A 2008 Draft Preview, Plus a Look Back at the Last 20 DraftsBy: Todd Robinson - June 24th, 2008
The NBA Draft is coming up & it gives us an opportunity to evaluate past drafts and see how radically it differs from the far more popular NFL Draft. Additionally, we’ll preview the 2008 Draft to see who might go where, who’ll have the greatest long-term impact, and who might become the next Trajan Langdon/ Rafael Arajuo-type busts.
One word can explain the main difference between the NFL Draft and the NBA Draft – seasoning. NFL Draft prospects have all played college football for at least 3 years, giving them time to develop their bodies, develop their skills, and show how they handle themselves in numerous game situations. They are pretty well seasoned. For NBA Draft prospects, they often have just one year of college basketball experience, maybe just at JC, or may even be a player from Europe, playing a different type of basketball – less physical and athletically oriented. This makes the NBA Draft quite a crapshoot, as we’ll find out when we see the large number of Top 12 Busts since 1988.
In looking at the 2008 Draft, reading player bios, and seeing quotes from scouts & draft experts, I realized this was not a deep, impressive draft. Basically, I like 6 of the top 10 guys, a couple others projected for the mid-late 1st round, and one sleeper nugget. Seeing how generally unimpressive the draft was shaping up to be, it got me thinking about past drafts & how many future All-Stars & busts have been picked in the last 20 years. I studied every draft since 1988 and counted future Hall of Famers, All-Stars, and Top 12 Busts in each.
Many of the Hall of Fame numbers are educated guesses that I feel 100% positive about (Kobe, KG, Iverson, etc…), while others I was only about 90-95% sure of (Chris Webber, Zo, Paul Pierce types). Finally, it became outright projection for any draft post 2001 (Gasol? Yao? Stoudamire? Wade?). For 2006 and 2007, I didn’t even project HOFers, only All-Stars and, for 2006, Top 12 Busts. For HOFers, I counted 26 total for every draft from 1988 through 2005. This number might be construed as generous, because if a draft had 3 guys who were borderline but not quite there, I generally would count that as two (i.e., 1998 – Paul Pierce yes, Dirk…maybe, Vince…maybe, Jamison…maybe. I gave that draft 3.) Dividing 26 by 18 (the number of drafts), we get 1.44 HOFers per draft. Four drafts had none – 1988, 1989, 1991, 2000 – while only three had at least 3 – 1996, 1998, 2003. The 3 from ‘96 are automatic – Kobe, Iverson, and Nash, while the 3 from ’03 are projected to be Lebron, Wade, and Bosh. Bottom line, you can see how rare it is to draft a HOFer…2 in one draft is way above average.
Next, we have the All-Stars. The All Stars are players in each draft who had at least one All-Star caliber season, whether they made the All-Star game or not. This total came to 98 players over the 20 drafts from 1988 through 2007. The projections for 2006 were 4 – Roy (who’s already been one), Gay, Aldridge, and Rondo. For 2007, it was also 4 – Oden, Durant, Horford, and Al Thornton. Obviously, in just a couple years time the numbers from these most recent drafts might change quite dramatically. So in dividing 98 by 20, we get 4.9 players per draft capable of at least one season of putting up All Star caliber numbers. Four drafts stood out as especially deep – 1996 with 10, ’98 with 8, ’99 with 8.5 (lots of players like Andre Miller, Lamar Odom, & Jason Terry who were so close I gave them a collective .5) and 2001 with 8 again.
So as we see, each draft produces very few superstars, and as we’ll see next, produces an amazing number of Top 12 Busts – players taken in the first 12 picks who don’t pan out at all. Now if a player is drafted 11th and has 4 or 5 years of 15-20 minutes per game of semi-productive minutes, he won’t make this list. But if that same player with those same stats is a top 3
pick, then yes, he’s a Top 12 Bust. Since one year in the league is far too short a time period to determine Bust status, I only looked at 1988 through 2006. For the 2006 draft, I came up with the rather large number 5. There are actually 7 guys who look like they might end up being total busts – Andrea Bargnani, Adam Morrison, Ty Thomas, Shelden Williams, Patrick O’Bryant, Saer Sene, and JJ Redick. Of these 7, I’m assuming 5 do become Top 12 Busts. Once again, we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out.
The total number of Top 12 Busts in the 19 drafts (1988 – 2006) was 68.5. Divide this by 19 and we get 3.6 busts per draft, and this only counts the top 12 picks!! An amazing 30% of the top 12 picks ended up as total busts!! This number includes players like Chris Morris (4th in ’88), Stacy King (6th in ’89), Bo Kimble (8th in ’90), Adam Keefe (10th in ’92), Eric Montross (9th in ’94), and more recent tragedies like the aforementioned Langdon (11th in ’99), Kwame Brown (1st in ’01), Tskitishvili (5th in ’02), and Yaroslav Korolev (12th in ’05). I find it astounding that so many blunders are made at the top of the draft year after year, especially because many of the picks looked so tragic even at the time – Kimble, Langdon, Arajuo, and Luke Jackson in 2004 come to mind immediately.
So how do I see the 2008 Draft turning out? I see one potential Hall of Famer – Derrick Rose – due to his combination of athleticism, skills, and head. I see 4 or 5 other guys who could have multiple All Star seasons – Michael Beasley, OJ Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Randolph. And I see a few potential Top 12 Busts – Brook Lopez, Danilo Gallinari, and Joe Alexander.
I like Brandon Rush to be a nice starting SG for a few years, but nothing amazing – a very poor man’s Rip Hamilton or Eddie Jones in his prime. I think Nicolas Batum (20 year old from France), who’s projected anywhere between 16 and 25, could be a pleasant surprise and very good player. The same can be said for Courtney Lee, who looks like this year’s version of Rodney Stuckey from last year’s draft. He’s a 6’5” SG who played at a small college (Western Kentucky) and has lots of game. Finally, I really like Lester Hudson out of Tennessee Martin. He’s a smurf combo guard who needs to improve his ball-handling, but he’s a natural shooter and scorer who had a quadruple-double in a game this season. He’s projected to be a 2nd rounder, but I think many teams picking in the latter half of round 1 will regret bypassing him.
The rest of these guys seem to have a lot of warts, strengths offset by glaring weaknesses; but of course, a few of them will probably overcome those weaknesses and become solid players for many years in the league. Who will those players be? Check with me in 5 years…I’m certainly not sure, and neither are most of the well paid GM’s, scouts, and coaches who have been studying these players for the last 12 months.
More of Todd's work can be found on his 'Speedburner on Sports' blog at Sportscity.com