## Top 10 NBA Draft prospects – February 2016 update

These rankings are based on my newly developed statistical system comparing prospects to the college performance of recent all-stars or strong starters. In my research I found using this system did a quality job when run over the last 5 drafts. In each category the prospect is compared to the median of these performances. For example if a prospect averages 4 steals, 4 blocks, 15 rebounds, 10 assists, 20 points, .65 Freshman TS and the average at his position was 2 steals, 2 blocks, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 10 points, .55 TS, the player’s performance would be 200% in steals, 200% in blocks, 300% in rebounds, 333% in assists, 200% in points and 118% in TS. I use the most recent season for older prospects except freshman points and TS%. I felt the impact of aging made too big an impact on scoring numbers to use the most recent number for older prospects. I used the positions listed on Draftexpress and for cross position players used the middle ground between those two positions for my category medians.

**1. SF/PF Ben Simmons**

**2. PG Kris Dunn**

Statistically these are the two players who stand out in my system, in comparisons to recents at their position they rate:

Simmons – 133% Steals, 71% Blocks, 125% Rebounds, 276% Assists, 125% Freshman Points, 103% Freshman TS%. Median: 125%

Dunn – 165% Steals, 300% Blocks, 132% Rebounds, 129% Assists, 56% Freshman Points, 85% Freshman TS%. Median: 130%

Simmons and Dunn have two of the best median %s of the last 5 drafts which I’ve tracked. Dunn’s steal and block rate is more dominant which is more important but Simmons is a special passer for his position and has a major advantage as a scorer to Dunn’s freshman rate.

The next question is whether their talent backs up the numbers. The answer looks to be yes. Both are projected top 5 picks in the NBA draft showing scouts confidence they can be all-stars. Simmons is a great athlete with solid length and strength. Dunn has good but not great explosiveness but more impressive size for his position and projects to penetrate well in the NBA. For both shooting is considered the weakness. Simmons rarely takes jumpers but shoots a better FT% than Dunn at 69.7% to 69.0. Dunn hits a respectable 37.2% from 3 after 35% last year but his form is considered questionable along with mediocre FT shooting. He clearly is not in the “broken” category of shooter however. Simmons draws more raves for his basketball IQ although Dunn’s strong assist rate is indicative of vision. It feels Simmons may have the edge as a talent but in Dunn there is enough tools to be a multiple time all-star.

**3. PF Dragan Bender**

On the surface Bender is having a disappointing season in Europe as he is not in the regular rotation of his team. However his numbers albeit over a small sample size may be more encouraging than it seems. Per 40 minutes Bender averages 1.6 steals, 2.3 blocks, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 14.5 points, .57 TS%. Compared to the same PF median I use for NCAA players his %s are:

114% Steals, 111% Blocks, 50% Rebounds, 114% Assists, 76% Points, 90% TS%, Median: 101%

This is actually a very solid line especially against the presumed tougher European competition. As a comparison here is what Kristaps Porzingis did per 40 last year:

121% Steals, 90% Blocks, 67% Rebounds, 63% Assists, 107% Points, 92% TS%, Median: 91%

It bears mentioning Porzingis did this in twice the minutes per game, in twice the games played and drew real responsibility on his team. Nevertheless Bender is putting up numbers in some of the areas he is supposed to be best at in the defensive numbers steals and blocks and assists. He is shooting 40% from 3 which is encouraging for his stretch PF potential. A strategy I’ve experimented with is adding 10% to the Median of every European player to account for difficulty, if I did so Bender’s new rating of 111% would rank as one of the top 5 statistical performances in this class.

Scouts are enamoured with Bender’s talent due to his length, athleticism, feel, potential to hit the 3 and passing. He has the chance to be a hybrid of perimeter skills in a 7 foot body and replicate how prime Andrei Kirilenko’s game would have fit in the modern, smallball-centric NBA. As for whether I would rank over either Simmons or Dunn I chose not to pull the trigger on that. First because although Bender’s numbers are good, theirs are clearly better. Secondly Bender’s numbers have a small sample size problem and the lingering concern of why his coach isn’t acting like he’s a good player.

**4. SF Brandon Ingram**

Here is how Ingram’s stats match up at SF:

74% Steals, 190% Blocks, 80% Rebounds, 88% Assists, 125% Freshman Points, 107% Freshman TS, Median: 98%

This is a good but not fabulous performance. There are a number of NCAA prospects after Simmons and Dunn who post a higher Median %. But talent can be given a bone here. Ingram is widely considered a top 3 talent in the draft due to his length, athleticism, ball handling, shooting and feel. He has a chance to be picked 1st. Considering he still does solid statistically headlined by his shotblocking and scoring he doesn’t need to be dropped too far. Nevertheless I don’t consider him a can’t miss prospect due to the difference between B grade and A grade stats along with a particular concern I have that he only shoots 67.9% FT for a player who’s shooting excellence and floor spreading is considered a major selling point compared to Simmons and Dunn.

**5. SG Furkan Korkmaz**

Here is Korkmaz’s numbers compared to the NCAA SG benchmark:

11% Steals, 120% Blocks, 74% Rebounds, 93% Assists, 96% Points, 112% TS%, Median: 94%

Like Bender it’s worthwhile to compare him to a similar prospect in last year’s draft, Mario Hezonja:

94% Steals, 60% Blocks, 75% Rebounds, 104% Assists, 92% Points, 98% TS%, Median: 93%

The Median method doesn’t reflect how low Korkmaz’s steal rate is, but these numbers are also over a small sample size.

Korkmaz is a good athlete at SG, who can shoot from the outside and pass the ball. He’s not as unique a prospect as the unicorn like Bender, but there may be more of a guarantee he fits what his position asks for.

**6. PF Marquese Chriss**

Chriss is a prospect who I hadn’t been as tuned into until his numbers jumped out at me:

114% Steals, 119% Blocks, 68% Rebounds, 88% Assists, 113% Freshman points, 95% Freshman TS%, Median: 104%

Chris being above median in steal and block is important and he has a strong scoring rate. He looks to be an athletic PF with inside skills and an outside jumper. Here is what Chad Ford wrote about Chriss in his lack mock draft, where he was picked 25th:

“The Raptors could use a power forward and Masai Ujiri is a known gambler.

There’s enormous talent in Chriss. He’s athletic and long, and when he gets it going, he’s a threat inside and outside. But he’s also raw and inconsistent. Teams will have to be patient with him.”

This paints the picture of Chriss as a stud talent who isn’t higher on the draft board because of his lack of production in the NCAA.

But by my system this isn’t true. By Median %, Chriss ranks in my top 10 most productive NCAA prospects. So this makes Chriss a compelling pick. Instead of a high upside talent who’s numbers make him a gamble, he’s a high upside talent who’s numbers are on his side. Not many can deliver on both talent and numbers like this.

**7. C Zhou Qi**

Zhou is one of the more interesting talents in the draft. He is a 7’2 skinny big man with a 7’6 wingspan, has solid mobility and can hit perimeter jumpshots. However he is not an easy prospect to rate statistically. These are his CBA stats compared to NCAA Cs:

109% Steals, 137% Blocks, 92% Rebounds, 79% Assists, 110% Freshman points (*using his first season in the CBA), 129% Freshman TS%. Median: 109%

This is an excellent performance, mixing steal and block rate with high volume, efficient scoring. However is it easier or harder to put up statistics in the CBA than the NCAA? For example Emmanuel Mudiay last year was about as impressive as Zhou is now, finishing at 110% Median using this method last year. While Mudiay’s efficiency has been poor as a rookie many are encouraged by what he’s showing and teams would not be able to trade for him with the 8th pick in this draft. To make another comparison if I took current, 31 year old Yi Jianlian’s stats and plugged it against the same benchmarks I used for Zhou, his median would be 98%. Take away the points per minute category where the older Yi has been giving more responsibility in the offense and averages 28.5 points per 40 minutes, and there would be an even bigger advantage favouring Zhou.

I’m not sure how much to trust his numbers but he’s talented and producing about as well as you could hope for right now. Considering most prospects after him are flawed in one way or another, I am fine rating him this high.

**8. SG Ron Baker**

Yes, that Ron Baker. Here are his numbers:

117% Steals, 140% Blocks, 86% Reb, 139% Assists, 79% Freshman Points, 104% Freshman TS%, Median: 114%

His Median % ranks 3rd among NCAA prospects behind Simmons and Dunn. Now there are caveats of course. He does this in a mid-major drawing some doubt about his numbers and he’s considered by scouts to have mediocre athleticism driving to the basket and defensively.

