Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Top picks and unrealistic expectations

In the comments to my last post, commenter Louis concedes a willingness to acknowledge that Shawn Bradley is unfairly maligned, but only if I am willing to concede that a player drafted that highly is expected to be a major impact player.

As I responded in the comments, I agree that the expectation is for a top three pick to be a major impact player, but I also think that history proves this expectation to be too optimistic. Going back over the last 15 years (to Shawn Bradley's draft), the top three picks in the NBA draft have been as follows:
  • 1993- Chris Webber, Shawn Bradley (the cause of all this ruckus), Anfernee Hardaway
  • 1994- Glenn Robinson, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill
  • 1995- Joe Smith, Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse
  • 1996- Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim
  • 1997- Tim Duncan, Keith Van Horn, Chauncey Billups
  • 1998- Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby, Raef Lafrentz
  • 1999- Elton Brand, Steve Francis, Baron Davis
  • 2000- Kenyon Martin, Stromile Swift, Darius Miles
  • 2001- Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol
  • 2002- Yao Ming, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy
  • 2003- Lebron James, Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony
  • 2004- Dwight Howard, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon
  • 2005- Andrew Bogut, Marvin Williams, Deron Williams
  • 2006- Andrea Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge, Adam Morrison
  • 2007- Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Al Horford
Looking at these drafts, we really have 10 years of useful information (since, in my opinion, it is too early to make a final judgment on any of the players taken in the last five drafts--2003 to the present). In those ten years, there have been at least 8 years in which one of the top three picks did not become a major impact player (I am excluding 1994, although it is a close call depending on your opinion of Glenn Robinson, and 1999). A vast majority of these players did go on to have successful NBA careers, but that's a very different thing than becoming a major impact player.

The odds of getting a major impact player at the top of the NBA draft are better than at any other spot in the draft, but history shows that even at those draft spots getting a major impact player is no sure thing.


Louis said...

These are the players who have not had good enough careers to live up to their top-three purchase...though I must admit I don't know who came behind them that might have done better:

. 1993- Shawn Bradley
. 1994-
. 1995- Joe Smith
. 1996- Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim
. 1997- Keith Van Horn, Chauncey Billups (needs another year of good play to make up for his first 5 years)
. 1998- Michael Olowokandi, Mike Bibby, Raef Lafrentz
. 1999-
. 2000- Stromile Swift, Darius Miles
. 2001- Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Paul Gasol
. 2002- Mike Dunleavy
. 2003- Darko Milicic - It is not too early to judge Darko. He has been a huge disappointment based on how high was drafted and how little playing time he has earned. He has time to left in his career to get off of this list but he has a long way to go.

Sam Cohen said...

By your count, 16 out of 33 players drafted in the top three (from the 11 years you looked at) did not accomplish enough to be considered major impact players. That's almost 50%. Based on those numbers, don't you think it's safe to say that expecting a top three pick to be a major impact player is unreasonable? There probably are three major impact players in each draft, but correctly identifying them is really just a 50-50 proposition.

Louis said...

I guess the problem is one of managing expectations. The teams and sports analysts constantly speak of what these players will do to help their team and what a huge impact they will have. Now I will be a more savvy consumer… it would be helpful if ESPN et. al. and sports columnists toned down their rhetoric and prepared fans for what, as you pointed out, is really only a 50-50 bet.