Runners Standing Still

Its still unclear how good a General Manager we have in David Kahn, but if history is any guide, we seem to be able to take the man at his word. So, unless Kahn is being hugely and uncharacteristically coy, we should not expect the Wolves to move up from the fourth spot in Thursday’s draft. Kahn made it pretty clear today that the Wizards and Sixers are pretty much set at one and two. And as for New Jersey and the third spot? “The idea that we have to move up to three, that’s ridiculous,” Kahn said.  So, not moving up to three, I guess.

As for the rumors that the Wolves were considering trading Jonny Flynn to Indiana for the tenth pick: “there’s no way we would do that. I still think that Jonny has a chance to be a very special player in this league.” So much for that one.

Kahn assured the assembled that the team was quite happy with whoever they find at the third spot. “Even I can’t screw this one up,” he assured us. That makes me feel much, much better.

On that note, its worth taking a look at John Hollinger’s most current Draft Rater over at Truehoop. Notice, in particular, that Wesley Johnson is much lower on this scale (11) than he is on the draft boards of most teams, the Wolves included (and that Demarcus Cousins, who may well still on the board when the Wolves’ pick comes around, is at the top). Before you complain that Hollinger’s scale, which uses similar metrics to his NBA Player Efficiency Rating, can’t possibly assess a college player with the same feel and accuracy as an NBA personnel department, consider that Hollinger more accurately predicts player success than does the draft itself. So there.

But also bear in mind that Hollinger’s Rater isn’t able to seriously account for defense, and that energetic athletic defense is thought to be one of Johnson’s greatest strengths. Still, this is something to keep in mind on Thursday when the Wolves are weighing  the “safe” pick (Johnson) against the “riskier” ones (Cousins especially, but also Derrick Favors).

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0 thoughts on “Runners Standing Still

  1. Ben, I have to ask – I hear Hollinger and Abbott say over and over (and you now once) that Hollinger’s draft rater more accurately predicts player success than actual GM’s in the draft. I have not really seen any proof of this except that Hollinger argues so and you guys agree with him.

    Hollinger’s main argument seems to be that his rater picks result in fewer busts, but that isn’t really proof it works better — many GM’s intentionally gamble, especially from the mid-lottery down, because the mere possibility of getting someone really good is often preferable to getting someone who you know is going to be sort of good. I mean, if you are the Wolves and David Kahn, what possible use is there in drafting a guy who you are dead sure will have Damien Wilkins’ career just to say you didn’t whiff on a pick? To Hollinger if you draft Brian Cardinal instead of Robert Swift you made a much more “accurate” pick. In reality, that kind of accuracy is largely irrelevant.

    Also, Hollinger’s draft rater had Ty Lawson #1, Austin Daye #4, DeJuan Blair #8 and Danny Green #9 overall. He says “sure I overrated Danny Green and Austin Daye but I picked out Ty Lawson and DeJuan Blair as being underrated, so I win.” How is that “net accuracy” anything other than his subjective opinion? Hollinger “accurately” picked out Thabeet as a potential bust and ranked him only #12. So if the Grizzlies drafted Austin Daye instead of Thabeet that would have been a much better pick? Just six of one and half-dozen of another.

    Also, you have to completely ignore the 2008 draft rater which was a total disaster for Hollinger, which he does. He literally just does, by saying “hey, ignore it and look at my other years, everybody is entitled to a mulligan.”

    Hollinger’s methodology is interesting but I don’t really see his purported accuracy as being more than very good marketing. He’s just right and wrong in different ways and spins it to his advantage.

  2. And I would note that Hollinger has Hassan Whiteside rated as #61 in this draft. #61!! Not including Euros!! I know the guy has a high bust potential but #61? And Vasquez, Landesberg and Samhan, guys with basically zero potential to be impact players (Samhan and Landesberg likely will not even be drafted) are rated in the top 12. I just don’t see how you can say “Hollinger more accurately predicts talent than the average GM” when there are three or four recommended moves in the first dozen picks every year that would get most GMs instantly fired. Real world GMs don’t get to make 60 predictions and then say “see, in the aggregate I made the right picks” which is what Hollinger does, it is completely apples and oranges.

    1. I don’t think anyone is quite saying that Hollinger is more accurate than your “average GM.” I think what I would say is just that the conventional wisdom of the draft, which many scouts and GM’s seem beholden to, is seriously inconsistent and fairly ignorant of meaningful statistical analysis. For instance, if the Wolves had taken heed of Hollinger’s scale last year, they would have known that Jonny Flynn was no better than the fourth best point guard in the draft last year (fifth if you count Tyreke Evans as a point guard, sixth if you count Rubio–Hollinger only rates U.S. college players) and would have known that Ty Lawson at 18 was by far the steal of the draft. Both of these things strike me as pretty accurate.

