NBA Draft Positions

A bit of data analysis of draft positions across starting lineups in the NBA. For the five starting players on each team, I collected the draft positions and year drafted. So the data is for the 150 players across the 30 teams. I figure starters tend to have the biggest impact and what you want out of your drafts. Undrafted players were assigned a draft position of 61, since NBA has only two rounds 60 spots in the draft.

For any given starter, the average position picked: 19.7

For any given starter, the average year picked is 2010 , or said another way, the average starter has 7 years experience.

Number of first round picks 117 78%
Number of second round picks 24 16%
Number of undrafted players 9 6%

Teams sorted on average pick position of their starters, for example Cleveland is LeBron (1), Kyrie (1), Tristan Thompson (4), Kevin Love (5), and JR Smith (18) for an average pick of 5.8. The chart shows us the Knicks have the second highest starters, so high draft picked players alone don’t necessarily make a winning team.

Cleveland Cavaliers 5.8
New York Knicks 7.8
Minnesota Timberwolves 8.2
Charlotte Hornets 8.4
Oklahoma City Thunder 11.0
Portland Trail Blazers 11.2
Orlando Magic 11.6
Phoenix Suns 13.8
Washington Wizards 15.4
Sacramento Kings 16.2
Indiana Pacers 17.2
LA Clippers 17.6
Los Angeles Lakers 17.8
Toronto Raptors 17.8
Utah Jazz 17.8
Chicago Bulls 18.6
Detroit Pistons 19.0
Golden State Warriors 19.4
New Orleans Pelicans 20.2
Denver Nuggets 21.8
Milwaukee Bucks 24.0
Brooklyn Nets 24.2
Houston Rockets 26.8
Memphis Grizzlies 28.6
Dallas Mavericks 28.8
Atlanta Hawks 30.0
San Antonio Spurs 30.4
Miami Heat 31.8
Boston Celtics 34.4
Philadelphia 76ers 36.6

Here are the teams sorted by average draft years of starters, showing which teams have the oldest to youngest starters.

Memphis Grizzlies 2005
LA Clippers 2007
Cleveland Cavaliers 2007
Dallas Mavericks 2008
San Antonio Spurs 2008
New York Knicks 2008
Golden State Warriors 2008
Toronto Raptors 2009
Chicago Bulls 2009
Houston Rockets 2009
Boston Celtics 2009
Indiana Pacers 2009
Utah Jazz 2009
Phoenix Suns 2009
Denver Nuggets 2009
Sacramento Kings 2010
Atlanta Hawks 2010
Charlotte Hornets 2010
Washington Wizards 2010
New Orleans Pelicans 2011
Brooklyn Nets 2011
Miami Heat 2011
Detroit Pistons 2001
Oklahoma City Thunder 2013
Orlando Magic 2013
Minnesota Timberwolves 2013
Portland Trail Blazers 2013
Philadelphia 76ers 2013
Milwaukee Bucks 2014
Los Angeles Lakers 2015

A scatterplot of all starters by draft position and year #1 overall pick and undrafted picks highlighted. View full size on CodePen.

Finally a cumulative graph by draft position showing what percentage of starters in the league are above a given point, for example 21% of the starters are from top 4 draft picks. also available on CodePen

Summary

I initially started playing with it because I was curious how big of an impact the top players really do have, are people making too big of a fuss over the first handful of picks. Well, it turns out it is a great amount, more than half the starters in the league come from the top 15 draft positions.

Also, the data will get even more skewed towards the top once Philadelphia starts playing all their early picks, they’re going to jump from bottom almost to the top.

If you want to play with the data, download my Excel workbook NBA Starters Draft, and let me know if you do something interesting with it. Both graphs are also on CodePen to play with Starters by Position/Year, and Cumulative Draft Position.

ยง Starting player data from ESPN Depth Chart, draft position and year from Basketball Reference.

Greatest Quarterbacks of Modern Era

My era begins with Joe Montana. I enjoyed the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders as a kid, but I didn’t really know what I was watching. So sorry, Bradshaw and Plunkett this list starts in 1980.

Ranking the top Quarterbacks based on Winning Percentage, Championship Game Record and Super Bowl Record. It’s all about the W’s. How do you see them shaking out? Who am I missing?

I’m a Buffalo Bills fan, so I may have Kelly a bit higher than most, though in my mind he tops the list.

