The Skinny on the top NBA Draft Prospects using Berri Factors and intuition

In the book Stumbling on Wins, Professor David Berri cited research he had done in which he attempted to identify the college box score statistics (and extrinsic factors) that might suggest a certain prospect will be a productive NBA player.

He found that most of the traditional box score statistics had no statistical significance, except three: 2pt%, Steals, and Rebounds. I computed the positional averages for each of this year’s prospects in those three categories, plus True Shooting Percentage, and Win Score per 40 minutes. 

I broke the prospects down into three general categories: (1) Small Guards (pure point guards and shooting guards too small to double as small forwards); (2) Perimeter Players (players who can split time at shooting guard and small forward; and, (3) Big Men (power forwards and centers).

Here are the averages in each of the three general categories:

Smalls WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
  7.38 57.3 49.3 4.9 1.6
Perimeter WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
  9.24 56.1 51.1 7.7 1.3
Bigs WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
  12.56 58.8 56.1 11.1 1.2

Here are the list of the top prospects, with comments:

1. Kyrie Irving (PG/SG):

WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
7.38 57.3 49.3 4.9 1.6
12.31 70.1 56.9 4.9 2.1

Skinny: Looks like a potential superstar. Irving has decent size, and he is two standard deviations above the “Smalls” WS40 average, normally the mark of a potential elite player.  Irving is above average in every category except rebounds, where he is average. Irving’s Ass/FGA average of 0.45 marks him as a slash Point Guard/Shooting Guard, which is probably what he played at Duke.

2. Derrick Williams (SF/PF)

WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
12.56 58.8 56.1 11.1 1.2
15.11 69.1 60.1 10.9 1.3

Skinny: As I mentioned in the last post, Williams is hard to project because he will not be playing the same position in the pros that he played in college. In the NBA he will most likely be a cross between a small forward and power forward. Such players are hard to project, for various reasons that you need to read the other post to understand. Among the bigs, Williams is above average in WS40, and in both of the shooting statistics. Williams has outstanding touch on his jump shot. Williams is just an average rebounder, and slightly above average in steals. This is a red flag, because Michael Beasley, a player playing a similar mix of positions, basically gave up rebounding when he got to the NBA and turned himself into a “drifter”, and his value has never been what it was projected to be.

3. Enos Kanter, C

Skinny: I have no reliable statistics on this guy. Some sites feature his below 18 year old statistics, but that is essentially high school. For what its worth, he looks the part and looks fairly mobile, but so did Darko Milicic.

4. Brandon Knight (PG/SG)

WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
7.38 57.3 49.3 4.9 1.6
4.71 55.1 46.1 4.5 0.7

Skinny: This player should come with a warning sticker. I am not guaranteeing he will be an unproductive pro, but as you can see, he is below average in every single significant category. In fact, in three of the five he is significantly below average. He is a standard deviation below the “Smalls” WS40 average, meaning he has shown no evidence he will be a valuable player.

5. Kemba Walker (SG/PG)

WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
7.38 57.3 49.3 4.9 1.6
8.91 54.1 47.1 5.8 2.1

Skinny: Obviously, size may be an issue for Walker, who can play point guard (it looks like he did for his first two collegiate seasons), but who is much more productive as an off-guard. Kemba has an above average WS, but his shooting stats are below average. Encouragingly, he rebounds and produces steals at an above average rate, suggesting a player who is willing to do more than just score. Still, he is a scary prospect because he is tiny.

6. Jan Vesely (PF)

WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
12.56 58.8 56.1 11.1 1.2
9.51 63.1 71.5 7.5 1.9

Skinny: One of those European players who is impossible to properly position. All of his numbers suggest “small forward”, but I guarantee, when an NBA coach gets a player as tall as Vesely, no matter how perimeter oriented, he will play the player at power forward, not small forward. I cite Yi Jianlian and Rashard Lewis as examples. This often has disastrous results unless you have an uber productive big man on the floor, because you are essentially playing without one big. With all that said, Vesely has some fantastic shooting numbers.  Will those transfer to America? 

7. Jimmer Fredette (SG/PG)

WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
7.38 57.3 49.3 4.9 1.6
8.01 59.1 49.1 3.8 1.5

Skinny: Above average in a lot of significant categories, but again, he will be required to play a position that is not his optimal position.  He should be able to find a “Steve Kerr” role for himself somewhere in the NBA. He’s crafty. Can he defend the NBA’s point guards?  That is the question.

8. Jonas Valanciunus (C)

WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
12.56 58.8 56.1 11.1 1.2
15.11 74.1 70.1 14.5 0.6

Skinny: Very interesting prospect. I only have data on 14 of his European games, but he seems very long and extremely productive.  Does he have the strength to defend NBA bigs? Probably not right away. He really rebounds well, and he is a very effective scorer. You know whose name comes to mind, though?  A young Arvydas Sabonis, without the ball handling skills. He is only 19! That is high, high praise. I would not be afraid to draft this guy.