This concerns are enough to make me rank him 9th instead of 3rd, but I decided to only drop a strong statistical performer this far. First off, when it comes to mid-major prospects as they are two successes lately on the perimeter I thought I’d list Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum’s numbers to see how they compare:

Damian Lillard

74% Steals, 100% Blocks, 102% Rebounds, 73% Assists, 104% Freshman Points, 101% Freshman TS%, Median: 101%

C.J. McCollum (listed as a PG/SG before his draft, so his comparisons are PG and SG’s averaged)

88% Steals, 100% Blocks, 107% Rebounds, 84% Assists, 150% Freshman Points, 103% Freshman TS%, Median: 103%

So while a small sample size of two players, that McCollum and Lillard didn’t perform unreasonably well is a his a sign not to flip too much about the mid-major effect on statistics in this system. Baker’s production could be for real, or at least close enough.

As for whether his talent level will hold him back. That remains to be seen but in my old system I used the guideline that talent is two thirds skill and basketball IQ. Baker may not be an exceptional athlete but the ability to shoot, pass and have a feel for the game is talent that other athletes may lack. Likewise from the tape I’ve seen it seems like Baker’s athleticism is more “just average” than an unplayably form of poor. His impressive steal and block numbers may be a testament to that. Based on his production, skill and IQ I’m willing to put him here.

**9. PF Henry Ellenson**

Here is Ellenson’s statistics:

79% Steals, 105% Blocks, 96% Rebounds, 114% Assists, 104% Freshman Points, 83% Freshman TS%, Median: 100%

Ellenson isn’t spectacular in any categories, but his solid block, assists and points rate are enough to give him as impressive a statistical performance. He is a good athlete at the 4 and is known as an especially skilled big man who can shoot from the outside and pass.

For his skill level ome comparisons have bene made between Ellenson and Kevin Love. Love performed worse in the steal and block categories than Ellenson but better in every other category. This is reflective that Ellenson is likely not as skilled as Love, but could be more athletically driven.

There are players more talented than Ellenson in this draft and better statistical performers. But some of the talented players do not put up the numbers he does and some of the statistical performers don’t check out as talents. Putting up a solid B level case in both makes him a good prospect.

**10. PG Melo Trimble **

Trimble averages:

70% Steals, 100% Blocks, 68% Rebounds, 105% Assists, 129% Freshman Points, 115 Freshman TS%, Median: 102%

Trimble is something of the PG version of Ellenson and I consider them close to tied in my rankings. He is not top of the class in either talent or statline but is promising by having a quality enough showing on both. Trimble has only average speed and size for his position but his combination of shooting, passing and feel is known as excellent and is talent. His ball handling should help him drive to the rim. Statistically his excellent scoring volume and efficiency as a freshman helps as does his above average passing. A lot of signs are here for a smart, skilled starting PG in the NBA.

Next 10: Buddy Hield, David Walker, Timothe Luwawu, Troy Williams, Taurean Prince, Patrick McCaw, Ivicia Zubac, Monte Morris, Tyler Lydon, Jaylen Brown

## The Warriors and breaking the glass ceiling

The Warriors all time season continues as at 44-4, a 34-5 finish will be enough to set the all time wins mark. They passed recent tests of the Spurs and Cavaliers with flying colours.

How the Warriors are raising the bar may be tied to their era. Even for the most talented teams in the past a ceiling is put on them by diminishing returns. The best example is the Miami Heat who’s top 3 of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh boasted historical talent. However together they were less than the sum of their seasons before teaming up. Sharing the ball led to less dominant offensive stats by Wade and Bosh although they made up for it with strong defensive play. Later Lebron teamed up with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving and the same effect occurred particularly on Love’s numbers. Another example is how in Oklahoma City the best statistical stretches of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s careers came when the other was sidelined with injury in Durant’s 2013-2014 MVP season and Westbrook’s 2014-2015.

If the Warriors had equal talent but in the traditional high scoring talents of those teams, they likely wouldn’t be challenging the Bulls record. The inability for everyone to reach their highest impact when playing together compared to apart would be biting in their ceiling. What makes the Warriors able to beat this is making an impact without needing the ball. Draymond Green leads the way by having arguable top 10 impact in the league while taking less than 11 shots per game. His defense, floor spacing and passing can coexist with the high volume scoring of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and the shot-creating first game of Harrison Barnes. Andre Iguodala takes less than 6 shots per game but by hitting 3s, passing and playing defense makes his mark. Andrew Bogut’s per minute defensive impact is regarded as one of the best in the league and is a strong passer. The RPM of both Iguodala and Bogut is top 10 at their position despite the lack of shots. Green’s RPM is top 5 of any player in the league. As impressive as Curry and Thompson’s offensive numbers are, their offensive impact is even larger when taking into account the spacing pressure they put on the defense when they don’t have the ball.

The Warriors managed to have an all time great team not by having more talent than anyone before team, including teams like the recent Heat, Celtics, Thunder. It’s by having strong talent where nearly everyone’s impact is maximized and complimented by each other instead of diminished by sharing the ball.

## 2016 NBA draft ratings – January update

My current rankings for the 2016 NBA Draft. Compared to the methodology in my last update I decide to make a change to the stats rating part of it. Instead of using freshman per minute stats for every player, I use the most recent season for sophomores, juniors or seniors for rebounding, assists, steals and blocks, but their freshman scoring rates. This was based off testing previous drafts and finding it did more damage than good to exclude improvements in the non-scoring statistics. In scoring players improving their scoring rate as they get older is more of a given player to player, as they are given a bigger role in the coach’s offense.

**1. PF Ben Simmons**

What the scouts say: Simmons is an explosive athlete with a strong body and quality length and lateral mobility for a PF. Based on this I will give him an 8 in physical impact talent. His lack of a jumpshot is considered his biggest weakness by scouts but is a skilled passer for his position. I will give him a 6 in skill impact based on rating him as a 5 as a shooter then upgrading him for passing. His feel for the game rated one of the best in the class by scouts and snd draws comparisons to Lebron’s vision. I will rate him a 9 in feel for the game based on this.

Simmons is averaging 2.1 steals, 1.3 blocks (3.4 combined steals and blocks), 15.7 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 23.7 points, .62 TS% per 40 minutes. Based on the median of recent PFs I’d give him a B if he averaged 1.4 steals, 2.1 blocks (3.5 combined steals/blocks), 12.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 19.2 points, .63 TS%. Simmons is about average in steals and blocks combined but but his rebounding, assists and scoring numbers dominate enough to deserve an A.

Talent rating: 23 (Physical impact: 8, Skill impact: 6, Feel for the Game: 9)

Advanced stats grade: A

23 * A (100%) = 23.0

**2. PG Kris Dunn**

What the scouts say: Dunn is a great athlete at PF and has a strong combination of length, strength and lateral mobility. Based on this I give him a rating of 9 in physical impact talent. His jumpshooting talent is known as OK but improvable. I will give him a 6 based on this. His feel for the game is rated by scouts as only ok as he can play out of control. I will rate him a 6 based on this.

Dunn is averaging 3.8 steals, 1.1 blocks (4.9 combined steals and blocks), 8 rebounds, 8.4 assists per 40 minutes, and as a freshman put up 8.4 points on .47 TS% per 40. Based on recent PG successes I’d have given him a B if he had averaged 2.3 steals, 0.3 blocks (2.6 combined steals/blocks), 5.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 15 points, .55 TS%. In every area but his freshman scoring numbers, Dunn is dominating. I don’t want to give him a perfect A with the blackmark of that freshman scoring rate, but I will split the difference between that and a median B, by giving him an A/B.

Talent rating: 21 (Physical impact: 9, Skill impact: 6, Feel for the Game: 6, Total: 21)

Advanced stats grade: A/B

21 * A/B (95%) = 19.95

**T-3. SF Brandon Ingram**

What the scouts say: Ingram is a good but not elite athlete. His length is tremendous for a SF like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant but is skinny for a SF. Based on this I will rate him a 7 in physical impact talent. For scouts he is known as a good outside shooting talent. I will rate him a 7 in this. He is known to have an advanced feel for the game. I will rate him an 8 in feel for the game based on this.

Ingram is averaging 1.7 steals, 2.0 blocks (3.7 combined steals/blocks), 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 21.1 points, .58 TS% per 40 minutes. Based on the median of recent SFs, I’d have given him a B if he’d averaged 1.9 steals, 1.0 blocks (2.9 combined steals/blocks), 10.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 16.5 points, .55 TS% per 40 minutes. Ingram’s block rate is great and he is an above average scorer, though he’s marginally below average in steals and below average in rebounding and assists. I will give him a median grade of B based on having a notably weak category in rebounding and some other mediocre ones like assists and steals, to counteract strengths like blocks and scoring.