Rank Quarterback Winning Pct Conference Superbowl QBR
1 Tom Brady 183-52 (77.9%) 7-4 5-2 97.2
2 Joe Montana 117-47 (71.3%) 4-2 4-0 92.3
3 Peyton Manning 186-79 (70.2%) 4-1 2-2 96.5
4 Ben Roethlisberger 123-60 (67.2%) 3-2 2-1 94.1
5 John Elway 148-82 (64.3%) 5-1 2-3 79.9
6 Jim Kelly 101-59 (63.1%) 4-1 0-4 84.4
7 Steve Young 94-49 (65.7%) 1-3 1-0 96.8
8 Troy Aikman 94-71 (57.0%) 3-1 3-0 81.6
9 Aaron Rogers 90-45 (66.7%) 1-2 1-0 104.1
10 Brett Favre 169-100 (62.8%) 2-3 1-1 86.0
11 Drew Brees 131-101 (56.5%) 1-1 1-0 96.3
12 Dan Marino 147-93 (61.2%) 1-2 0-1 86.4
13 Kurt Warner 57-44 (56.4%) 3-0 1-2 93.7
14 Eli Manning 108-91 (54.3%) 2-0 2-0 83.7
15 Donovan McNabb 82-45-1 (64.6%) 1-4 0-1 85.6


(1) Data last collected Feb 5, 2017

What might of been…

Back in 2007, I predicted a short life for Barry Bonds’s home run record. Alex Rodriguez was on pace to blow by it. Plus it looked like after A-Rod set it, Albert Pujols would be right on his tail and likely passing him up. A-Rod will fall short with 696 career home runs, but Pujols still has a chance.

The numbers

Alex Rodriguez started 2007 with 464 home runs at age 31. He averaged 41 home runs a year for each full year he’s played. If he did the same for the next 7 years, he would hit another 287 home runs, giving him 751 career home runs at age 38. Bonds at age 38 was just past 600 home runs, and still at his physical peak. If A-Rod can perform in his later years as well as Bonds then he could expect an additional 150 home runs which would put him around 900 career home runs; he likely will fall off some in his later years, so most likely Rodriguez will finish around 800 total HRs.

My prediction from 2007 was Alex Rodriguez will become the all time home run leader with his 760th home run on Sept 23rd, 2012; coincidentally passing Barry Bonds on the same day he hit his 759th five years earlier.

Obviously, this didn’t happen. Here’s the chart of what might of been, projecting A-Rod’s home run production from 2007 to 2016.

Year Age Predicted Actual
2007 31 58 54
2008 32 52 35
2009 33 53 30
2010 34 50 30
2011 35 45 16
2012 36 38 18
2013 37 30 7
2014 38 25 0
2015 39 20 33
2016 40 20 9

If he hit the predicted amount it would give him 855 total career home runs, almost 100 more than Bonds. However, due to suspension, injuries, and slumps A-Rod finished his career with 696 home runs.

Albert Pujols is also on a pretty hot pace. Albert is a little behind A-Rod, but slightly ahead of Hank Aaron’s pace when compared to their total home runs by age. If Pujols can continue to play and produce until he’s 42 years old like Bonds and Aaron did, he still has a chance to break the record.

All-time Home Runs by Age

Instructions: Click the names to toggle the player’s graph
Data from Baseball Reference, December 2016.

See full-size graph on CodePen


The Walks

One thing to note, which makes Bonds’s record even more amazing: he was walked a major league record 2,558 times, once every 4 at bats for his career. This is the most ridiculous stat, if you’re looking for something that will never be beat, this is it. The next closest is Ricky Henderson with 2,190 and Babe Ruth with 2,062. They would need to walk every single at-bat for a season to close the gap.

If Barry Bonds walk ratio was on par with A-Rod’s or Hank Aaron’s which is both around every 8 at bats, Bonds would have an additional 1,200 at bats. Considering Bonds’s career home run ratio is an HR every 13 at bats, that would have given him an additional 92 home runs! What might of been.

Willie Mays

Did you know Willie Mays missed almost two full years of baseball due to military service? Mays finished with 660 career home runs, which is now 5th all time. What might of been if The Say Hey Kid would of had a full career like the rest of the home run leaders.

Willie Mays home runs early in his career, which is when he went into the military.

Year HR At Bats
1951 20 464
1952 4 127
1953 0 0
1954 41 565
1955 51 580
1956 36 578

Mays hit a home run every 15.2 at-bats, and was averaging around 546 at-bats per year.

So in 1952 he missed out on 419 at-bats and in 1953 he missed out on all 546 at-bats. Using one home run every 15.2 at bats works out to be 27 more home runs in 1952 and 36 home runs in 1953 which would be an additional 63 home runs.

Babe Ruth finished with 714 career home runs; if Mays didn’t serve in the military it is very likely he would of had 63 more home runs, giving him a career total of 723 home runs and being the first to pass the Babe.