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Basketball philosophy

Why Otto Porter could be the #1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft

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The Cleveland Cavaliers just won their 2nd lottery in 3 years, following the 2011 win that netted them Kyrie Irving. Many are all but writing in Nerlens Noel as the pick, widely the favorite to go 1st all year and a defensive compliment for a team who’s been terrible on that end.

Not so fast.

First, it bears noting how it’s no secret Cleveland is leading the way among NBA teams who are relying on advanced metrics to pick players. The Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters 4th overall picks that came out of nowhere, appear to be have been on the back of what the stats said. Nerlens Noel and Otto Porter have been the advanced metrics community’s favorites all year. This is because most draft regression studies, favor players who fill the statsheet in non-scoring ways – such as rebounding, blocks, steals, assists. Noel averaged an exceptional 11.9 rebounds, 5.5 blocks, 2.6 steals, 2.0 assists per 40 minutes. His 27.7 PER for a freshman big and .58 TS% on 13.1 pts per 40, also could help his case. Porter averaged 8.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 steals, 1.0 blocks per 40 minutes, rare all-around numbers for a sophomore SF, in addition to 27.8 PER .59 TS% on 18.3 pts per 40 .

I’ve been using statician Ed Weiland’s site hoopsanalyst.com as a Cavaliers canary since last year. In 2011 he ranked Tristan Thompson as his 2nd best prospect after Kyrie Irving and in 2012 he ranked Dion Waiters 2nd after Anthony Davis. Considering Cleveland went on to surprise and take Thompson and Waiters top 5, he seems an excellent indicator of the statistical method they’re using. On Weiland’s last big board update, Noel and Porter ranked as his #1 and #2 respectively, followed by Trey Burke 3rd, out of the question for the Cavaliers. Another well respected statician draft site, shutupandjam.net, ranks Porter 1st and Noel 3rd (with Trey Burke 2nd).

In a vacuum, the evidence would still seem to point to Noel. Although Porter’s rebounding, passing, and blocks/steals for a SF are exceptional, Noel’s rebounding, block and steal rate is even more freakish and he rates 1st on Weiland’s site. However, other factors are playing towards Porter:

– Noel is recovering for a torn ACL. While ACL recoveries are reliable in this day and age, there’s still a risk that a loss of explosiveness will occur. A problem magnified by how much Noel relies on not just great, but transcendent athleticism for a big man. Furthermore, Noel had a fractured growth plate in the same leg that ended his sophomore year in high school. Multiple knee injuries this early in his career is a huge concern, especially with a frame as light as his.

– Porter is the superior fit positionally, sliding into the SF role beside Irving at PG, Waiters at SG, Thompson at PF and Varejao at C. Noel and Thompson is not a great fit. For one, Noel may be too light to play center, pushing him to long term starting PF status, leaving Thompson’s spot out to dry. Secondly even if they play together, it’s lacking in offense. A lack of floor spacing would hurt on a team with guards who want to drive into the paint

– The Cavaliers appear to be impatient to win. As they stated on the lottery telecast, they hope this to be their last lottery for a long long time. They’ve tanked 3 long years post Lebron and with Kyrie heading into his 3rd season, appeasing him by pushing towards winning is now important. Noel’s ACL recovery means he doesn’t help them win next year, while Porter would likely immediately start at SF for them.

When Noel’s health, positional fit and the desire to win soon is taken into account, the Cavaliers choosing Porter becomes a real possibility even if their statistical methods give the edge to Noel. If Noel is ahead, it depends by how much. I imagine any narrow gap is made up for health, fit and immediate production. If Noel has a large lead on Porter in their advanced metrics, they may feel the best move is taking him and dealing with the other consequences. Right now I’d call it a near toss-up, but I’m actually leaning towards Otto Porter grabbing this. Of course, the Cavaliers could also rectify this by trading down, perhaps to 3rd overall if the Wizards wanted Noel more than Porter. With Tobias Harris and Moe Harkless on the team, the Magic taking Porter at the 2nd overall spot is unlikely. Though because #1 picks are a source of pride, I’d bet against the Cavaliers moving down just for a small asset.

This has been the most up in the air year for the #1 pick since 2006 and lottery night didn’t change it. I see two major contenders if the Cavaliers keep the pick, but they could be deadly tight.

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Written by jr.

May 21, 2013 at 7:03 pm

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