 0.47. Even with Anthony Bennet providing a significantly abnormal VORP for the season’s first overall pick (his career VORP of -1.7 is the lowest by a number one draft pick since 2010), the 2013 draft class comes in second at an average of 0.44 VORP per player per season.
• Looking to get drafted and play a significant number of games immediately? Players drafted 8th overall have the highest games played per season with 71.13. They are followed by pick numbers 7, 9, 4, and 11th. The highest playing second round draft pick on average is pick number 40, averaging 41.49 games per season.
• Simply playing in a games doesn’t necessarily measure one’s impact. Players drafted 7th overall play the most minutes per season, followed by players drafted 1st, 2nd, 9th, and 8th. Not so shockingly, all of the picks in the bottom five for minutes per season are late second rounders – the 59th (with 0 minutes), the 57th (with 0.30 minutes per season … thanks to the 2010 57th overall pick Ryan Reid playing 17 minutes in 5 games), the 51st (with 5.1 minutes per season), the 56th (with 39.7 minutes), and the 57th (with 49.7 minutes).
• Thanks to Isaiah Thomas, the 60th overall pick has gotten a lot of attention in recent drafts. Even with Thomas’ 2017-18 injury keeping him sidelined for 50 games, players drafted 60th overall have averaged 18.37 games per season and 434.2 minutes per season since 2010. That’s better than 16 other picks in the draft. Other notable Mr. Irrelevants who received respectable playing time for their pick number includes Corey Jefferson and Tyrone Wallace. This year’s 60th overall pick is somewhat familiar though – Kostas Antetokounmpo, the younger brother of NBA All Star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
• Players picked 1st overall have the highest VORP per season with 1.95. The drop off between first and second in this stat is a steep one, equally the same difference between the second and forty-second ranked pick number. Players picked 9th overall have the second best VORP per season with .98.
• Getting real specific with the analysis here, the leader in highest VORP per game per season is not surprisingly the same leader in VORP per season (players drafted first overall). This stat would seemingly determine which pick numbers produce the most productive players by league standards. Rounding out the top three in the rankings aren’t the 7th, 8th, or any other recently named leading pick number. Instead, players picked 30th overall and 35th overall come in second and third in VORP per game per season, so while they don’t necessarily play the most minutes, they contribute the second most value to the team strictly speaking.
• Which first round pick has the worst chance of making it to the NBA? Well since 2010, luckily only four players drafted in the first round did not play in at least one NBA game. They were picked 20th, 25th, 26th, and 28th. Two of those four players (Anzejs Pasecniks and Harry Giles) were drafted in 2017 and were simply low on their respective teams depth charts as draft-and-stash players this past season. The other two, were both international players drafted by the Spurs. Livio Jean-Charles, a French player selected by the Spurs with the 28th overall pick in 2013. He continued his international career for two seasons after being drafted, but was cut by the Spurs during their last year of his draft rights after his 2016 summer league season. The final first rounder to never make it to the NBA is the 2015 26th overall pick, Nikola Milutinov. The 2017-18 season was his last under his 3 year draft rights, and it still looks like he’ll skip out on the NBA after resigning with Olympiacos and making the Greek League All Star game in 2018. He’s played with Olympiacos since he signed for them exactly one month after being drafted in the NBA.
• The most successful draft class in terms of players appearing in the NBA is the 2012 class, with 56 of the 60 players making it to the big stage at some point. The least successful is not the expected most recent draft class (2017 has seen 48 players make their NBA debut with a number expected to make their debuts next season as well) but rather the 2015 draft class. Only 44 players have played in the NBA from the 2015 draft class, and that number might not increase with all of those players’ rookie contracts (including the one year option) expiring this past season.
Some of these numbers make sense, while others come as a bit of a shock. Either way, NBA hopefuls should always shoot for a first round pick in the top ten if they want an immediate role. With such a high pick also comes the high expectations, even if its the team’s fault for setting expectations too high (looking at the Cavs and Anthony Bennett again).