The ADB Mailbag: Draft Busts and Successes

Thabeet (Getty)

We’re giving away prizes this week for non-awful questions so you know this mailbag’s legit.

Remember: If your question wasn’t answered or you’ve been living under a rock and are just hearing about this, you can submit your questions here or on Twitter (@ADimeBack).

Alex J asks: What UConn player had a good college career but was a NBA bust?

If you’re even a cursory follower of the NBA, the answer to this question is likely obvious to you. Hasheem Thabeet was a Big East Player of the Year at UConn and famously flamed out (hard) in the NBA after going second in the 2009 draft. To answer this question, however, I took a deep dive (painfully deep) into some statistics to see if the numbers told a different story.

Here’s the gist of the process: starting in 1994, I used basketball-ref’s handy play index tool to see how many win shares, games and minutes played each NBA draftee collected during their first four professional seasons (yea, ALL draftees). I then averaged out their production based on when they were selected in the draft. You will likely not be surprised to learn that the number one overall pick seems to produce the highest value (an average of 23.55 wins in their first four years). It turns out LeBron and Tim Duncan were pretty good. Go figure.

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I then compared all of UConn’s 26 draftees against the expected production. The three worst performers:

  1. Hasheem Thabeet (Pick 2, 2009): -10.78 win shares
  2. Donyell Marshall (Pick 4, 1994): -8.48 win shares
  3. Shabazz Napier (Pick 24, 2014): -7.38 win shares

Surprise! Thabeet’s presence is hardly surprising. He was a monumental disappointment — though his selection at number two didn’t make a whole lot of sense at the time either. Marshall falls victim to our four-year window. Over the course of his long career he appropriately finished with the fourth-most win shares of anyone in the 1994 draft. It just took him a while to get going after being traded from Minnesota to Golden State and becoming more efficient with his shot. Napier’s numbers look worse because the 24th pick has produced a ton of value over the years. Guys like Andrei Kirilenko and Serge Ibaka were extremely productive immediately while Napier has toiled away as a backup on three different teams. I tried using the median instead of the average, wondering if an outlier was skewing the numbers. In doing so, Napier and Marshall flip spots but the relative value remains similar.

The most valuable UConn draft picks have been:

  1. Andre Drummond (Pick 9, 2012): +14.19 win shares
  2. Ray Allen (Pick 5, 1996): +10.62 win shares
  3. Caron Butler (Pick 10, 2002): +6.34 win shares

Not much to quibble about there. Of the 26 draftees, 12 have been above-average and 14 have been below-average. The most amusing value comes from 59th overall pick Stanley Robinson who never played an NBA game. Since the draft expanded to include a 59th pick, those players have averaged -0.04 win shares, the only spot in the draft to average in negative numbers.

Full list at the bottom if you’re interested.

– Tyler Wilkinson

Evan P. asks: Who do you think is most likely to be a surprisingly important and indispensable piece, like Vital or Facey last year?

The unsurprisingly important pieces are Adams, Larrier, and Gilbert, but also shout to Vital who I hope is spending his summer taking thousands of three points shots. My dark horse impact player next season is Mamadou Diarra. He sat out last season with vague knee issues, but recent images bode well for next year, because dude is looking positively beefy. Assuming his knees are not in fact made of mashed potatoes (knees are stupid), if he can step in at center, block a few shots to give our guards some room to groove on defense, play defense in the post, and drop some lobs into the bucket, then we’ll be in surprisingly good shape. Diarra’s big and athletic and could be exactly what this team needs next year. Also don’t count out JuCo transfer and very large human Eric Cobb, who could also be an impact player this year.

– Meghan Bard

Josh Fernandes asks: What’s the game on the UConn men’s basketball 2017 schedule that you are most looking forward to?

Easy answer: Syracuse, because duh.
Second easy answer: Villanova, because also duh.

Here’s another one I’m really interested in: Oregon. The Ducks lose a ton from their Final Four team, and even though they bring in a solid recruiting class, they won’t be near what they were when they led UConn from start to finish in Maui last year. This should be a good barometer for a UConn team that seems impossible to peg early on. On one hand, the transfers and lackluster recruiting class. On the other, hopefully a healthy roster featuring Alterique Gilbert and Terry Larrier. This is a winnable game on national TV against a marquee opponent (even if the Ducks are down a little). Whether or not UConn is competitive could be a sign of what’s to come.

– Russ Steinberg

UConn Draft Picks by Value (1st four seasons)

Name Year Pick Team WS 1st 4 WS PICK AVG WS DIFF
Andre Drummond 2012 9 DET 29.4 15.21 14.19
Ray Allen 1996 5 MIN 27.1 16.48 10.62
Caron Butler 2002 10 MIA 18.9 12.56 6.34
Rudy Gay 2006 8 HOU 15.2 9.89 5.31
Jake Voskuhl 2000 33 CHI 8.5 3.69 4.81
Travis Knight 1996 29 CHI 8 4.17 3.83
A.J. Price 2009 52 IND 4.5 0.92 3.58
Emeka Okafor 2004 2 CHA 18 15.58 2.42
Ben Gordon 2004 3 CHI 21.6 20.1 1.50
Josh Boone 2006 23 NJN 9.1 7.87 1.23
Richard Hamilton 1999 7 WAS 14.4 13.99 0.41
Stanley Robinson 2010 59 ORL 0 -0.04 0.04
Jeremy Lamb 2012 12 HOU 7.8 8.03 -0.23
Kemba Walker 2011 9 CHA 14.7 15.21 -0.51
Donny Marshall 1995 39 CLE 0.9 2.34 -1.44
Charlie Villanueva 2005 7 TOR 12.3 13.99 -1.69
Denham Brown 2006 40 SEA 0 2.1 -2.1
Daniel Hamilton 2016 56 DEN 0 2.62 -2.62
Doron Sheffer 1996 36 LAC 0 3.13 -3.13
Khalid El-Amin 2000 34 CHI 0.6 4.48 -3.88
DeAndre Daniels 2014 37 TOR 0 4.01 -4.01
Hilton Armstrong 2006 12 NOK 3.1 8.03 -4.93
Marcus Williams 2006 22 NJN 0 6.17 -6.17
Shabazz Napier 2014 24 CHH 1.2 8.58 -7.38
Donyell Marshall 1994 4 MIN 7.1 15.58 -8.48
Hasheem Thabeet 2009 2 MEM 4.8 15.58 -10.78



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