Talent rating: 22 (Physical impact: 7, Skill impact: 7, Feel for the Game: 8)

Advanced stats grade: B

22 * B (90%) = 19.8

**T-3. SG Denzel Valentine**

What the scouts say: Valentine is an unexplosive athlete although has an above average combination of length and strength for a SG. I will rate him as a 4 in physical impact for this. Valentine is an excellent shooting and passing talent at SG and is known as having one of the best feels for the game in the class. I will rate him a 9 in both categories for this.

Valentine is averaging 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks (1.7 combined steals/blocks), 9.8 rebounds, 8.5 assists per 40 minutes. As a freshman he averaged 9.7 points on .52 TS% per 40. Based on the median of recent SGs I’d have given Valentine a B if he had averaged 1.8 steals, 0.5 blocks (2.3 combined steals/blocks), 6.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and as a freshman 16.9 points on .57 TS% per 40 minutes. Valentine has a below average combined steals and blocks, dominates rebounds and assists for his position and had a low scoring rate as a freshman. Since his best categories he’s dominant in, I won’t go lower than a median B for Valentine despite some weaker categories.

Talent rating: 22 (Physical impact: 4, Skill impact: 9, Feel for the Game: 9)

Advanced stats grade: B

22 * B (90%) = 19.8.

**5. PF Zhou Qi**

What the scouts say: Like Kristaps Porzingis, Zhou is tall and athletic. He would have one of the biggest wingspans in the NBA with the ability to move laterally but a painfully skinny frame for his size. Based on how scouts value wingspans compared to frame I will put his body features on the positive side and give him a 7 in physical impact talent when added to his athleticism. Zhou has a perimeter orientated game and projects as a 3pt shooter in the NBA. I will give him a 7 in skill impact for this. His feel for the game is a mystery but scouts likely give him the benefit of the doubt so I won’t go lower than a 6 in this category.

How to evaluate his stats is one of the most difficult in the class. For Euroleague players my strategy is to give them a grade as if their stats occurred in the NCAA, then give them one higher grade to account for competition. The CBA has a smaller track record to test this on. Are his stats more impressive than if he had had occurred in the NCAA or less? I’ll split the difference and treat them as if they happened in the NCAA. Zhou averages 1.2 steals, 4.2 blocks (5.4 combined steals and blocks), 11.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists per 40 minutes, and his first season in the CBA he averaged 19.3 points on .72 TS%. Based on my spreadsheet of the median college performance of recent PF successes, I’d have given him a B if he averaged 1.4 steals, 2.1 blocks (3.5 combined steals/blocks), 12.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists per 40 minutes, and 19.2 points on .63 TS% as a freshman per 40. His steals and blocks combined is above average, is a slightly below average rebounder and passer, and is an above average scorer when taking into account efficiency. Since he has a few below average categories I won’t give him a full A, but with no glaring weaknesses and more strengths, I’ll give him more than a B and go with A/B.

Talent rating: 20 (Physical impact: 7, Skill impact: 7, Feel for the Game: 6)

Advanced stats grade: A/B

20 * A/B (95%) = 19.0

**T-6. SF Taurean Prince**

What the scouts say: Prince is a good but not great athlete and his ball handling could hurt his ability to get to the rim. His size and lateral mobility is excellent for a wing. I will give him a 7 in physical impact based on this. He is a quality spot up shooter although isn’t the best at creating shots. I will give him a 6 in skill impact based on this. Prince’s feel for the game has been criticized in the past. I will rate him a 6 in the category.

Prince is averaging 2.3 steals, 0.9 blocks (3.2 combined steals/blocks), 7.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists per 40 minutes and averaged 20.9 points on .64 TS% as a freshman per 40. Based on the median of recent SFs, I’d have given him a B if he’d averaged 1.9 steals, 1.0 blocks (2.9 combined steals/blocks), 10.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 16.5 points, .55 TS% per 40 minutes. His steal and block rate is above average, his rebounding is below average, his assists are well above average and his freshman scoring rate was excellent in volume and efficiency. Based on the one weak category rebounds I’ll hold back from a full A but for otherwise excellence will give him an A/B.

Talent rating: 19 (Physical impact: 7, Skill impact: 6, Feel for the Game: 6)

Advanced stats grade: A/B

19 * A/B (95%) = 18.05

**T-6. SF Troy Williams**

Williams is considered an great athlete by scouts, although his size and length isn’t great for a wing. I will rate him a 7 in physical impact ability. His jumpshot is considered a weakness, although he is known for passing skills for his position. I will give him a 5 for shooting and bump him one up for passing and give him a 6 in skill impact. His feel for the game has been questioned although scouts may give him a benefit of the doubt. I will rate him a 6 in that category.

Williams is averaging 2.1 steals, 1.6 blocks (3.7 combined steals/blocks), 10.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists per 40 minutes and averaged 13.6 points on .56 TS% as a freshman per 40. Based on the median of recent SFs, I’d have given him a B if he’d averaged 1.9 steals, 1.0 blocks (2.9 combined steals/blocks), 10.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 16.5 points, .55 TS% per 40 minutes. Williams is above average in steals and blocks combined, about average in rebounding, above average in assists and his freshman scoring rate is a little below average. I won’t give him a full A with his below average freshman scoring rate but seems deserving as more than a median grade, so I will go with A/B.

Talent rating: 19 (Physical impact: 7, Skill impact: 6, Feel for the Game: 6)

Advanced stats grade: A/B

19 * A/B (95%) = 18.05

**T-8. PG Melo Trimble**

What the scouts say: Trimble has an average combination of athleticism and length for a PG. I will rate him a 5 based on this. He is known for his great outside shooting ability and shot creating skills. I will rate him an 8 in skill impact based on this. His feel for the game is known as a strength for him. I will rate him a 7 in feel for the game based on this.

Trimble is averaging 1.7 steals, 0.3 blocks (2.0 combined steals/blocks), 3.3 rebounds, 7.5 assists per 40 minutes. His freshman scoring rate was 19.4 points on .63 TS%. Based on recent PGs I’d have given a B if he had averaged 2.3 steals, 0.3 blocks (2.6 combined steals/blocks), 5.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 15 points, .55 TS% per 40 minutes. His steal and block rate is slightly below average, his rebounding is below average, his assists is above average and his scoring rate and efficiency is well above average. Due to the strength of his passing and scoring and respectable steal and block, I will give him a median B.

Talent rating: 20 (Physical impact: 5, Skill impact: 8, Feel for the Game: 7)

Advanced stats grade: B

20 * B (90%) = 18.0

**T-8. SG Grayson Allen**

What the scouts say: Allen is athletic but a little undersized for a 2 guard. His ball handling skills could hurt his ability to drive in the pros. For this I will rate him a 5 in the physical impact category. He is a strong outside shooting talent and passer for his position. I will rate him an 8 in skill impact. Grayson’s feel basketball IQ is above average. I give him a 7 in feel for the game.

Allen averages 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks (1.5 combined steals/blocks), 5.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists per 40 minutes. As a freshman he averaged 19.0 points on .58 TS% per 40 minutes. Based on the median of recent SGs I’d have given him a B for averaging 1.8 steals, 0.5 blocks (2.3 combined steals/blocks), 6.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 16.9 points, .57 TS% per 40. Allen is below average in steals and blocks, below average in rebounds, but above average in assists and scoring. Since in his weak categories he’s not doing too poorly, I’ll give him a median B.

Talent rating: 20 (Physical impact: 5, Skill impact: 8, Feel for the Game: 7)

Advanced stats grade: B

20 * B (90%) = 18.0

**10. SG Patrick McCaw**

McCaw is a good athlete with length of his position but a skinny body. His ball handling may hurt him from driving to the basket. I will rate him a 6 in physical impact based on this. He has an outside shooter and passing skills but his skill game is a work in progress. I will rate him a 6 based on this. His feel for the game is impressive as he has the vision to be a playmaker. I will give him a 7 in feel for the game.

McCaw is averaging 3.6 steals, 0.4 blocks (4.0 combined steals/blocks), 4.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists per 40 minutes and as a freshman averaged 13.1 points on .54 TS% per 40. Based on the median of recent SGs I’d have given him a B for averaging 1.8 steals, 0.5 blocks (2.3 combined steals/blocks), 6.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 16.9 points, .57 TS% per 40. His steal and block rate is great and is well above average in assists, below average in rebounding and below average in scoring rate. This is about a median B profile.

