A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

2016 NBA Draft top 60

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This is my big board using the results of my retrodiction system I built this year. The three parts that go into a player doing well:

– The most important part is per 40 minute stats compared to the median recent all-stars at their position. Players do well when they have a complete statline including numbers like assists, steals, blocks, rebounding and scored early in their college career, as I determined older scoring rates are often inflated.

– Part adjustment using a stat called Eff/40 I took from Draftexpress, which which is a value stat playing the same role as WS/48 or BPM but served slightly better results and goes back farther than the latter.

– Adjusted for talent but only in areas that can be quantified: For example wingspan, strength and height can be compared to average at their position to help separate players physical tools a little more. 3P%, 3PA, FT% can be used to evaluate shooting. Note that there isn’t a direct adjustment for athleticism. I preferred to avoid that subjective route and the thought would be it shows up in their statistical production in other ways, but nonetheless if two players are very close I may rate the more athletic one higher.

– For International players my attempt is a lot more simplistic based on giving them a label of elite, great, good, average, etc. statistical production based on their age and conference and the categories they were great at compared to teammates. I didn’t try to create a more sophisticated system comparing each league in value to each other. It overall wasn’t that hard to create tiers of who was the most impressive International performer. The stat PER is surprisingly useful when looked at what stat recent successful international picks did well in.

– For small conference players even after some adjustments, many show up higher on the list than I’m necessarily comfortable with. The problem is my retrodiction is based on former top 60 draft picks, so I don’t have the data points for players who have 0 draft buzz such as productive players like Thomas Walkup and Jameel Warney this year. Note that punishing all small conference players isn’t necessarily the answer either, as it would have hurt the predictions of players like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Paul George, C.J. McCollum at the time, who’s stats were otherwise great. So when it comes to Walkup and Warney types I kind of just dropped them as much as felt right. Overall I gave some flexibility to go slightly outside of the model if I thought justified.

The number beside the name refers to their score, along with ranking in my model only among NCAA players. Note this means the more international prospects that are ahead of a player on the big board, the farther away their big board rank will be from their expected NCAA ranking because they are rated below the internationals on the former but not the latter.

I know these rankings are off the beaten path but there is room for improvement in the draft and there’s no harm in trying a new method. If you hate my rankings and think these are the ramblings of a crazy person, then if you’re right I’ll be wrong and sad about it in a few years. And yes, I have been wrong in the past, but what I learned recently is that philosophy which I leaned on before has never predicted as well as data. With a retrodiction system this time it’s about the data.


1. PF Ben Simmons (20.18, 2nd)

2. PG Kris Dunn (21.04, 1st)

Dunn came out with the highest rating but I figured it’s close enough to go with the youth and offensive pedigree of Simmons who in addition to his indicators like steals, assists, rebounding, scoring, had a generational season in not one but two stats for a PF prospect in assists and FT/FGA. Based on that I expect he has the upside to be no less than the best passing and slashing PF in the game. Dunn may be the best defensive PG prospect of this generation all things considered, which brings the concern that PG is an offensive position (eg. There are 10 ORPMs rate higher than Chris Paul’s position leading DRPM), but nevertheless with elite explosiveness and size, great passing and manageable shooting he has all-star offensive upside too.

3. PG/SG Isaiah Whitehead (19.1, 4th)

The new it skill for guards is creating your own 3 point shot off the dribble and Whitehead is the signature creating jumpers off the dribble guard in this class helped reflected by his elite FGA and 3PA rates and hitting 36% 3P. His TS% and turnover rate makes his overall production by Eff/40 below average, but he makes up for it in strengths between the shooting, a great assist rate and plus defensive projection as a combo guard with a 6’9 wingspan, 210 pounds and being a high steal and especially block player. A little risky based on less than elite overall value in college, but has potential to be a volume 3 point shooter who can pass and defend, a combination that’s a premium going forward.