9. Kawhi Leonard (SF/PF)

WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
9.24 56.1 51.1 7.7 1.3
12.81 51.1 47.8 13.1 1.7

Skinny: Very productive possession creator. Not a great shooter. A lot of people are comparing him to Gerald Wallace, but I look at him as a more productive version of Luc Moute. Incredible rebounder from the 3 position. He is the kind  of low skill offensive player that usually falls down the draft boards. It is surprising how much traction he has gained.

10. Marcus Morris (PF/SF)

Skinny:  Pretty small for the 4 position, and not as productive as I had thought. He probably cannot play the 3 for very long stints.  He has an above average WS40, but I think it was built upon overpowering college kids in the post. He has no outside touch, and he will not be able to overwhelm NBA players inside. I’d pass on this Morris.

11. Klay Thompson (SG/SF)

WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
9.24 56.1 51.1 7.7 1.3
8.11 57.1 46.6 5.9 1.8

Skinny:  Apparently the buzz is that the Bucks will select Thompson, but he has the markings of a bust. His WS40 is below average for a perimeter player, and his entire game is built on his three point shooting.  He is below average in 2 point shooting and rebounding, which means he relies on bombs every night to make any kind of contribution at all. That’s scary. I hate players like this guy who seem to have no floor game. They are hit-or-miss. Either the jumper is on and they are crushing it for you, or they cannot hit anything and they are killing you with a thousand cuts. At best, Thompson projects as an average pro, and that is “at best”. Please stay away, Bucks.

12. Chris Singleton (PF)

WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
12.56 58.8 56.1 11.1 1.2
9.61 53.3 46.6 9.4 2.6

Skinny: Draftexpress projects him as a small forward, but based on my Win Chart work, I see him as a definite power forward.  NBA coaches will not play a guy with his size on the perimeter unless the guy has an outside game, which Singleton doesn’t have. In fact, his shooting numbers would be below average at any position. I could be wrong, though.  He could be a Darius Miles type.  Miles was 6’9” and had no outside game to speak of and still logged a lot of minutes at the 3. But Miles weighed less, I believe.  (I just checked. I was right, Miles weighed a string bean 210 pounds — that’s why coaches played him at the 3). Singleton’s steal numbers are phenomenal.

13. Tristan Thompson (PF/C)

WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
12.56 58.8 56.1 11.1 1.2
10.61 54.1 54.6 10.2 1.2

Skinny:  I don’t know. He’s below average in nearly every category, and at 6’8”, 227 lbs, that includes size. But he can’t play small forward because he cannot shoot at all. His FT% is a whopping 46.6%. Shaquesque, and not in a good way. You know who I’m thinking of? Marcus Haislip.

14. Bismack Biyombo (C/PF)

WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
12.56 58.8 56.1 11.1 1.2
11.01 56.1 56.1 11.9 0.8

Skinny: Completely raw, but he could wrap his arms around an airport. But what does that mean if you can’t play? Draftexpress calls his best case “6’9” version of Dwight Howard” with his worst case being “Taj Gibson”. The first statement is ridiculous, the second would provide Taj Gibson with a libel claim were he a citizen of the United Kingdom. For a guy who played in the Timbuktu League or wherever, his stats aren’t that great. It looks like he basically blocked shots, turned the ball over, and committed fouls.  Whoever drafts him will ticket him for the NBADL I’ll bet.

15. Marshon Brooks (SG/SF)

WS40 TS% 2pt% Reb40 Stls40
9.24 56.1 51.1 7.7 1.3
10.31 58.1 55.9 7.7 1.5

Skinny: Four year player who is above average or average in every category.  Kind of an average outside shooter, and he may be too skinny at 6’5” and 190 to get his shot off unmolested.  Draftexpress lists his worst case comparison as “Henry Domercant”.  Is that some kind of pseudonym? Like “Allen Smithee“, the name Hollywood directors use when they want to disown one of their works?  I’ve never heard of Henry Domercant before.


Okay, I’ve run out of energy here. I have to cut this short. This is already a +1500 word post. You can only comment for so long and you burn out.  I wanted to get to my “sleepers”, but that will probably have to wait. But I will name them: PF/C Kenneth Faried could be another Rodman, the other Morris brother looks like the better prospect, and there are a few point guards and small forwards who look intriguing, but I’ll comment on them at a later time.

3 Responses to “The Skinny on the top NBA Draft Prospects using Berri Factors and intuition”

  1. brgulker Says:

    Great stuff, Ty. I can’t help but think someone is going to steal Faried in the mid to late first round.

    It will be interesting to watch these international bigs for the next few seasons. How many Darkos and Bargs will there be?

  2. Blake Says:

    Apparently the Bucks like that Jonas guy a lot… I’d rather have Faried though.

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