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.
|New York Knicks||7.8|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||11.0|
|Portland Trail Blazers||11.2|
|Los Angeles Lakers||17.8|
|Golden State Warriors||19.4|
|New Orleans Pelicans||20.2|
|San Antonio Spurs||30.4|
Here are the teams sorted by average draft years of starters, showing which teams have the oldest to youngest starters.
|San Antonio Spurs||2008|
|New York Knicks||2008|
|Golden State Warriors||2008|
|New Orleans Pelicans||2011|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||2013|
|Portland Trail Blazers||2013|
|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.
§ Starting player data from ESPN Depth Chart, draft position and year from Basketball Reference.