How is John Wall the consensus top pick??

Prompted by Palamida and by an excellent post on The WoW Journal, I’ve finally began to learn something about the prospects who ought to be available in this June’s NBA Draft.  It looks juicy.

But something puzzles me.  Why is Kentucky guard John Wall the consensus number one choice?  Yeah, he’s a nice, nice player, but he’s hardly a franchise player.  His production is pretty damn good, but its hardly dominant.  At this point, I would project him as an above average NBA win producer at his peak, but nothing better.

On the other hand, even the laziest of scouts ought to be able to recognize there’s another fellow on that Kentucky team who looks to be an NBA monster.

Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins is putting up outstanding production numbers.  He projects as a borderline elite win producer.  I’d take him before Wall without the slightest hesitation.

The  player I really like in this draft is Ohio State’s Evan Turner.  He’s not necessarily the best prospect available, but I place extra value on him because he’s part of a dying breed — perimeter players with size who don’t settle for the 3 point shot and who are willing and able to produce in every statistical category.  I would love to see him in Green and Cardinal, but it will never happen.

The fact of the matter is, this summer’s NBA Draft looks like it will have a bumper crop of win producers at the top (of course it will, because the Bucks won’t have a top pick).  That makes the whole John Wall mania even more mysterious.

The team that picks him will end up with a nice player, but I’ll bet that team will in time regret passing on a much nicer player.

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2 Responses to “How is John Wall the consensus top pick??”

  1. Josh Says:

    Ty,

    In response to your post, I did my analysis for Kentucky. What I found backs up your analysis. Cousins is the best player on the team, although he hasn’t played as many minutes as some of the other players (54.7% of available minutes). That may be due to him being a Freshman big or a high foul rate (5.8/40 minutes). But on a per-possession basis, he grades as the best and would be the best player in the Big Ten were he playing there. Here are the Player Efficiency Margins (PEM’s) for Kentucky through yesterday:

    Cousins – 54.4
    Patterson – 42.6
    Wall – 34.9
    Dodson – 32.9
    Liggins – 26.9
    Miller – 22.5
    Bledsoe – 12.0
    Orton – 11.1
    Stevenson – 3.6
    Harris – -8.5

    The interesting thing is that Patrick Patterson is also ahead of Wall. That is mostly a result of an absurdly high Offensive Rating (ORtg) of 130.0 (8th in the nation!). Yet, he uses only 18.3% of his team’s possessions (20% is average) when on the court, while his teammate Eric Bledsoe uses 20.9% to generate a 97.2 (ORtg).

    I have a toy that I use called Lineup Correlation (LC) that does a correlation of the percentage of minutes against the PEM for each player. LC roughly measures how well a coach has judged his talent by giving the most minutes to the best players. The highest correlation that I’ve seen is .87 while the lowest is actually -.37. The average appears to be around .50.

    However LC, is just a toy, because it can be thrown off by a few things. One stumble is small sample size players who have high PEM’s but really low minutes because they are limited as players and might be exposed with more regular playing time. The other is players who miss games but are very productive, such as Jon Leuer, who makes Bo Ryan’s LC look lower than it should be.

    John Calipari’s LC is .39, which is fairly below average. Part of this might be due to Cousins’ foul trouble not allowing Calipari to play Cousins more. However, I haven’t watched Kentucky play, so I don’t really know if Calipari can use this as an excuse.

    The bigger issue is playing Bledsoe 72.3% of available minutes with a PEM of 12.0. Bledsoe is the fourth worst player on the team on a per-possession basis. It looks as though Kentucky is very tall, so maybe Calipari doesn’t have any legitimate guards with which to replace Bledsoe. This another situation where the stats can’t tell the story and only eyes watching games can help.

    And overall, here are the Points Above Average (PAA) for each player, which measures how many points they have scored more than an average player so far this season. Cousins is not the top dog here because of playing time:

    Patterson – 120.8
    Cousins – 105.9
    Wall – 100.3
    Miller – 41.9
    Dodson – 38.9
    Bledsoe – 30.9
    Liggins – 22.6
    Orton – 13.0
    Stevenson – 2.6
    Harris – -10.0

    Wall may be more valuable as a prospect because he is a point guard who can play at the same level as a Freshman that Trevon Hughes plays at as a senior, but it’s hard to ignore Cousins’ production. On a per-possession basis, it blows away anything we’ve seen in the Big Ten in the past 6 seasons and his size and weight predict that he will be a post in the NBA, which is just as, if not more valuable than a point guard.

    All in all, I agree with you that Cousins would be the better pick. Maybe the scouts see something the numbers don’t in Wall, Evan Turner, and Derrick Favors, who are all ahead of Cousins on Draft Express, but I’ll go with these insane numbers that Cousins has put up.

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