Game Changing Draft Picks since 1977

Posted on May 27, 2010 by


Arturo Galletti – who has contributed two stories to the WoW Journal (see HERE and HERE) – and Andres Alvarez (who has created the automated Wins Produced website and posted this column) have been looking at my calculation of Wins Produced from 1977-78 to 2009-10.  Soon (not sure how “soon” is defined but I guess before the end of summer) this data will be posted on-line.  And we are already discussing various studies we can do with this data (beyond what I have published with my fellow economists). 

Andres got this work off with the following question:  How many “game-changing” players have been selected in the NBA draft?

The answer to this question depends on the definition of “game-changing”.  For Andres a “game-changing” pick is defined as a player who posted a 0.250 WP48 as a rookie and also produced 15 or more wins.  In other words, he was a “star” player who actually played.

Since 1977-78, there have been hundreds of players drafted into the NBA.  And of all these players, these nine players were the only “game-changing” draft picks.

To put these numbers in perspective, only 343 times – of the 12,773 player-seasons since 1977-78 – has a player posted a 0.250 WP48 and 15 Wins Produced.  So less than 3% of the time does a player do this well. 

Rookies tend to play worse than average, so we should not be surprised that few rookies can step in and have this kind of impact in his first season.  What is interesting is that since the turn of the century (at least, I thought this was interesting), Chris Paul is the only game-changing rookie.

All of this is but one more piece of evidence that rookies – despite what you will hear during the broadcast of the NBA draft next month – are not going to immediately transform the fortunes of the NBA team who becomes their new employer.  And for most of these rookies, they will never transform their team’s fortunes (and that is a good story for another day).

In the coming weeks and months, look for more of the stories told by all these numbers (via the incredible work of Arturo and Andres). 

Another Radio Appearance…

On Tuesday night was I was a guest on Last Call, a program on Hardcore Sports Radio.  On the blog associated with the show my appearance was described as follows:

– Talks about the economics in sports
– Chats about some of the stories in his book
– Book has stories ranging from a variety of sports in North America and the economics
– Talks about player/coach relationships and the effects
– Chats about LeBron James and former coach of the Cavaliers Mike Brown
– Believes the Cavs are in panic mode this off-season
– Talks about the value of head coaches and Phil Jackson
– States that players get better being coached by Phil Jackson
– Brings up similarities between Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach
– Talks about Phil Jackson and his contract with the Lakers
– Believes Phil Jackson has a huge impact coaching the Lakers
– Discusses rating NBA players from his research
– Chats about specific baseball stats
– Talks about basketball stats, specifically scoring stats
– Believes the NBA has a problem with statistics and how players are signed to contracts
– States that NBA players care more about scoring points to gain a high value contract
– Chats about evaluating the NBA free agent class of 2010
– Talks about the differences between David Lee and Chris Bosh
– Chats about superstar’s on a team shooting the ball rather than having another player shoot in clutch situations
– Talks about the best head coaches available

If you wish to hear the actual broadcast, a podcast is available at the Hardcore Sports Radio website (look under Last Call).  The interview was live, and it was 10:30pm in Utah (and after midnight Eastern time).  Although it was late, the questions were great.  I can’t say the same for my answers.  Again, it was pretty late for a 40-year old professor.

By the way, if you choose to download the interview and listen, I come on 30 minutes into the broadcast.  The interview starts with a discussion of teaching, sports, and economics (where I note that some stuff in economics is not interesting).  From there we eventually get around to the list of topics seen above.

– DJ

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