4. PG/SG Wade Baldwin (17.05, 6th)

Ridiculous measurements for a PG, with the length of a SF (6’11) and weight of a SG (200 pounds) which makes him as long and big for his position as Kawhi Leonard was for a SF. Has a solid 3 point shot and put up a great assist and free throw drawing rate and steal and block, meaning there’s a world where he can play elite D, drive to the line, shoot and pass. Could end up pushed to an off ball SG role if his ball handling doesn’t translate but even then has high 3 and D potential.


5. C Chinanu Onuaku (16.55, 8th)

Has a chance to be a great defensive big based on his size, mobility and success in block, steal, rebound, but his best category vs centers in his conference is assists. Expected to be a limited scorer, but could be the next Noah or Bogut type of center.

6. C Ante Zizic (Statistical estimate: Elite)

The most impressive statistical international in the class to me with a top 6 PER in the Adriatic league at 19 and elite rebound, block, FTA, TS% rates. Note the international Cs lately who were the numbers friendly guys in their draft: Jokic, Nurkic, Capela, Gobert, Valanciunas. Zizic is that guy in this draft, with solid but unspectacular size and athleticism and touch at the rim and 70 FT% but lacking range. He’s known as having an elite motor too which is likely to at least make him a rebounding role player.

7. PF/C Zhou Qi (Statistical estimate: ???)

It’s hard to put Zhou Qi’s CBA stats in context considering both the lack of data points from that league and how he could be mysteriously old. He is one of the 15 or 20 best players there, easily 1st in blocks/40 and 1st in TS%, for whatever it’s worth and his shotblocking combined with 7’8 wingspan is a powerful combination. He has a perimeter jumpshot going 9 for 15 from 3 and 76% from the FT line which gives him the rare defensive anchor who shoots 3s upside. Ultimately there is bust risk here but at some point the upside is too special an asset to pass up.

8. PF Brice Johnson (16.6, 7th)

His combination of steals, blocks, rebounds, assists, scoring lines up excellently with recent all-star PFs, although many were younger at the time. Has the chance to be a high volume scorer using his athleticism and midrange potential (78%) FT but undersized defensively. He could be a player who isn’t an asset either defending or spacing the floor. What does drafting David Lee really get you nowadays? Not that he can’t be better. For the importance of tools on defense when undersized players like Chris Paul and Joakim Noah became the best defenders at their position, it can’t be ruled out for anyone who’s measurements are light.

prince9. SF Taurean Prince (16.2, 11th)

Prince has a defensive body and a 3 point shot giving him 3 and D potential, but with his height at SF, history of FGA creation and passing, may have underrated volume scoring potential too. His defensive stats are solid but not great and I don’t love that they came in a zone, but overall he seems like a solid pick on both ends with the chance to shoot, defend and pass.

10. PF Dragan Bender (Statistical estimate: meh)

Not too many positive signs in his statistical profile, but he just turned 18 in November and is a year behind Porzingis in his draft year for example. Overall a very talented player considering his perimeter range, lateral mobility and shooting potential for a four. I’m not seeing much in his scoring game outside of hitting open 3s, one difference between him and 18 year old Porzingis is the latter had a great FGA creation rate for his age while Bender is the opposite. For his passing reputation Bender’s Assist % is poor compared to his teammates and while he’s the best shotblocker on the team, blocks are a stat that traditionally long armed projects can still get even if they don’t have it mentally on D or struggle in other areas like rebounds or steals. Still though, like Zhou the upside is a special asset – an elite defensive anchor who shoots 3s and that’s worth the risk.

11. C Georgios Papagiannis (Statistical estimate: great)

12. C Ivica Zubac (Statistical estimate: great)

These are two prospects who find themselves the XXL T-shirt rack in a league increasingly moving towards spandex. Both very large humans, Papagiannis at 7’2 but reasonably slender and mobile for his size, while Zubac is 7’1 but a Pekovic like monster in frame. Both are productive in limited minutes in the Greek league and Adriatic league respectively by scoring a lot and blocking shots. Ultimately there is still room for freakish size combined with skill and productivity and both are young players at 18 for Papagiannis and barely 19 for Zubac.