Talent rating: 19 (Physical impact: 6, Skill impact: 6, Feel for the Game: 9)

Advanced stats grade: B

19 * B (90%) = 17.1

The rest of the top 60 is below. The lower the prospect is the less time I’ve likely spent on getting their rating right at this stage in the process, especially for ones with limited scouting reports:

T-11. PF Henry Ellenson: 17.0 (20 B/C)

T-11. SF Jaylen Brown: 17.0 (20 B/C)

T-13. PG Wade Baldwin: 16.8 (21 C)

T-13. SG Furkan Korkmaz: 16.8 (21 C)

T-13. PF Dragan Bender: 16.8 (21 C)

T-13. SG Buddy Hield: 16.8 (21 C)

T-17. SG Dwyane Bacon: 16.2 (18 B)

T-17. SG Donovan Mitchell: 16.2 (18 B)

T-17. C Ivica Zubac: 16.2 (18 B)

T-17. SG Malik Beasley: 16.2 (18 B)

T-17. C Shawn Long: 16.2 (18 B)

T-17. PF Pascal Siakam: 16.2 (18 B)

T-17. C Diamond Stone: 16.2 (18 B)

T-24. PG Monte Morris: 16.15 (19 B/C)

T-24. PG Kahlil Felder: 16.15 (19 B/C)

T-24. PF Dedric Lawson: 16.15 (17 A/B)

T-24. C A.J. Hammon: 16.15 (17 A/B)

T-24. PF Deyonta Davis: 16.15 (17 A/B)

T-24. PF Brice Johnson: 16.15 (17 A/B)

T-24. PG Gary Payton II: 16.15 (17 A/B)

T-24. C Kennedy Meeks: 16.15 (17 A/B)

T-32. PF Ivan Rabb: 16.0 (20 C)

T-32. C Stephen Zimmerman: 16.0 (20 C)

T-32. C Amida Brimah: 16.0 (20 C)

T-32. C Jonathan Jeanne: 16.0 (20 C)

T-32. SG Jamal Murray: 16.0 (20 C)

T-32. SG Caris LaVert: 16.0 (20 C)

T-38. PF Tyler Lydon: 15.3 (18 B/C)

T-38. PG Demetrius Jackson: 15.3 (18 B/C)

T-38. C Cheick Diallo: 15.3 (17 B)

T-38. PF Marquese Chriss: 15.3 (17 B)

T-38. C Thomas Bryant: 15.3 (17 B)

T-38. C Jakob Poetl: 15.3 (17 B)

44. PF Skal Labissiere: 15 (20 C/D)

45. SG Timothe Luwawu: 14.45 (17 B/C)

T-46. PF Carlton Bragg: 14.4 (18 C)

T-46. PG Isaiah Briscoe: 14.4 (18 C)

T-46. SG Malik Newman: 14.4 (18 C)

T-46. PF Petr Cornelie: 14.4 (18 C)

T-46. SG Alonzo Trier: 14.4 (18 C)

51. PF Nigel Hayes: 14.25 (19 C/D)

52. SF Malik Pope: 14.0 (20 D)

T-53. C Isaac Haas: 13.6 (17 C)

T-53. PF Paul Zipser: 13.6 (17 C)

T-53: C Damian Jones: 13.6 (17 C)

T-53. SF Justin Jackson: 13.6 (17 C)

T-53. C Chinanu Onuaku: 13.6 (16 B/C)

T-53. PG Fred VanVleet: 13.6 (17 B)

T-59: PG Aaron Holiday: 13.5 (18 B/C)

T-59. SF Deandre Bembry: 13.5 (18 C/D)

## Early 2016 NBA draft top 10

I made a few changes to my draft system this year. After the last few years I wasn’t happy with the results.

My idea is a less is more approach. Draft analysis can be split into gathering information and deciding what to do with that information. Scouts make judgments in areas like a player’s ability to drive, shoot, defend, his basketball intelligence and so forth. But the second part is deciding what each of these areas mean. How do you value the athletes who can’t shoot against the shooter without athleticism?

In previous drafts of my system I tried to do both. I thought I had a read on inefficiencies in judging things like drivers, shooters and defenders. I then put this into my grading system of how to value each part of a player’s talent.

My new philosophy is TTS: Trust The Scouts. What is the most agreed upon belief by scouts about areas like driving, shooting or defending I will include in my grades instead of scouting it myself. So how will my rankings by any different than theirs? Because I keep the system and framework of giving grades to physical impact, skill impact and feel for the game. I use the scouts for the information gathering stage but differ in how I organize the information into rankings. In addition to this I’ll use advanced stat comparisons to the list of recent successes at each position as freshman to grade players seasons in that area. I give a player’s advanced stats a letter grade and then use it to multiply the player’s talent grade by the scale A = 100%, B = 90%, C = 80%, D = 70%. Looking at previous drafts I believe the framework of my system along combined with advanced stats would create a sharper draft ranking.

Here is my ranking of the top 10 of 2016 so far, using a small sample size of scouting reports and advanced stats so far:

**1. PF Ben Simmons**

What the scouts say: Simmons has a superb explosiveness for a 6’10 240 player and is currently a force in transition. His feel for the game may be the best in the class. His ahead of his peers court vision draws comparisons to Lebron, Magic and Bird. Although skilled at the rim and passing Simmons weakness is a lack of any jumper use thus far.

Talent grade: 24 (Physical impact talent grade: 8, Skill impact talent grade: 6, Feel for the Game talent grade: 10)

Simmons has been averaging a dominant 2.7 steals, 1.8 blocks, 22.3 points, 17.5 rebounds, 6.7 assists, .59 TS% per 40 minutes. Using my list of recent successful PFs I would give a grade of B if a prospect they averaged 1.3 steals, 2.7 blocks, 18 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists per 40 minutes on .63 TS%. Simmons is above average in steals, points, rebounds and assists in dominant fashion in several of those categories. He is below average in blocks and TS%. Normally a player below average in a few categories wouldn’t get a true A, but Simmons is destroying categories like steals, rebounds and assists so much thus far that I decided to give it to him anyways.

Advanced stats grade: A

24 * A (100%) = 24.0

**2. SG Furkan Korkmaz**

What the scouts say: Korkmaz is an explosive wing athlete although his average ball handling may prevent his ability to drive some. He has solid length for SG but a skinny frame. His outside shooting, passing and feel for the game are excellent.

Talent grade: 22 (Physical impact: 6, Skill impact: 8, Feel for the Game: 8)

Advanced stats grade: Grading European players is a little more complicated than NCAA. If playing at a high level like Korkmaz who is in the Euroleague, I settled on giving them the same treatment as NCAA players but bumping up their grade one level to account to difficulty. In 2014-2015 as the equivalent of Korkmaz’s “freshman season” he averaged 2.2 steals, 0 blocks, 13.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists on .58 TS% per 40 minutes. Using my list of recent SGs if an NCAA player averaged 1.8 steals, 0.7 blocks, 16.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists per 40 on .57 TS% I would give them a B. Korkmaz is above average in steals, assists and TS% and below average in blocks, points and rebounds. I’m split whether to cancel out his strengths and weaknesses and give him a B, or to take categories like his 0 in blocks to matter as worse than any of his positives. So I will grade him a B/C. Since this is a Euroleague player I then bump him up one grade to A/B to account for difficulty.

Advanced stats grade: A/B

22 * A/B (95%) = 20.9

**3. PF Ivan Rabb**

The scouts take: Rabb is an explosive PF with impressive length. He has a skinny frame for his position. Rabb has shown signs of perimeter shooting skill along with touch inside. I cannot find many scouts comments about his feel for the game but none seem to have a problem with it either.

Talent grade: 21 (Physical impact: 8, Skill impact: 7, Feel for the Game: 6)

Rabb is averaging 0.7 steals, 3.2 blocks, 19.7 points, 14.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists on .67 TS% per 40 minutes. Using my list of recent PFs I’d give a grade to one who averaged 1.3 steals, 2.7 blocks, 18 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, .63 TS% per 40 minutes. Rabb is above average in steals, points, rebounds and TS% and below average in steals. Steals is an important stat so I will hold off from giving him a true A and settle for a A/B with an otherwise excellent profile.

Advanced stats grade: A/B

21 * A/B (95%) = 19.95

**4. SF Brandon Ingram**

The scouts take: Ingram is a decent but not explosive athlete. Scouts are in love with his wingspan for a SF drawing Giannis and Durant comparisons. His frame is skinny for a SF. Ingram has shown flashes as an outside shooter and has a smooth feel for the game.

Talent grade: 22 (Physical impact: 7, Skill impact: 7, Feel for the Game: 8)

Ingram is averaging 1.8 steals, 1.6 blocks, 19.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists on .52 TS% per 40 minutes. For SFs by comparables I would give a B to a player who averages 1.8 steals, 1.2 blocks, 16.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists on .55 TS%. Ingram is above average in blocks, points, assists and below average in rebounds and TS. While not spectacular, with combined steals and blocks above average which is important, these numbers are worth no worse than a B.

