Stat Guide to NBA Draft

The Cleveland Cavaliers will watch LeBron James in Thursday's NBA Finals amid rumors he could return to the Cavs in a couple of years to join Kyrie Irving and which ever player the Cavs take with the first pick in one week in the NBA Draft. The problem is half of the guys who should be first-round picks according to the statistical evaluations I ran for several NBA teams last year (see list below), decided to stay in college for another year including the guy who should be the Cavs' No. 1 pick next Thursday.

The statistical evaluations of NBA potential indicate Marcus Smart is the No. 1 college prospect, but he gave up $9 million to stay at Oklahoma State. The list below shows the top 30 prospects based on one of four factors that predict future NBA productivity, Sr. Value Add. Future posts will cover the other three - combine results, NBA Indicators and Observation - and combined they have been a very reliable indicator of future NBA production. Here are the top 30 NBA prospects who played in college this season based purely on Sr. Value Add, followed by where they are projected to go in the draft based on www.draftexpress.com (& indicates projected spot in 2014 draft):

Sr VA Rnk DraftExp Player Team Feet Inches Value Add Class Sr. Value
1 6 Burke, Trey Michigan 6 0 10.93 SO x 2.21 24.2
2 1 Noel, Nerlens (24 of 33 games) Kentucky 6 10 5.62* FR x 3.0 23.1
3 4& Smart, Marcus Oklahoma St. 6 4 7.29 FR x 3.0 21.9
4 3 Porter, Otto Georgetown 6 8 9.76 SO x 2.21 21.6
5 9 Caldwell-Pope, Kentavious Georgia 6 5 8.94 SO x 2.21 19.8
6 2 McLemore, Ben Kansas 6 5 6.57 FR x 3.0 19.7
7 11 Zeller, Cody Indiana 7 0 8.73 SO x 2.21 19.3
8 13 Carter-Williams, Michael Syracuse 6 6 7.71 SO x 2.21 17.0
9 7 Bennett, Anthony Nevada Las Vegas 6 8 5.59 FR x 3.0 16.8
10 8& Robinson, Glenn Michigan 6 6 5.59 FR x 3.0 16.8
11 16 Larkin, Shane Miami FL 5 11 7.37 SO x 2.21 16.3
12 44& Dinwiddie, Spencer Colorado 6 5 7.08 SO x 2.21 15.6
13 33& Anderson, Kyle UCLA 6 8 4.72 FR x 3.0 14.2
14 11& McGary, Mitch Michigan 6 10 4.68 FR x 3.0 14.0
15 18& Warren, TJ North Carolina St. 6 8 4.65 FR x 3.0 14.0
16 21& Dekker, Sam Wisconsin 6 7 4.42 FR x 3.0 13.3
17 16& Harris, Gary Michigan St. 6 4 4.38 FR x 3.0 13.1
18 Not yet Pangos, Kevin Gonzaga 6 2 5.88 SO x 2.21 13.0
19 10 Adams, Steven Pittsburgh 7 0 4.24 FR x 3.0 12.7
20 25& Sulaimon, Rasheed Duke 6 4 4.17 FR x 3.0 12.5
21 5 Oladipo, Victor Indiana 6 5 9.44 JR x 1.31 12.4
22 19& Hairston, PJ North Carolina 6 5 5.39 SO x 2.21 11.9
23 Not yet Napier, Shabazz Connecticut 6 1 8.81 JR x 1.31 11.5
24 39& Smith, Russ Louisville 6 0 8.51 JR x 1.31 11.1
25 Not yet Tuttle, Seth Northern Iowa 6 8 5.02 SO x 2.21 11.1
26 50& Behanan, Chane Louisville 6 6 4.76 SO x 2.21 10.5
27 40& McDermott, Doug Creighton 6 8 7.73 JR x 1.31 10.1
28 8 McCollum, CJ (2012 season) Lehigh 6 3 7.74 SR x 1.0 10.1
29 13& Austin, Isaiah Baylor 7 1 3.32 FR x 3.0 10.0
30 27& Stokes, Jarnell Tennessee 6 8 4.47 SO x 2.21 9.9
31 12 Olynyk, Kelly Gonzaga 7 0 7.44 JR x 1.31 9.7
36 4 Len, Alex Maryland 7 1 4.16 SO x 2.21 9.2
37 15 Muhammad, Shabazz UCLA 6 6 3.05 FR x 3.0 9.2
44 14 Plumlee, Mason Duke 6 10 8.66 SR x 1.0 8.7

The database at www.valueaddbasketball.com has been updated to note which players have any chance to be in the NBA within two years (see far right column). A player's Value Add rating shows how valuable the player was to his team that season. However, what an NBA team wants to know is how valuable the player be when he peaks in his mid-20s, which is why even great seniors rarely make the NBA.

A senior is already close to his peak, so his Sr. Value Add is simply the same as his Value Add. Mason Plumlee was the eighth best player in the country according to Value Add this season as a senior, but 38 underclassmen would likely be better than him by their senior year, so he is actually only 44th in Sr. Value Add. He may not be worth the 14th pick projected by www.draftexpress.com.

Likewise, Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga was the 12th best player this year according to Value Add, but juniors only improve by a factor of 1.31 by their senior year on average. Olynyk drops just out of the top 30 with a Sr. Value Add of 9.7. However, with so many players in front of him waiting for the 2014 draft, his projection as the 12th pick is probably just a little high.

The talk has been of the impressive showing in the combine of Alex Len, who some believe will be the Cavs pick at No. 1. He just missed the top 200 list in college Value Add (top 5%), but the average sophomore improves by a factor of 2.21 by his senior year, so Len would have projected to be an All-American (over 9 Value Add) by his senior year. Still, his Sr. Value Add puts him in the late first round, so the consideration of him at the top of the draft is a reflection of the other three factors - his combine results, NBA Factors and observation. 

The four players who have Senior Value Adds of 21 or higher are Trey Burke, Nerlens Noel, Marcus Smart and Otto Porter. Smart and Nerlens are two freshmen, meaning they likely would have tripled their Value Add if they had played through their senior year. I did adjust Noel to assume he played all 33 games instead of missing the last nine after his knee injury.

While Burke comes in first in Sr. Value Add, he is small for an NBA guard and so his combine results (which include height) would drop him a couple of spots. Noel nudges out Smart and should actually be the best player to come out of this draft. However, with the risk coming off a brutal injury, Smart would be the better pick due to being healthy and having a virtually perfect NBA-ready body at a strong 6-foot-4. His combine results and ability to overpower people for steals and to draw fouls would push him up from his Sr. Value Add based on combine results and NBA Indicators.

The Cavaliers could take a chance on the 7-foot-1 Len if he has blown them away in combines, but the more proven picks would be a healthy Noel or Porter, who did not even average double digits as a freshman but was nonetheless pegged by Value Add as the Big East Player of the Year before this season and delivered.


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