Wednesday, August 8, 2012

NBA Draft Analysis IV: Ranking the GMs

This is the fourth installment of the NBA Draft Analysis series. In Part I, I established the basis of how the process works - how to value players and establish an Expected Value based on their draft position. In Part II, I ranked the last ten draft classes by strength. And Part III was ranking the best-drafting teams over the last ten drafts.

Now, we get to the decision-makers and analyze the General Managers themselves. Originally, this was why I started the NBA Draft analysis project. I looked back at who was the GM for every team at every draft over the last ten years (2002-2011 drafts) and assigned each of them credit (or blame) for their team's draft that year. I do realize that every GM has help and/or orders on draft night - the team owner or another executive might force some picks and the GM has no choice but to take responsibility for it.

For example, Michael Jordan has been widely ridiculed for running the Bobcats poorly, but he has never actually been the GM in Charlotte. Therefore, he is not eligible for the rankings, despite most likely having a lot of influence over who gets drafted. Another example is Pat Riley, who was hired as the head coach and team president of the Heat in 1995, but has only had the General Manager title since the 2009 draft. While I assume that Riley was calling the shots since he got there, if I make a judgement call for any team, I have to look in to every team - and it still wouldn't be fair. Even Pat Riley still has a boss, and it could have been the owner's decision to draft Wade in 2003. The point is, there is no fair way to look at this unless we use a black-and-white system of who had the GM title.

I highly recommend looking back at Part I and Part III for further information about how these numbers were generated if you are interested. Now, on to the rankings!

The Top 10 Drafting Tenures as GM (2002-2011)

 The formula I came up to rank the top GM tenures with is overly complicated, but basically it values drafting well over a large sample size. To qualify, you must have at least 5 draft picks. This is a ranking I plan on taking another look at in the future with a wider historical window, since ten years doesn't really do this justice, especially if you consider how many players can still change their evaluation.

The Worst 10 Drafting Tenures as GM (2002-2011)

Much simpler ranking - total raw value short of Expected Value. I did not include Jerry Krause since Jay Williams' motorcycle accident is the only reason he would have made the list. This list favors failed GMs from early in the 2002-2011 window, but the more recent GMs might argue their picks still might turn out, and I tend to agree.

Ranking the Current GMs from 1 to 30

The simplest  rating so far - just ranking by percentage of Expected Value they have drafted as GM from 2002-2011. Some of these executives have multiple tenures during this period, but they have all been combined to give a overall drafting performance over the last decade.

Before Pat Riley emails me and complains that he doesn't deserve to be on the bottom of this list, let me just say that its not really fair to say Riley has drafted worse than Kahn and Pritchard. They have a much larger raw deficit, this is just simple percentage based ranking.

Some other interesting notes:
  • Kevin Pritchard has a new job for the Pacers after he showed up in the top 10 worst tenures in the last decade ranking. He made the mistake in Portland a lot of people would have made, drafting Oden over Durantula. He was not far below average other than that pick.
  • Michael Jordan was only GM for one year that I looked at in Washington (2002) - he got 70% of his expected value with four picks, two in each round. 
  • 17% of the league's current GMs were not in charge of a team from 2002-2011
  • Donnie Nelson looks like a poor drafter in this analysis, which might be true - but he has been in charge of the Mavericks for 10 years and has only had 1 pick in the top 24 in that time (he picked Devin Harris 5th, who has outperformed his EV). During that tenure they are second in the NBA in winning percentage. That's hard to do even if you find talent late in the draft - which he obviously can't do.
Thanks, as always, to for their data (both player stats and executive listings), this would be even more time-intensive if not for that resource.

This was Part IV of the NBA draft analysis.
Part I: Determining the expected value of a draft pick
Part II: Ranking the Strongest NBA Drafts
Part III: The best and worst drafting teams
Part V: Who did they miss? Looking at the undrafted free agents in the NBA - Coming Soon


  1. I'm interested in RC Buford being so far down on the list, when the Spurs are thought of as being one of the best drafting teams. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

  2. Here is a summary of RC Bufords picks and their performance with my system:

    Obviously, his team has played so well in the last ten years that he hasn't had very high picks. The Spurs have the best record over the last decade, and they got there through the draft.

    But, since the three players that were drafted were before he had the title of General Manager - and were before the 2002-2011 window that I analyzed, he does not get credit for Duncan, Ginobili, or Parker.

    This isn't an attempt to rank the GMs overall - he's done exactly what he needs to do to win a lot of games, and some titles. He just hasn't done exceptionally well in the draft over the last decade.

  3. Hmm, looking at that listing of RC's picks, you're right they aren't amazing. Also doesn't help that this barely misses the Luis Scola pick in 2002.

    Seems then, that while the Spurs have gotten some decent role players in the draft, their bigger ability has been able to swing trades/free agents that, while not glamorous, all serve to surround Parker/Duncan/Ginobli with talent.