Advanced stats grade: B

22 * B (90%) = 19.8

**5. C Stephen Zimmerman**

The scouts take: Zimmerman is a strong athlete for a 7 footer with quality length, but an average frame. Zimmerman had perimeter shooting skills and an above average feel for the game.

Talent grade: 21 (Physical impact: 7, Skill impact: 7, Feel for the Game: 7)

Zimmerman is averaging 0 steals, 3.4 blocks, 16.8 points, 17.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, .56 TS% per 40 minutes. Using my recent comparables I’d give a B to a C averaging 1.2 steals, 2.8 blocks, 17.3 points, 11.3 rebounds 1.8 assists, .55 TS% per 40 minutes. Zimmerman is above average in blocks, rebounds, assists and efficiency and below average with a worrying 0 in steals and below average in points. Although his steals are worrying his stats are otherwise excellent enough including blocks and rebounds that I will keep him at B.

Advanced stats grade: B

21 * B (90%) = 18.9

**6. SF Jaylen Brown**

The scouts take: Has a spectacular combination of explosiveness, length and strength for the small forward position. One of the most physically gifted players at his position in a while. His basketball intelligence is above average. His jumper is his biggest weakness.

Talent grade: 22 (Physical impact: 10, Skill impact: 5, Feel for the Game: 7)

Brown is averaging 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks, 25.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, .52 TS% per 40 minutes. Using my comparables a SF averaging 1.8 steals, 1.2 blocks, 16.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, .55 TS% per 40 minutes would receive a B. Brown is above average in points and above average in rebounds, but below average in steals, blocks, assists and efficiency. His low steal and block rate is especially worrying if this continues as steals and blocks are key rates. I rate Brown as no better than a C grade, although it’s early in the season and with his athleticism could quickly boost his steal and block numbers and make a case for top 3 in this class.

Advanced stats grade: C

22 * C (80%) = 17.6

**7. SG Denzel Valentine**

The scouts take: Valentine has very unimpressive athleticism for a SG that could limit him to more than a small role in the NBA, but solid length and strength. His combination of perimeter shooting, passing skills and feel for the game is one of the best in the class.

Talent grade: 22 (Physical impact: 4, Skill impact: 9, Feel for the Game: 9)

As a freshman Valentine averaged 1.5 steals, 0.7 blocks, 9.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists on .52 TS% per 40 minutes. Using my comparables I would give a B to a SG who averaged 1.8 steals, 0.7 blocks, 16.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, .57 TS% per 40 minutes. Valentine rated above average in rebounds and assists and below average in steals, points and efficiency. Being above average in a few categories and close to average steals and blocks per 40, I won’t go lower than a middling C for Valentine.

Advanced stats grade: C

22 * C (80%) = 17.6

**8. PF Skal Labissiere**

The scouts take: Skal has an impressive combination of athleticism and length but a skinny frame. He has signs of perimeter shooting talent. Opinions of his feel for the game have been dropping with his start to this season.

Talent grade: 20 (Physical impact: 8, Skill impact: 7, Feel for the Game: 5)

Labissiere is averaging 0.7 steals, 3.8 blocks, 21.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists per 40 minutes on .64 TS%. Using my list of recent PFs I would give a grade of B to a player averaging 1.3 steals, 2.7 blocks, 18 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists per 40 minutes on .63 TS%. Labissiere is above average in blocks, points and TS% is but below average in steals, rebounds, assists, with the rebounding especially drawing negative attention. Judging by how his worst categories are quite bad, I was split between giving him a B or downgrading to C so I chose B/C. At this rate Labissiere could go down as this year’s Andre Drummond, who’s UConn season was panned but with elite block numbers and solid rebounding and steals, had a season more up to par than given credit for in some categories.

Advanced stats grade: B/C

20 * B/C (85%) = 17.0

**9. SF Dragan Bender**

The scouts take: Bender is a nearly 7 foot wing with the standing reach of a center. He is a good not elite athlete and has a skinny frame. Bender has a great feel for the game and the passing skills of a point forward but his jumper is a work in progress.

Talent grade: 21 (Physical impact: 7, Skill impact: 6, Feel for the Game: 8)

In 10 minutes per game in the Euroleague Bender is averaging 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks, 8.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, .35 TS% per 40 minutes. For NCAA SFs using comparables I’d give a B to a SF averaging 1.8 steals, 1.2 blocks, 16.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, .55 TS% per 40 minutes. Bender would rate narrowly above average in blocks and assists but below average in steals and far below average in points, rebounds and efficiency. I wouldn’t go above D for an NCAA prospect based on how poor his worst categories are, but with Euroleague competition I bump him up one grade to C. The good news for Bender is these numbers are on a small sample size and they could look completely different a month from now allowing him to quickly rise up this list.

Advanced stats grade: C

21 * C (80%) = 16.8

**10 PG Isaiah Briscoe**

The scouts take: Briscoe is only an average athlete for a PG but has an impressive combination of length, strength and lateral mobility for the position that could make him a defensive standout at the position. Briscoe’s weakness is shooting while is noted as a player with a impressive feel to his game.

Talent grade: (Physical impact talent grade: 6, Skill impact: 5, Feel for the game: 7): 18

Advanced stats grade: Briscoe is averaging 1.9 steals, 0.4 blocks, 17.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists per 40 minutes on .54 TS%. Using my list of recent PGs I would give a grade of B to a PG averaging 2.2 steals, 0.4 blocks, 5.4 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 15 pts, .55 TS% per 40 minutes. Briscoe is above average in points and rebounds and below average in steals, assists and TS%. Since he is only a little below average in his worst categories but an elite rebounder, I kept him at a B.

Advanced stats grade: B (* 90%)

18 * B (90%) = 16.2

Next 10: PF Deyonta Davis, SG Dwayne Bacon, SF Malik Pope, C Jonathan Jeanne, C Henry Ellenson, SG Buddy Hield, C Amida Brimah, PG Gary Payton II, SG Timothe Luwawu

## The Phoenix Suns and finding a balance between established and drafted talent

The Phoenix Suns hired GM Ryan McDonough a week before Philadelphia hired Sam Hinkie in May 2013. Philadelphia quickly decided to trade Jrue Holiday and be bad for high draft picks. A case for Phoenix doing the same could have been made. In Win Shares the previous season the Suns top 5 had been Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Luis Scola, Marcin Gortat and P.J. Tucker. None were under 25 years old. The Suns were set to pick 5th in the 2013 draft, eventually Alex Len and had a Markieff Morris coming off a sophomore slump. In some eyes this looked the right situation to bottom out and rebuild around high picks.

However the Suns did not end up the Sixers the following season. Instead they surprised the league with a 48-34 near-playoff season. McDonough’s strategy differentiated from Hinkie’s in a few ways. The Sixers traded their starting PG Holiday while Phoenix kept theirs in Dragic. The Sixers traded Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner at the trade deadline to ensure their high pick while Phoenix kept Channing Frye, P.J. Tucker and Gerald Green. The biggest move is Phoenix trading for Eric Bledsoe from the Clippers. Bledsoe had already produced in the league and most thought he had all-star potential when not backing up Chris Paul. The combination of Dragic, Bledsoe and floor spacers in Jeff Hornacek’s system led to a competitive season.

The Suns went on to sign Isaiah Thomas the next summer. When their PGs didn’t gel, in a flurry of moves traded Thomas and Dragic and ended up with Brandon Knight. In the Thomas and Knight moves the logic is similar to the Bledsoe deal. Both were established starting PGs who’d put up numbers in the league. This allowed the Suns to avoid some risk that comes with top draft picks. In worst case scenario Bledsoe, Thomas and Knight were likely to be the above average guards they had been before Phoenix. In best case scenario as young athletic PGs with a track record, they would grow into all-star caliber guards as they are now. In the same deal Phoenix acquired Knight the 76ers ended up with a future Lakers 1st for Michael Carter-Williams, for all intents and purposes picking the Lakers 1st over Knight. The justification is if picking top 5 the Lakers pick could turn into a star. But the downside is making the wrong pick and ending up with minimal return on investment compared to Knight. The Suns choice of Knight had less spectacular upside but gave them more security of getting on base.

The Suns have also not ignored the draft. When trading Thomas and Dragic they targeted future picks and currently have mid-level prospects like T.J. Warren, Devin Booker, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin on the team. The Suns ending up with an all-star of this group would raise their ceiling, but if none pan out, their whole future doesn’t crash down. Once again it’s a strategy that allows for reward but without betting it all on red to get there.