13. SF Brandon Ingram (13.17, 25th)

If I followed the letter of the law with my model he would rate lower, but I decided to give him some benefit of the doubt for being 18 and a strong talent with his length, agility and feel. Plus one of the biggest reasons I rate him as overrated is after his 68% FT throws water on his 41% 3P and supposed elite shooting upside, but with that said his FT shooting wasn’t on the biggest sample size, so there’s a chance it could have been an anomaly. Ultimately the main problem for Ingram is he didn’t have that great of a season, at 20 pts/40 on .55 TS%, slightly above average shotblocking, low turnovers and no other standouts stats for his position isn’t really all that outside of the hyped up volume scoring stat. Ingram didn’t have a top 30 season in any of BPM, WS/48 or Eff/40 among the 70 or so NCAA prospects I had in consideration for this list. Among peripherals he doesn’t do much better as steal and assist rate two of his weakest categories compared to recent all-star SFs, and could be the two most important for prospects. The main thing Ingram did in college was have the skills to take a lot of FGAs at a respectable efficiency. Creating your own shot is valuable but it’s never been as valuable as its biggest proponents think and especially not in the modern game when the midrange shot is being weeded out. When downgrading him to a decent and not elite 3pt shooter, as for example he is around 10th in the ACC in 3P% among real shooters, but 62nd in the just as important FT%, he projects more like Harrison Barnes than Kevin Durant to me. With that said if he became an elite shooter that combined with his height and FGA creation track record could make him a dangerous threat taking a high volume of 3s.


14. SG Ron Baker (14.93, 14th)

15. SG Patrick McCaw (14.86, 15th)

Two of the best defensive wing profiles in the class due to length, frame in Baker’s case, lateral mobility and steal and block rate. While not volume scorers, they have the potential to hit 3s, handle and pass making them great complimentary fits in offense.

16. SF/PF Juan Hernangomez (Statistical estimate: Good)

Playing an over 20 minutes and important role for an ACB team, which for his age is a great sign for a European prospect. He doesn’t have great tools on the defensive end, but has a 3 point shot which could make him a stretch PF in the NBA following in the footsteps of Mirotic and Bjelica.

17. PG/SG Alex Caruso (16.5, 9th)

Had a superb defensive season statistically, is a reasonable 3 point shooter and had a great passing year for a combo guard. The biggest problem is that considering how brutally low his FGA creation was for a senior, it likely limits him to role player upside and PG isn’t really the best position for a defense first role player.

18. C Daniel Ochefu (14.98, 13th)

A solid big man who’s an excellent passer with a high IQ and some ability to add shooting range with his high 60s FT%. Had a solid defensive season but average tools. Doesn’t SEEM that exciting a player, but beating the “doesn’t seem that exciting” bias is supposed to be what systems like this is all about.

19. C Jakob Poeltl (14.53, 17th)

Rates best in the overall production stats like Eff/40, due to his high scoring efficiency. Overall he projects fairly average on defense due to his middling block and steal rate combined with below average frame, but has offensive potential as he was elite at getting to the line and is a solid passer with shooting potential (69.4% FT).

20. SG Thomas Walkup (19.4, 3rd)

21. PF/C Jameel Warney (17.4, 5th)

I’ll put these small school wonders here. Of the two while Walkup has the better stats I prefer how Warney’s game fits, as despite athletic and shooting concerns, looks to have a big body who can bang and can be an intelligent finisher around the rim. Walkup has reasonable length and frame if he plays SG, but athletic concerns and no 3 point shot. His main asset will be passing ability.

22. SG Denzel Valentine (16.2, 12th)

Valentine is one of the two best shooters in the class with Hield, has above average size for a 2 and has an elite IQ which led to high rebounds and assists. My biggest concern is that due to his low steal, block and being a late bloomer as a scorer, he rated poorly compared to recent all-star SGs, his ranking is salvaged by just how good a player he was in Eff/40, or stats like BPM and WS/48. There haven’t been that many data points in previous drafts of players with poor other stats but who’s overall production saved them, but nevertheless his potential to be a shooter and passer, some defensive potential with size and IQ and frankly the possibility he is just damn good at basketball, is hard to pass up too many times.

