A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Envisioning an analytics heavy 76ers draft night

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I’ve been banging the drum (probably too hard) that the key to understanding the 76ers draft strategy, is to look at analytics where Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams and Arsalan Kazemi all universally were rated well. All have strong steal and block rates with Embiid and Smart leading the way for this class, the Sixers supposed dream pick Andrew Wiggins had average numbers in that area. On ESPN Kevin Pelton’s WARP rating rated Wiggins 19th, in comparison to prospects like Marcus Smart (1st), Jordan Adams (5th), Joel Embiid (6th), Jabari Parker (7th), Noah Vonleh (8th). Ed Weiland of hoopsanalyst.com had Embiid and Smart ranked 1st and 2nd in his March big board, while he is lukewarm on Wiggins.

Because of this I’ve made the point the Sixers Wiggins fascination was likely a smokescreen while they really targeted Joel Embiid or Jabari Parker.

However Embiid’s foot stress fracture is a huge monkey wrench. Even the biggest fans of Embiid have to be scared of the words “Bill Walton and Yao Ming had this”. So to me the most logical way for the Sixers to approach this, is to find a way to nab Embiid without using their 3rd pick on him. This could include Embiid falling to 10, or more likely, making a trade either to move up from 10 or to trade Michael-Carter Williams for it.

So under the impression the Sixers are analytics first, here is what predict the “dream draft” is for the 76ers:

3rd overall pick: PG/SG Marcus Smart

If analytics driven I believe there’s a realistic chance the Sixers see Smart as the top pick of the draft, once taking into account Embiid’s health. Smart has many of the reasons why the Sixers likely found Michael Carter-Williams appealing. He has an even higher stl/blk rate than Carter-Williams did and is a better rebounder per minute, but averages less assists. Age is important to analytics teams, Carter-Williams turned 22 the year of his draft, while Smart turned 20 in March.

After Joel Embiid falls to the 7th overall pick, the 76ers and Lakers agree to principle on this trade:

The 76ers trade:
Michael Carter-Williams

The Lakers trade:

#7
Steve Nash

Picking for the Sixers, the Lakers take C Joel Embiid.

The Lakers decide to do this trade because they are less interested in a longer draft rebuild, seeing Carter-Williams as more productive during Bryant’s last few years. This also pushes them towards a free agent-centric strategy, both by Carter-Williams more immediate production and by clearing Steve Nash’s salary to Philadelphia’s capspace, who I presume is bought out by the 76ers and then can do as he wishes, such as retire or sign with the Clippers or Suns.

The 76ers get Joel Embiid who very well may have topped their analytics-driven draft board the entire year. In this http://hoopsanalyst.com/?p=1259 article Ed Weiland shows how Embiid’s freshman statistical profile draws up these comparisons: Hakeem, Robinson, Ewing, Oden, Mourning. It’s conceivable before his injury, that’s who the Sixers envisioned him being.

Despite his rookie of the year success the Sixers may be less enamored with Carter-Williams than it seems. As mentioned, analytics teams like young players and Carter-Williams will be 23 by the start of next season. The Sixers are also likely to know that Carter-Williams pace inflated, very inefficient scoring season, was not such a good start offensively, especially if they weight it by age. Certainly when added to the prospect of them drafting Marcus Smart 3rd, trading Carter-Williams is a possibility.

10th overall pick: SG Jordan Adams

Adams is another player with a very impressive combined steal and block rate (3.7 per 40, including 3.5 steals per 40 minutes). He turns 20 in July and was a very productive sophomore. He would fill a need for a shooter in the Sixers lineup, considering Smart and Noel’s range for their position. 10 may seem high for Adams so it’s conceivable they could trade back, but I’ll slot him here for now.

To show how these picks would fit the Sixers profile, a few weeks ago I posted a list showing the combined stl and blk per 40 minutes of 2013 and 2014 lottery prospects or lottery projected prospects. Here is 2013 including Arsalan Kazemi who was picked 2nd round by the Sixers:

Nerlens Noel – 8.1
Steven Adams – 4.6
Arsalan Kazemi – 3.7
Michael Carter-Williams – 3.7
Alex Len – 3.4
Otto Porter – 3.1
Cody Zeller – 3.1
Victor Oladipo – 3.0
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – 2.8
Anthony Bennett – 2.7
Kelly Olynyk – 2.7
Trey Burke – 2.4
Ben McLemore – 2.0
C.J. McCollum – 1.7
Shabazz Muhammad – 1.1

Now here is 2014 NCAA lotto contenders including Adams and Kyle Anderson (two analytics favorites):

Joel Embiid – 6.0
Marcus Smart – 4.2
Jordan Adams – 3.7
Noah Vonleh – 3.4
Elfrid Payton – 3.1
Jabari Parker – 3.0
Kyle Anderson – 3.0
Gary Harris – 2.7
Andrew Wiggins – 2.6
Tyler Ennis – 2.6
Aaron Gordon – 2.4
Zach LaVine – 1.8
Julius Randle – 1.6
Nik Stauskas – 0.9
Doug McDermott – 0.5

It’s easy to see how this “dream draft” would fit the profile of an analytics team. That’s not to say Philadelphia will automatically just draft by stl/blk rate or other analytics like WARP, but it heavily influences their decision, a draft like the above is something I could see. The Sixers both take the Joel Embiid boom/bust risk, while trotting out a trio of rookies in Marcus Smart, Jordan Adams and Nerlens Noel that they may believe is a great haul from 2013 and 2014 on its own – and heading into another high draft pick next year.

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Written by jr.

June 20, 2014 at 4:44 pm

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