There is a glass half empty to all these arguments naturally. Winning so early in McDonough’s tenure and forgoing top 5 picks could leave the Suns without true franchise players to contend. While the Sixers plan could still work out and give them 2 or 3 stars like Oklahoma City had with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Some other Suns moves can be criticized such as giving up a draft pick for half a season of Brandan Wright or signing Tyson Chandler to a large contract starting in season 15. But by targeting established but young talents like Bledsoe, Thomas and Knight at the cost of picking later in the draft, the Suns took a different talent acquisition strategy than the Sixers geared towards young but established talents instead of exclusively drafted ones. Due to when their GMs were hired they are a compelling counter-argument to the 76ers philosophy.

## The Warriors dominance and good players

The Warriors are off to a 14-0 start and a threat to beat the Bulls 72-10 record. They were 5 wins from the Bulls last year and now look more potent. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green have so far gone to another level.

Much has been made of the Draymond Green at center lineup with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes. The lineup is a +/- monster and won them the Finals last year. An excellent RealGM article by Jonathan Tjarks reveals how hard it is to match up with the lineup. If you have a lineup like Kevin Love-Timofey Mozgov or Lamarcus Aldridge-Tim Duncan playing both leaves them too slow to chase Barnes and Green on the perimeter or in transition. Going small with Kawhi Leonard or Lebron James at center means leaving all-star talent in Love, Aldridge or Duncan on the bench in place of perimeter players not talented enough to beat the Warriors. You have to break your own legs to match up with the Warriors small lineup.

This is all true. However perhaps why Green messes up the opponent so much is because that’s what elite players do. Against Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins in a playoff series most teams won’t have a matchup either. Draymond Green was too short to guard Davis last year and he went off. The Warriors just had to beat them in spite of Davis’ numbers. Likewise for stars at other positions such as Russell Westbrook or of course, Curry himself.

As revolutionary as the Warriors style of play, the underlying reason for success may be the same as always. Having better players than the opponent. It’s just part of the reason why players such as Green, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson are great is the value of defense and spacing.

Consider the defensive talent of the Warriors. Draymond Green is a defensive player of the year caliber power forward. Andrew Bogut per minute has a case for the best defensive center in the league. He is blocked from DPOY conversations by not playing as many minutes. Green and Bogut finished top 2 in ESPN’s DRPM last year. Compare Green to some of the other best defensive big men of this decade: Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Serge Ibaka, Tim Duncan. Who had a better defensive partner than Bogut? Howard played with an offence-first player in Rashard Lewis. Noah covered for Carlos Boozer on defense half the time, when not paying with the excellent Taj Gibson. Hibbert and Gasol played with David West and Zach Randolph. Both smart responsible defenders, but not Bogut. Tim Duncan had a quality defensive partner in Tiago Splitter, but Duncan this decade is not quite as dominant as in his prime on defense. Ibaka played with Kendrick Perkins in the Thunder’s best defensive season, another quality defender but not special.

Add in a defense first backup center in Festus Ezeli and the Warriors may have the best defensive frontcourt in the last 10 years, since Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace in Detroit and Tim Duncan and David Robinson in San Antonio. Not that the Warriors defensive talent ends there. They have one of the premiere defensive wings of this generation in Andre Iguodala and plus defenders like Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Stephen Curry, Shaun Livingston.

This is a special defensive core. Most of us are not used to a defensive team who plays at the fastest pace in the league because we presume it limits their upside on the defensive end. But what if this defensive reduction IS happening to the Warriors, it’s just they’re so talented that after the reduction they’re still the best defensive team. Maybe if playing a grit and grind style and pace like the recent Pacers, Grizzlies and Bulls, they would be lapping any recent team on defense, not just matching them.

And with so much defensive talent they only needed so much offense to be dominant and they have more than enough. Curry who is playing at one of the great offensive levels of anyone in history. Klay Thompson’s combination of all-star level scoring and floor spacing makes him one of the most potent offensive SGs. Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green are providing efficient possessions of floor spacing. Of the two sides there is probably less dynamic talent on offense than defense. But as long as Curry and a full lineup of shooters is around it doesn’t matter.

## I created a stat – VEDS (Volume, Efficiency, Defense, Spacing)

*This stat was created by Julien Rodger*

I made a statistic this summer called VEDS, short for Volume, Efficiency, Defense, Spacing. My philosophy the last few years is acquiring the most defenders who space the floor is a key to getting ahead in the NBA. At least until everyone catches up. The Warriors last year were the greatest spacing and defense masterpiece we’ve seen to date. But how are players like Draymond Green or DeMarre Carroll quantified compared to the ones who fill the statsheet?

My stat intends to include how to value players in these four categories. I have a formula for each of the four, then add them together. Here’s my explanation for each:

**Part 1: Volume (V)**

Volume scoring is the skill becoming less in vogue by the year. The old school mentality is high point per game players create their own shot to avoid stagnant defenses. That go-to scorers help you win in the 4th quarter.

The analytics movement has drawn the focus away from high volume scorers and towards the context of efficiency. However volume is far from meaningless. Many players in the NBA such as shooters or finishers at the rim rely on open shots to be most productive. Stars help draw double teams and shift the help defense to get their teammates open.

To use an example, the S in my stat for Spacing is designed to value long range, off the ball shooters who draw defenders away from the rim. When floating that spacing concept, one forum poster brought up the subject of Dwight Howard in Orlando. His argument was although Dwight plays exclusively near the rim and thus performing poorly in my “Spacing” section, Howard was critical to creating space for his teammates on the Orlando Magic. The defenders he soaked in off the pick and roll or in the post opened up 3 point shots for the litany of Magic shooters like Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, J.J. Redick, Jason Richardson, etc. Yet Dwight is rated as a poor floor spacer. The Volume category however, is how this stat evaluates Dwight situations by giving him credit for the volume of possessions he uses. In a way “Volume” is as much a floor spacing statistic as “Spacing”. Volume scorers open space for teammates, just while playing on the ball, not off the ball.

How I calculate Volume is simple. First, I use this to evaluate possessions:

FGA + (FTA*.44) + TOV

Using the 0.44 coefficient for free throws instead of 0.5, is the common way to adjust for the effect of and-1s.

For example Russell Westbrook who led the league in Volume per game last year averaged 22 FGA a game, 9.8 FTA a game and 4.4 TOV a game, or roughly 30.7 possessions per game.

To calculate Volume, I divide the player’s possessions by 25, then multiply by 10. Westbrook’s 30.7 possessions, when divided by 25 and multiplied by 10 equals 12.3.

Why divide by 25? Because using exactly 25 possessions a game would give a player a rating of 10 in Volume. Last year only Westbrook, Kobe Bryant in limited games, James Harden, DeMarcus Cousins and Lebron James used more than 25 possessions a game, with Carmelo Anthony fractionally under. In all my categories I tried to make breaking 10 as the threshold of an “elite”, special performance in it. 25 possessions a game felt as good a number as any to represent a 10.

Here is the top 20 players in the league in Volume per game, rounded. Note that since possessions per game is included, having a higher minutes per game affects these rankings:

Russell Westbrook – 12.3

Kobe Bryant – 10.9

James Harden – 10.6

DeMarcus Cousins – 10.6

Lebron James – 10.3

Carmelo Anthony – 10.0

LaMarcus Aldridge – 9.6

Dwyane Wade – 9.4

Kevin Durant – 9.1

Blake Griffin – 8.9

Anthony Davis – 8.8

DeMar Derozan – 8.8

Stephen Curry – 8.7

Rudy Gay – 8.7

Damian Lillard – 8.6

Chris Bosh – 8.6

Derrick Rose – 8.5

Kyrie Irving – 8.5

Monta Ellis – 8.4

Michael Carter-Williams – 8.4

**Part 2: Efficiency (E)**

This is the most complicated of my 4 formulas. How I would describe it “How productively the player used his possessions” vs an average replacement. For example when evaluating James Harden’s impact on the game, his value is not only drawing attention to himself as a volume scorer, floor spacing or defense, but because he uses X amount of possessions at Y greater levels than the league average in efficiency, this alone has a significant mathematical impact on his team’s offense.

Once again my possession stat of FGA + 0.44*FTA + TOV plays an important role in this calculation. Another key is Dean Oliver’s individual ORTG from basketball-reference.com which goes beyond just capturing shooting efficiency like TS%, but also turnovers, assists and offensive rebounding.

Here is how I calculate it:

Step 1: I start by taking the player’s individual ORTG and subtract the league average ORTG for that season.

James Harden’s ORTG in 2014-2015 was 118, while league average ORTG was 105.6. The difference is +12.4.

Step 2: Next, I divide this number by 100 and add to 1 to get a number I can multiply with.

12.4 / 100, + 1 = 1.124.

