Quick Takes: Central Division Draft Grades

Posted on July 3, 2011 by


The other day I (Devin Dignam… in case you were wondering) posted my quick take on the winners and losers of the 2011 NBA draft, as well as my Atlantic Division draft grades. Next up are quick takes for each of the five Central Division teams, a division that contains the team that posted the best record in the NBA last year, the Chicago Bulls, as well as four other teams that have seen better days (if you are wondering, the other teams are the Pacers, Bucks, Pistons, and Cavs).

How do I determine the grades? My method is as follows: I have a spreadsheet with all the draft prospects, all the draftees, their PAWS/40, and (thanks to Arturo) the expected values of each pick. I also recorded the change in salary and wins obtained through draft day trades involving veteran players. Based on these numbers, I came up with the value that each team stands to gain if PAWS/40 can perfectly predict NBA productivity. Of course, PAWS/40 can’t predict NBA productivity perfectly, so the values I came up with aren’t infallible; I had to offer some subjective alterations to the raw scores. I won’t pretend that my evaluations are perfect, but nevertheless, I much prefer my methods to the vast majority of evaluations, which rely almost exclusively on subjective elements.

On to the grades!

Chicago Bulls: C+

The Bulls started the night with the 28th pick, the 30th pick, and the 43rd pick, but traded the 28th and 43rd picks (and cash considerations) to the T-Wolves for the 23rd pick. With the 23rd pick Chicago landed Nikola Mirotic, a power forward from Real Madrid who posted a PAWS/40 of 8.50. With the 30th pick the team drafted forward Jimmy Butler, who had a PAWS/40 of 9.20 while playing for Marquette last year. Unfortunately for the Bulls, Mirotic probably won’t be in the NBA for two or three seasons, so although his PAWS/40 was relatively close to average — if we focus on just next season (or even the next two seasons) —  this wasn’t the most useful option available. And although the Jimmy Butler story will receive a lot of attention, statistically speaking, Butler was close to an average SF/PF combo player. If he plays small forward almost exclusively in the NBA, he will be a little bit above average instead of a little bit below average, and my guess is that the Bulls are looking for someone who can be Luol Deng’s backup (something that was lacking last season). If this is the case, he’s actually a decent pickup. Overall though, Mirotic’s absence for the near future docks them a couple of points: C+

According to Davis' Law, probably not.

Will the Bulls be able to ascend the mountain and reclaim the Larry O'Brien trophy once again?

Indiana Pacers: C+

The Pacers began draft night with the #15 and #42 picks and left with…George Hill. They traded their two picks – along with 2005 #46 pick Erazem Lorbek – to the Spurs, who used those picks to draft Kawhi Leonard and Davis Bertrans. Now George Hill is a decent player – he posted a WP48 of 0.090 last year and produced about 4 wins – and has a decent contract, as he is still on his rookie deal. But the #15 pick is a very valuable pick! There is always a very good player available at #15 or later. Past examples of successful #15 picks include Steve Nash, Brent Barry, Matt Harpring, and Al Jefferson – and that is only the lottery era and doesn’t include successful players taken later than #15. As it turns out, the player the Spurs selected, Kawhi Leonard, is very good and has a good chance at becoming an NBA star. Sure, George Hill is an okay player and a hometown boy, but wouldn’t you rather take the opportunity to select the player with the 4th highest PAWS/40 in the draft? But at least the Pacers pretty much guaranteed that they landed an average player on a cheap contract. C+

Reggie Miller during his Pacer days

"You know I'm not coming through that door, right?"

Milwaukee Bucks: B

Coming into the draft, the Bucks had the #10 and #40 picks, John Salmons, and Corey Maggette, and ended up with the #19 and #40 picks, Stephen Jackson, and Beno Udrih. Let’s focus on the veteran players first.


Old Team

New Team

Expected Wins

Value ($ millions)

Salary ($ millions)

Corey Maggette






John Salmons






Stephen Jackson






Beno Udrih






Table 1: Bucks 2011 draft day transactions.

Former Buck Maggette is grossly overpaid, but Salmons is being paid just about what he should be making. The new Bucks are better investments; Udrih is actually underpaid, and while Jackson is overpaid, his deal is much better than Maggette’s. If you do the math, the Bucks gained about $16 million in value in this switch. Assuming, of course, that each player continues playing as much and as well as they have in the recent past.

As for the rookies, the switch from #10 to #19 cost the Bucks about $6 million in value, and with the 19th and 40th picks the team selected power forwards Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer, who posted PAWS/40 of 7.38 and 7.58, respectively. Unfortunately for Bucks’ fans, these two figures are barely above the 7.3 “below average line” (most players who post PAWS/40 below 7.3 go on to have below average NBA careers). As such, the Bucks’ drafting was rather poor; they’d get a D from me if I was just evaluating the draftees, but including the rest of the trade (which was good), the Bucks actually manage a B from me.

Cookie Monster

So easy a Cookie Monster could do it

Detroit Pistons: F

Ah, the Pistons. Once upon a time – as recently as the 2007-08 season, if you have forgotten already – the Pistons were contenders. Not true anymore. And why not? Because GM Joe Dumars acquires bad players (Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Allen Iverson….), trades away productive players (Chauncey Billups), and generally drafts poorly (Greg Monroe is an exception). This year, with the #8, #33, and #52 picks and a real chance at landing a difference maker, the Pistons selected Brandon Knight (PAWS/40 of 6.97), Kyle Singler (PAWS/40 of 6.40), and Vernon Macklin (PAWS/40 of 5.78). Recall that the below average line sits at 7.3. Yes, the Pistons managed to draft three players below the below average line! Is Joe Dumars seeking to move up in the 2012 draft? Well, if the entire 2011-12 season gets cancelled, all his efforts will be for naught, because with no records to go on the NBA would have to devise a new method for determining draft order.

Emtpy Palace of Auburn Hills

Get used to this, Detroit (image taken by Jason Swaby)

Cleveland Cavaliers: C+

With the #1 pick, the Cavs selected the player that I would’ve taken first overall, Kyrie Irving. Irving posted a PAWS/40 of 15.01 last year, which was the 2nd largest amongst drafted players. The only potentially worrying issue with Irving is that his sample size – 27.5 min/game for 11 games – is rather small. Still, I think he was a good choice. Where the Cavs lost me was with their #4 pick, which they used on Torontonian Tristan Thompson; last year Thompson had a PAWS/40 of 8.18 as a power forward. Thompson’s numbers don’t really match those of a typical fourth overall pick – he was ranked 51st in PAWS/40 – and there were several other power forwards with good numbers available. At least the Cavs ended up hosing the Kings in the last trade made under the old Collective Bargaining Argreement – J.J. Hickson for Omri Casspi and a protected 2012 first round pick – but that trade didn’t happen on draft day. As such, the Cavs get a C+ from me.

Dan Gilbert

"I've got two strong words for you: come on!"

Up next time: the Southeast  Division draft grades.

– Devin