23. PF/C Robert Carter (13.32, 22nd)

An interesting skillset in the modern game as he can shoot from the perimeter, handle and pass having having a center’s frame and wingspan. While having overall middling production, I don’t mind the “hoping an overweight guy was better than he looked” logic and it seems like playing beside Diamond Stone who was a big post player who never passed didn’t play well to Carter’s numbers.


24. PF/C Gracin Bakumanya (Statistical estimate: ???)

25. PF/C Thon Maker (Statistical estimate: ???)

I’m not going to pretend I know much about either but they are tall, athletic with shooting potential and the value here is basically the mystery box. For most other prospects available at this range the numbers suggest they probably won’t be stars. With these guys we don’t know anything, so maybe that means their chance of being a top ten player in the class is higher.

26. PF/C Domantas Sabonis (13.31, 23rd)

Sabonis has some things I like offensively such as his passing, rebounding, efficiency and could be a better shooter than he showed in college. However his defensive projection is quite poor with the wingspan of a SF and weak steal and block numbers.

27. PG/SG Jamal Murray (9.80, 48th)

My system projects him to be a bust, but after Devin Booker last year who would have rated nearly as bad, I got a little bit worried about the “Kentucky effect” – when playing with other high pedigree recruits, pushes a player’s style of play away from their strengths, such as how Booker was used as a spot up shooter only when he secretly had ball handling skills. In Murray’s case if not playing with Tyler Ulis he may have had played PG and had a different season. With that said a lot of his profile is brutal. He has a very low assist, steal, block combination which combined with an undersized wingspan makes him project as a defensive liability. Offensively he shot a high volume of 3s but they were nearly all assisted and he couldn’t get to the line. Overall there just isn’t a ton of exciting offensive skills other than getting 3s off and he projects poorly on defense.

28. SG Buddy Hield (12.12, 31st)

Like Murray his stats point towards a poor lottery pick, as a scorer who only blew up at a late age and not special at any other stats. Hield’s saving grace is the comparison points for amazing shooting seasons is small. It’s not just that he hit 46% from 3, but he did it on a spectacular 9.8 3PA/40 and 88% FT. His 3P%, 3PA, FT% combination was arguably as good as good as Curry and Klay ever had. The case for Hield is he’s like the shooting equivalent of a freak athlete, meaning like taking Andre Drummond even in spite of poor stats cause he’s that much of a monster physically. He also has solid defensive size.

29. SG Terry Tarpey (16.44, 10th)

Another solid small conference prospect. Looks to have defensive potential due to his solid length and steal and block rate in college, while he can pass the ball and has solid athleticism driving to the rim. His biggest weakness is a lack of a 3 point shot although a quality FT% could indicate potential in that area.

30. SF Jaylen Brown (11.32, 37th)

31. PF Marquese Chriss (10.44, 42nd)

32. SF Derrick Jones, Jr. (10.82, 40th)

None of these players seasons project as that great, but at some point taking a young and freakishly athletic player and hoping for the best is a reasonable idea considering the alternatives aren’t more than longshot chances to be anything anyways.

33. SG Furkan Korkmaz (Statistical estimate: Weak so far)

Almost nothing about his statistical profile is positive right now and he overall projects poorly on defense considering his minimal defensive stats and frame. However he’s a high variance player who may be able to shoot and get his shot off and is a solid athlete.

34. C A.J. Hammons (14.15, 19th)

35. PG/SG Gary Payton II (13.41, 21st)

36. PG Kahlil Felder (13.91, 20th)

The argument for these players is the complete opposite of Brown, Chriss and Jones. They are older and have holes in their game or numbers, but just going by Eff/40, they were 3 of the best players in the class compared to their position and being really good in college can mean something. Hammond has elite size, Payton is showing signs of being a great PG defender and Felder created his own FGA the most of anyone in this class.

37. PF Guerschon Yabusele (Statistical estimate: Solid)

38. PG Nikola Ivanovic (Statistical estimate: Good)

39. PF Paul Zipser (Statistical estimate: Good)

Like but don’t love Euro picks. Yabusele is a beefy stretch 4, Zipser is a solid production driven role playing wing pick. Ivanovic is the most under the radar but as the PG on Luwawu’s team he’s one of the best assist to turnover PGs in the Adriatic and has a respectable jumpshot giving him a chance to be a Calderon or Blake type game manager.