Step 3: I multiply Step 2’s result with the player’s number of possessions, then subtract the number of possessions. This gives me the difference between how efficiently the player used his possessions compared to the league average.

James Harden uses roughly 26.6 possessions a game last year. 26.6 multipled by 1.124 is 29.9, or +3.3 compared to if 26.6 had been multiplied by 1. Effectively what I calculated or close enough to it, is that Harden created 3.3 more points with his 26.6 possessions than a league average player would.

Step 4: I multiply 3.3 * 3 to get a number more representive of a scale of 10.

James Harden’s +3.3 translates to a rating of 9.9 in Volume. When I first created this part of the stat I wanted to multiply by 2.7 which is an estimate of how many wins a point is worth in the NBA. Multiplying by 2.7 leads to one player in the 2014-2015 in Chris Paul crossing the threshold of 10 which I established in the “Volume” category as representing an elite number. Multiplying by 3 includes 3 others in Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. I chose the latter to match it up with the “Volume” category’s scale slightly more.

Here is the top 20 players in the Efficiency per game:

Chris Paul – 11.2

Anthony Davis – 10.8

Stephen Curry – 10.7

Kevin Durant – 10.5

James Harden – 9.9

Jimmy Butler – 9.1

Enes Kanter (OKC) – 8.5

Brandan Wright (DAL) – 8

Kyrie Irving – 7.2

Tyson Chandler – 7.2

Deandre Jordan – 6.3

J.J. Redick – 5.3

George Hill – 5.3

Anthony Morrow – 5.1

Jonas Valanciunas – 5.1

Russell Westbrook – 5.0

Kyle Korver – 5.0

Lebron James – 5.0

Blake Griffin – 4.9

Isaiah Thomas (BOS) – 4.8

The list combines players who are lower volume but so efficient they make the best use of their value to be high enough to make this list such as Brandan Wright, Tyson Chandler and Anthony Morrow types, and players who use many more possessions at a less efficient but still above average rate such as a Russell Westbrook or Kyrie Irving. Chris Paul proves to have the highest rating combination of elite efficiency at a quality amount of possessions.

As an aside (skip this part to get to the rest of the formula if you like), the origins of this part this “Efficiency” stat goes back several years for me. There was a time when I thought this formula alone could be enough to rate NBA players. One difference is I compared the player’s possession efficiency to the team’s on-court defense with the player on the court. Therefore it would capture how much more efficient player’s possessions are vs *his opponent*. My thought process at the time is this could explain all wins. Using possessions more efficiently than your opponent adds to the team’s chances of winning, using it less efficiently than them decreases their chance of winning. This is the essence of the difference between winning and losing in the NBA.

But while my statistic at the time did an excellent job explaining teams wins the season before, it’s predictive power proved poor. To explain why I’ll call it the “Kosta Koufos problem”. When creating the stat it was before the 2013-2014 season. The Grizzlies the season before had traded Rudy Gay, won 56 games and made the Western Conference Finals. With John Hollinger’s savvy on their side in the summer they acquired Kosta Koufos, Ed Davis and Mike Miller all of whom looked excellent in my stat. Kosta Koufos rated as one of the top 50 players in the league and a coup for the Grizzlies. In Denver he had used possessions at a great 122 ORTG and his team played quality (103.7) defense with him on the court. Ed Davis in his first half season with the Grizzlies had been at 113 ORTG with his team at 98.6 DRTG on the court and he projected to get an uptick in minutes by the Grizzlies. They got Mike Miller at 117 ORTG with his team at 105.9 ORTG his last season in Miami. On paper Hollinger had set up the Grizzlies to be the best team in the league. They had taken a 56 win, already perhaps better than that by subtracting Rudy Gay, and complimented their elite defense with the efficiency possession users to make them strong on offense. I predicted them to finish 1st in the West.

In reality the Grizzlies went 50-32 and squeaked into the playoffs. Marc Gasol’s injury didn’t help, but they had only started 7-5 up to that point regardless. Kosta Koufos efficiency fell from 122 to 106 in the Grizzlies system, making him not near the star upgrade as projected. Koufos was an efficient scorer in Denver, but as with Ed Davis didn’t space the floor and took shots at a low volume. Understanding the need to value factors such as volume scoring creating space for opponents, spacing the floor and better ways to value defense in the case of Koufos type players, is one of the reasons I created VEDS instead.

**Part 3: Defense (D)**

The need to evaluate defense needs little explanation. The question that may be asked is since defense is half the game, is it fair that defense only accounts for 1/4th of this statistic while Volume, Efficiency and Spacing are the remaining 3/4ths?

This is a fair point and it’s entirely possible I’m wrong for giving defense this low a weight. My justification is calling defense more of a team activity than offense. On defense one man can’t be everywhere but have the entire offense built around him. I am not alone in believing this. For example Andrew Bogut is considered an elite defensive player with non-existent offensive impact and James Harden is an elite offensive player with non-existent defensive impact. Harden is rated as superstar as his defense can be covered up by other players, while his offense is invaluable.

To evaluate defense, there is no perfect stat, I can only use the best available option. I decided ESPN’s defensive real plus minus (DRPM) which uses adjusted +/- and boxscore information, had acceptable enough results to use.

My goal with this stat was to have it on a scale comparable to my Volume and Efficiency categories. Last year Draymond Green led the league at 5.23 DRPM. My first thought was to multiply DRPM by 2.5, and then divide their minutes by 36 to account for minutes played. Minutes played would be taking into account because categories like Volume and Efficiency are affected by having the minutes to use more possessions per game. This gave me 4 players over 10 in DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard, with Cousins taking over the top spot because of more minutes played than Green.

However I had a problem with how this affected the players at the bottom of DRPM. By multiplying with DRPM, the players who had some of the poorer DRPMs in the league ended up with a negative score far beyond the worst rating players in my other categories. For example Enes Kanter’s -3.87 DRPM translates to -9.7 when multiplied by 2.5. This would make his lack of value on defense as negative as a superstar offensive players in a category like volume or efficiency. Even players with a more acceptable score like -2 on DRPM would take a major hit of -5 in their overall VEDS threatening to wipe out most of the positive value in other categories.

The formula I settled on is taking the player’s DRPM, multiplying it by 1.5, and then adding 5. Followed by dividing their minutes by 36. For example Draymond Green’s DRPM is 5.23, multiplied by 1.5 and adding 5 gets to roughly +12.8. Adjusting for Green 31.5 minutes per game scales his rating back to +11.2, once again sliding behind Cousins for the top spot.

This gives me the same top 4 players who break the 10 threshold in Cousins, Green, Davis and Leonard. The impact on the negative players is not as destructive however. A rating of -2 in DRPM would translate to a rating of 2 in Defense, more analogous to what a poor possession user rates in the Volume category. Kanter comes out at -0.6.

Here are the top 20 players in Defense per game:

DeMarcus Cousins – 11.4

Draymond Green – 11.4

Anthony Davis – 11.3

Kawhi Leonard – 10.5

Tim Duncan – 9.6

Serge Ibaka – 9.4

Khris Middleton – 9.3

Tony Allen – 9.0

Lebron James – 9.0

Tyson Chandler – 8.7

Nerlens Noel – 8.6

Andrew Bogut – 8.6

Trevor Ariza – 8.5

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – 8.4

Markieff Morris – 8.4

Deandre Jordan – 8.3

Zach Randolph – 8.2

Wesley Matthews – 7.9

Rudy Gobert – 7.6

Paul Millsap – 7.6

With only DRPM and minutes per game leading to these numbers, I am fairly satisfied with that list rating the top 20 most impactful defenders per game in the league. The minutes help weed out some players who stick out on the DRPM list such as Jusuf Nurkic and Darrell Arthur who rated 9th and 10th in DRPM, but fell out of this top 20 due to minutes played.

**Part 4: Spacing (S)**

The obvious place to start with a spacing statistic is distance of shot from the rim, tracked on basketball-reference.com.

But using distance along brings various problems. A player who takes 2 3pt shots from 23 feet and one shot from 1 feet, rates as 15.7 feet from the rim on average for the 3 shots. How do you value this player’s floor spacing vs a midrange shooter who takes 3 shots from 16 feet?

What I stumbled into as a powerful way to account for this is assisted %. I believe this is because 3 point shots are assisted at a much higher rate than midrange jumpers. By taking a 3 compared to a midrange shot not only is the player shooting a distance from the hoop but it is more likely his shot is assisted. So for example if Klay Thompson takes 2 3pt shots and one from the rim and DeMar Derozan takes 2 midrange shots, the extra liklehood Derozan’s shots are unassisted is a factor in evaluating how floor spacing-friendly each of those 3 shots are.

