Pondering Potential First Round Point Guards

Posted on June 18, 2009 by


We are now less than a week from the 2009 NBA Draft.  In looking over Chad Ford’s latest mock draft at ESPN one is struck by how many point guards are projected to go in the first round.  Nine of the thirty players Ford thinks will go in the first round are classified as a point guard.

Beyond the number of point guards ranked is the ordering of the players.  There appears to be a substantial disconnect between the ranking of these players and how these players performed in college. 

Table One: The “Top” Point Guards in the 2009 Draft

Table One reports what the seven of these lead guards did in college last season (Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings didn’t play college basketball).  The players are listed in the order provide by Ford in his mock draft.  In looking over the list the play of Jonny Flynn and Ty Lawson stand out.  Of the guards listed, Flynn was the least productive in college last year.  Yet Flynn is considered a possibility for the Sacramento Kings with the fourth pick and certainly a lock for the lottery. Meanwhile, Lawson was easily the most productive point guard last year and only DeJuan Blair and Blake Griffin posted a higher Position Adjusted Win Score per 40 minutes (PAWS40). Lawson, though, is not considered a possibility for the lottery.   In sum, the consensus appears to be that Flynn is clearly better than Lawson.  But last year in college it wasn’t even close.  Lawson was more productive with respect to shooting efficiency, rebounds, steals, turnovers, and assists. Flynn only has advantage with respect to personal fouls.

It’s important to emphasize that college numbers are not a perfect predictor of future NBA performance.  So it’s possible the consensus is correct here.  That being said, there is a statistical relationship between what a player does in college and in the NBA.  And Flynn did do far less than Lawson.  That suggests that supporters of Flynn need to offer some explanation for why the differences we saw between Flynn and Lawson last year in college are going to reverse once these players enter the NBA.

By the way, PAWS40 is not the only metric that ranks Lawson ahead of Flynn.  John Hollinger ranks Lawson and Griffin as the two best players in the draft (insider access required).  Hollinger’s PERs model does have problems if you are trying to explain wins.  But it’s a great model if you are looking for a summary statistics that captures perceptions of performance (NBA Efficiency is also a great model if you just want to consider perceptions).

Given this characteristics of PERs, one might wonder if the consensus regarding Lawson will change as we approach the draft.  Ford currently argues that seven point guards will be taken before Lawson. But with PERs ranking Lawson as the top point guard, will Lawson still last until the 23rd pick?

One last note…Erich Doerr did send me some analysis for the 2009 draft but he doesn’t have time to write a post.  I will do my best to get at least some of Doerr’s analysis posted soon.

– DJ

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Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at wagesofwins.com provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.