40. C Diamond Stone (13.19, 23rd)

Stone has some weaknesses like lack of passing and average rebounding, but he scored at an elite volume and efficiency for his age, has defensive size and blocked shots and has some spacing potential.

41. PF Pascal Siakam (14.4, 18th)

42. C Deyonta Davis (12.5, 27th)

43. C Cheick Diallo (10.0, 45th)

Both these players could struggle on offense, but have rim protection potential. Siakam had the best numbers, but against worse competition. Diallo had the worst, but is more high variance since he barely played.

44. SF/PF Jordan Fouse (14.8, 16th)

Puts up some great stats like rebounding, steals, assists, but his overall production as judged by Eff/40 is a little disappointing due to his TS% and has some positional concerns. Still, has defensive and passing potential and a not broken jumpshot.

45. PF/C Henry Ellenson (12.13, 30th)

46. PG DeJounte Murray (12.19, 29th)

They have some interesting talents such as Ellenson’s size, shooting and passing ability and DeJounte’s elite length for a PG, but their efficiency for their position was awful making them ineffective players overall, and just didn’t do enough in other stats to make me think they will be good.

47. SG Caris LeVert (12.31, 28th)

48. PF Stefan Jankovic (12.55, 26th)

49. PF Petr Cornelie (Statistical estimate: Meh)

50. SG Malcolm Brogdon (11.64, 34th)

51. SF Damion Lee (10.88, 38th)

52. SF Jarrod Uthoff (9.71, 51st)

53. SG Malik Beasley (7.83, 54th)

54. SG A.J. English (12.74, 26th)

This group is all about the shooting. Jankovic and Cornelie have stretch 4 potential while other than Hield and Valentine, LeVert, Brogdon, Lee, Uthoff, Beasley, English are five of the next best shooters in the class using a combination of 3P%, 3PA and FT% to project them. Ultimately my system uses peripherals like steals, assists, etc. to even predict shooting too which is a problem for them, but shooting is a valuable tool in the modern game to give them potential and at least they have it. Beasley has the weakest stats, but is also young.

55. SF Troy Williams (11.60, 35th)

56. SF Timothe Luwawu (Statistical estimate: Poor)

57. PG Demetrius Jackson (10.84, 39th)

Like the Brown, Chriss, Jones group earlier, there’s value in just having great athleticism. The difference with Williams, Luwawu and Jackson is they’re old too. Luwawu has some high draft buzz right now, my issue is his stats impressed me the least of any international in this class considering he is a 21 year old Adriatic League and only an ok player at 16.5 PER and shooting less than 40% from the field. I see his production as more analogous like NCAA athletes who didn’t put it all together like Troy Williams and Alex Poythress.

58. SG Deandre Bembry’ (12.09, 32nd)

59. PG Fred VanVleet (11.97, 33rd)

60. PG Tyler Ulis (10.72, 41st)

Smart players and VanVleet and Ulis have solid 3 point shots, while Bembry is a superb passer for a wing. Ultimately they just didn’t stand out enough in either stats or tools. Michael Gbinije and Dorian Fnney-Smith would’ve been 61st and 62nd and fit into the above group as solid role players.

Players outside of top 62 include Skal Labissiere, Malachi Richardson, Damian Jones, Stephen Zimmerman. All have some interesting athletic tools but just aren’t good enough of NCAA players for me to believe in them. Yes there is a chance they beat the odds and become NBA players and they were have the advantage of a long leash and D League time to figure it out, but overall my system isn’t made to account for teams believing more in players. Isaia Cordinier and Rade Zagorac are some internationals who missed the cut getting some buzz. Cordinier has some exciting athleticism and 3 point shooting but his productivity is just too big a problem for only playing in French Pro B. For soon to be 21 in the Adriatic League Zagorac doesn’t have standout enough skills or production.

Written by jr.

June 15, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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