Using assisted % punishes ball dominance. For example on the Houston Rockets last year Patrick Beverley and Trevor Ariza rate far greater in floor spacing than James Harden despite not a large difference in 3pt shooting skill. The logic behind this is that Harden taking 3s off the dribble does not “space the floor” like Ariza standing at the 3 point line off the ball. Ariza draws defenders away from on ball creators like Harden. If Harden takes a shot off the dribble, his 3pt shot didn’t draw defensive attention away from a teammates FGA attempt – because he took the shot!

As outlined before however, it doesn’t mean that Harden isn’t credited for “creating space” for his teammates by drawing double teams and collapsing the defense for penetration. It’s just Harden’s creating space impact is in the Volume category, Beverley and Ariza’s are in the Spacing category, which is really more meant for off the ball, spot up shooters who drag defenders away from the rim.

How I calculate this:

Step 1: I start by dividing the player’s distance from the rim by 23.

Kyle Korver’s shots last year were on average 22.2 feet away. Divided by 23 this is .965.

Step 2: I take the player’s assisted % on his FGs. To calculate this on basketball reference I multiplied the % of a player’s FGs that were from 2 by the % of them that were assisted, added to the % of a player’s FGs that were from 3 multiplied by the % of them that were assisted.

95.1% of Korver’s shots were assisted.

Step 3: I multiply the distance from the rim stat by the assisted FGs one.

Since Korver’s “Distance” number was .965 and his assisted FG % was .951, multiplied together this is .917.

Step 4: I multiply the above number by 15, followed by dividing the player’s minutes by 36. This is to scale it to 10 like the other categories.

Korver’s .917 times 15 is 13.7, or 12.3 after the minutes adjustment.

Korver’s 12.3 is the only player who rates above 10 in the category, with J.J. Redick coming closest at 9.7 and Trevor Ariza, Channing Frye and Mike Dunleavy rounding out the top 5. I didn’t scale the stat up slightly more to match the other categories, because the main reason for less elite performing players in the category is minutes. Redick (30.9 minutes), Frye (24.9 minutes), Dunleavy (29.2 minutes) and Anthony Tolliver (22.3 minutes) rated above 10 before the minutes adjustment. The best floor spacers in the league aren’t as likely to be valued enough to play 36 minutes per game as the highest volume possession users in the league, for example.

Here is the top 20 in spacing per game:

Kyle Korver – 12.3

J.J. Redick – 9.7

Trevor Ariza – 9.1

Channing Frye – 8.7

Mike Dunleavy – 8.5

J.R. Smith (CLE) – 8.4

Danny Green – 7.9

Matt Barnes – 7.8

Wesley Matthews – 7.7

Marvin Williams – 7.6

Kevin Love – 7.4

Avery Bradley – 7.3

Anthony Tolliver (DET) – 7.3

Nicolas Batum – 7.3

Ben McLemore – 7.2

C.J. Miles – 7.0

Jose Calderon – 7.0

Serge Ibaka – 7.0

Henry Walker – 6.9

DeMarre Carroll – 6.9

For a purely quantified way to judge spacing, I am more than happy with the above list. Sure it may not be perfect, but like defense, it’s purpose is to be close enough to work with to rate how much of an off the ball floor spacer a player is. There are no real frauds on the list and the presumed right players are at the top in Korver and Redick.

**Adding it all together**

The last step is simple. I add up the players score in all 4 categories to get one total stat – VEDS per game. Here is the top 50:

Anthony Davis – 35.4

Stephen Curry – 30.9

Kevin Durant – 30.4

James Harden – 28.2

Jimmy Butler – 28.1

Kyle Korver – 27.6

Lebron James – 27.2

Chris Paul – 26.2

J.J. Redick – 25.7

Wesley Matthews – 25.4

Draymond Green – 24.9

Kawhi Leonard – 24.8

Kevin Love – 24.7

Blake Griffin – 23.7

Serge Ibaka – 23.7

Trevor Ariza – 23.5

DeMarcus Cousins – 23.2

Russell Westbrook – 22.8

Klay Thompson – 22.4

Kyrie Irving – 22.3

Khris Middleton – 22.0

Gordon Hayward – 21.7

Pau Gasol – 21.5

Danny Green – 21.5

Tim Duncan – 21.2

Marc Gasol – 21.1

Mike Dunleavy – 21.0

Al Horford – 20.9

Lamarcus Aldridge – 20.8

Tyson Chandler – 20.7

Damian Lillard – 20.6

Kyle Lowry – 20.6

Paul Millsap – 20.2

J.R. Smith (CLE) – 20.0

Derrick Favors – 19.8

Chris Bosh – 19.6

DeMarre Carroll – 19.3

Deandre Jordan – 19.2

Chandler Parsons – 19.1

Anthony Morrow – 19.0

Matt Barnes – 18.9

Dirk Nowitzki – 18.7

Darren Collison – 18.2

Eric Bledsoe – 18.2

Zach Randolph – 18.0

John Wall – 17.9

George Hill – 17.8

Nikola Vucevic – 17.8

Markieff Morris – 17.5

Marcin Gortat – 17.4

The main difference is the list of the traditionally accepted star players, are invaded by the likes of Kyle Korver, J.J. Redick, Wesley Matthews, Draymond Green, Trevor Ariza, Khris Middleton, etc. The type of player who seems to suffer the most compared to consensus opinions are ball dominant guards who aren’t geared towards the 3 such as Russell Westbrook who rates as an excellent player but not an MVP caliber one, John Wall who sneaks into the top 50, and Dwyane Wade is unlisted but ranked out of the top 150.

Since the above stat takes into account both games and minutes played there are variations that could be made from it. Multiplying VEDS by games played/82, gives a games adjusted rating of value and would be a more fair way of judging the most valuable seasons in the league. After this games played adjustment Stephen Curry does indeed come out as the MVP by edging out Davis, followed by Harden, Paul and Korver in the top 5.

I also found it useful to create a per minute VEDs stat, which I calculated by dividing their VEDS by minutes per game. For example of the above top 10 in total VEDs, here is their VEDS in per minute form:

Anthony Davis – .98

Stephen Curry – .94

Kevin Durant – .90

James Harden – .77

Jimmy Butler – .73

Kyle Korver – .86

Lebron James – .75

Chris Paul – .75

J.J. Redick – .83

Wesley Matthews – .75

There were 163 players with a rating of .50 or better last year, although this includes players who barely got on the floor and players were counted twice if they played on multiple teams. When discounting those it’s clear being above .50 makes a player a quality contributor. The 409th highest per minute VEDS was .30, which is a fair estimate for replacement level. Therefore creating a VORP stat using .30 as replacement level would also work.

Per minute VEDS was a useful way to make projections for next season. For example in VEDS per minute the Spurs added Lamarcus Aldridge who rated 29th in VEDS and lost Tiago Splitter (156th), Marco Belinelli (205th), Cory Joseph (222nd), Aron Baynes (248th), Matt Bonner (334th). Looks great right? But minutes played per game has a major part of Aldridge rating so well compared to them. In VEDS per minute stats Aldridge rates at .59 compared to Splitter (.59), Baynes (.54), Joseph (.51), Bonner (.50), Belinelli (.45). From this perspective Aldridge may not produce more than the platoon of Splitter, Baynes and Bonner alone in the frontcourt, in addition to the Spurs losing two quality perimeter pieces in Joseph and Belinelli.

For the record using my projection system here is what I predicted for team wins this season. These predictions were posted in the APBR forum prediction contest before the season started:

East

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – 57 Ws

T-2. Atlanta – 54 Ws

T-2. Toronto – 54 Ws

4. Chicago – 47 Ws

5. Washington – 43 Ws

6. Boston – 41 Ws

7. Detroit – 39 Ws

8. Indiana – 38 Ws

9. Charlotte – 35 Ws

10. Miami – 34 Ws

11. Philadelphia – 33 Ws

12. Milwaukee – 30 Ws

13. Orlando – 26 Ws

14. Brooklyn – 20 Ws

15. New York – 14 Ws

West

1. Golden State – 66 Ws

2. Oklahoma City – 58 Ws

3. San Antonio Spurs – 56 Ws

T-4. Utah Jazz – 52 Ws

T-4. L.A. Clippers – 52 Ws

6. Memphis Grizzlies – 50 Ws

T-7. New Orleans Pelicans – 48 Ws

T-7. Houston Rockets – 48 Ws

9. Portland Trail Blazers – 43 Ws

10. Phoenix Suns – 42 Ws

11. Dallas Mavericks – 39 Ws

12. Sacramento Kings – 36 Ws

13. Denver Nuggets – 30 Ws

14. Minnesota – 25 Ws

15. L.A. Lakers – 20 Ws

I am interested to see how these predictions do and whether they can prove VEDS has predictive power.