      As for your claim that “there are three or four recommended moves in the first dozen picks every year that would get most GM’s instantly fired,” I think that’s probably true. But I would also argue that said instant firing would be as much a product of that scattershot conventional wisdom than as it is of the quality of the pick. For instance, choosing Nick Calathes with the sixth pick last year, as the Draft Rater would have had the Wolves do, would clearly have been a total disaster. But maybe the only reason it would have been more disastrous than choosing Flynn–who was the worst starting PG in the league last year by some measurements–is that conventional wisdom “knew” that Calathes shouldn’t go that high, whereas it was charmed with Flynn’s athleticism and charisma. I guess all I’m saying is that its just another useful tool, one that we (and many GM’s) ignore at our peril.

  3. 1. Trade Al Jefferson and 4th overall pick to nets for 3rd overall pick and safetly draft Derrick Favors

    2. Sign Rudy Gay and Raymond Felton (possibly David Lee too)

    3. Trade the Grizzlies the 16th overall pick for their 25th and 28th overall

    4. Draft Hassan Whiteside with the 23rd overall

    5. Draft Lance Stephenson with the 25th overall

    6. Draft Jordan Crawford with the 28th overall

    Outcome: This saves the wolves frontcourt. Keeps our lineup with fresh atheletes with perennial skillset potential for years to come. Flynn or Raymond at pointguard playing with the atheletic scoring ability of lance stephenson and jordan crawford with ramon sessions also available as need be. You also now have three point threats as crawford and ellington and stephenson are sharp on the arc. Rudy Gay is a solid and talented small forward and can be backed up well by Corey Brewer, not to mention damien wilkins coming off the bench every once and awhile. Our backcourt also is reinforced with talent and athletisicm as well as fundamentals. The explosive potential of Derrick Favors is promising for the future. The “Love Docter” is fundamentally sound and a force on the boards and also plays with heart which exploits capabilities of being a great center/forward in the NBA (with david lee in the mix it would provide more talent to have in the backcourt). You can also look forward to Hassan Whiteside to develop and be a defensive force. From what i see with Hassan, im not expecting an all star center but rather a key defensive big man with long arms off to come off the bench (can also look to a developing ryan hollins and gomes for extra big man support).

    Some players in the second round that i think have potential are PF Derrick Caracter (was once rated better than Greg Oden), SF Quincy Pondexter (shows tremendous heart and talent, not to mention his clutch showings at march madness during his college years), i would even give SF Lazar Hayward a look. (Quincy might not be available for too long in the second round so maybe try to get an early second round pick, possibly the nets 31st overall pick included in the jefferson trade)

  4. Hi Ben, I don’t disagree with you at all and appreciate your thoughtful analysis. I just enjoy breaking down claims versus results.

    I just feel like hindsight is 20/20 with the draft rater, and so the claims need to be taken with a big pinch of salt. Without a method of applying information, raw information cannot be said to have any useful “accuracy.” It’s always easy to look back and cherry pick results to make favorable conclusions, it’s not so easy to be right at the time you needed to make a specific decision. Hollinger may have been right about Lawson being a steal at #18, well he called Collison the worst pick in the first round and a career backup last year (read his post-draft analysis). I’m absolutely not saying that Hollinger is more wrong than conventional wisdom, I just see a lot of subjectivity in the argument. Fine, you can’t ignore it, but what are you supposed to DO with Hollinger’s analysis?

    You point to Flynn having been Hollinger’s fourth best PG last year, so that should have clued us in that he was a bad pick at #6. Well, in 2005 the draft rater had Deron Williams rated the fifth best PG after Paul, Jarrett Jack (!), Raymond Felton and Nate Robinson. And he had DJ Augustin over Derrick Rose in 2008, Russell Westbook something like #17 that year. He had Roy Hibbert way higher than Brook Lopez.

    My point is that JH’s draft rater is very interesting and gives us food for thought. But it offers hindsight, not foresight. Without some proposed method of application, its purported accuracy is interesting but ultimately not very useful.

    1. Great points, Mac. My approach to dealing with measures like the draft rater is to sort of compare them with my own subjective impressions. The fact that Wes Johnson is rated 11th doesn’t make me believe that he’s only the 11th best player in the draft, but it does give me second thoughts about taking him over Cousins or Favors. In a way, it sort of confirms what we already know: that Johnson is not going to be a superstar, but may be a useful contributor to a good team. And as for Cousins, I feel like knowing that he was the most productive player in the college game last year gives us a slightly different picture of the risks and rewards of taking him. As in: perhaps its worth it to take a risk on a guy who could be the best player in the entire draft. Thanks for reading and for your astute comments.

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