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.

NBA Draft Position/Year

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.

NBA Draft Position Cumulative


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 come up with any additional insights.

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