Player comparisons are probably as old as the NBA Draft. As we seek to understand how players will translate to the NBA, using the experience of players with similar skills is helpful. Yet the danger is that subjective comparisons will be colored by irrelevant factors. Our similarity scores take a different approach, using NCAA statistical performance adjusted both for the transition from college to the pros and strength of schedule. Players are compared in 13 categories, including height and weight, to their predecessors within six months of the same age at the time they were drafted. (See here for more details on the process.)
Going by a single player comparison can be dangerous. Most players have a group of comparables that are diverse in terms of their NBA success. Using age at the time the player is drafted limits the pool of possible comparisons, as does the fact that our database goes back only to 2000 and is not complete until 2006 or so. (Before that, it was difficult to track down team statistics to adjust for pace.) If the next Michael Jordan really was in this draft, we wouldn't be able to make the comparison. So don't read more into these comparisons than is really there, especially in cases where the similarity score is low. (They're scored out of 100, with 95 indicating a decent match and 90 generally the cutoff for any real similarity.) Still, these comparisons are fun and can be enlightening at times.
Players are ranked by their current spot in DraftExpress' mock draft. A handful of players from overseas, most notably Davis Bertans, are not listed because of insufficient stats.
1 Kyrie Irving Duke PG Derrick Rose 95.7
2 Derrick Williams Arizona PF J.J. Hickson 95.4
3 Brandon Knight Kentucky PG Jerryd Bayless 95.3
4 Enes Kanter Kentucky PF -
Kanter too does not have a comparison because there are no stats by which to go by for him. From this perspective, he's the most mysterious draft prospect since the early entry rule was enacted.
5 Kemba Walker Connecticut PG D.J. Augustin 96.5
6 Jan Vesely Partizan F Andrew Bogut 95.4
In the case of Vesely, and all the other international prospects, these calculations are based on standard SCHOENE similarity scores using the NBA player database and translated European stats. In this case, the numbers don't really see Vesely as a small forward; all his comparisons are to big men, most of them centers. His poor free throw shooting is part of the explanation.
7 Jimmer Fredette Brigham Young PG J.J. Redick 96.3
I didn't like seeing this comparison come up because it feels so stereotypical. To go a different direction, Jodie Meeks was essentially tied with Redick. Fredette's senior year was not really comparable to true point guards.
8 Jonas Valanciunas Lietuvos Rytas C Dwight Howard 90.3
In this case, because Valanciunas is so young, the pool of potential matches is very small. Take out age as a factor and Tyson Chandler pops up repeatedly, which is why we used him for Sebastian Pruiti's breakdown.
9 Kawhi Leonard San Diego St. SF Joe Johnson 96.5
This might be the strangest comparison in the group. We'll see what sense Sebastian makes of it tomorrow, in his final Clipboard comparison.
10 Marcus Morris Kansas PF Ronald Dupree 96.1
11 Klay Thompson Washington St. SG Kirk Snyder 95.9
I'm pretty sure Thompson would prefer someone slightly lower on his list: Kevin Martin. Physically, the comparison makes a lot of sense. Thompson has a lot of work to do to become as efficient as Martin, however.
12 Chris Singleton Florida St. SF Dante Cunningham 94.4
13 Tristan Thompson Texas PF Darrell Arthur 97.5
14 Bismack Biyombo Fuenlabrada C Sean Williams 94.1
15 Marshon Brooks Providence SG Desmond Mason 97.7
16 Nikola Vucevic USC PF Troy Murphy 96.7
17 Markieff Morris Kansas PF D.J. White 96.3
This comparison might sound negative in some quarters, but I'm a believer White can play. Although I'm not sure anyone outside of the Carolinas noticed, he was an above-average player for the Charlotte Bobcats during the season's final two months.
18 Donatas Motiejunas Treviso C Yi Jianlian 94.4
19 Alec Burks Colorado SG Jerryd Bayless 95.6
Despite the fact that Burks' assist rate was nothing special, nearly all of his best scores are to shoot-first point guards. I'm not sure what to make of this fact.
20 Jordan Hamilton Texas SF Casey Jacobsen 96.4
21 Kenneth Faried Morehead St. PF Paul Millsap 95.9
Undersized power forward central casting.
22 Tobias Harris Tennessee PF Kris Humphries 97.1
23 Iman Shumpert Georgia Tech PG Ronnie Brewer 97.7
24 Kyle Singler Duke SF Brian Cook 95.6
25 Tyler Honeycutt UCLA SF Earl Clark 95.7
27 Chandler Parsons Florida SF David Noel 96.6
28 Justin Harper Richmond PF Malik Hairston 98.0
29 Nikola Mirotic Real Madrid SF Nicolas Batum 96.7
No, there are not any bonus points for having similar first names.
30 Travis Leslie Georgia SG Antoine Wright 97.1
31 Reggie Jackson Boston College PG Ben Gordon 95.9
32 Jimmy Butler Marquette SF Derrick Brown 96.5
33 Josh Selby Kansas PG Keyon Dooling 90.9
Of the college players in this year's draft, Selby has the lowest similarity score. His Kansas stats don't appear telling about his NBA potential, either positively or negatively.
34 Charles Jenkins Hofstra PG Acie Law 96.8
35 Darius Morris Michigan PG Deron Williams 96.5
Unofficially, Morris wins the award for player whose agent is most likely to come across this article and frantically email it out to teams on the morning of the draft.
36 Nolan Smith Duke PG Acie Law 99.1
Smith's similarity to Law is the highest of any player in this year's draft. I'd make a joke about how they're like twins, but their similarity score is much higher than the Morris brothers are to each other (95.8).
38 Malcolm Lee UCLA SG Wayne Ellington 93.3
39 JaJuan Johnson Purdue PF Ryan Humphrey 96.8
40 Norris Cole Cleveland St. PG Sean Singletary 97.5
41 Shelvin Mack Butler PG Ben Gordon 96.0
42 Trey Thompkins Georgia PF Joe Alexander 98.0
43 Bojan Bogdanovic Cibona Zagreb SG Lamond Murray 96.1
44 Keith Benson Oakland C Loren Woods 97.1
45 Diante Garrett Iowa St. PG A.J. Price 96.7
This year's award for "NBA player who appears as a comparison many times" goes to Price, who will become familiar the rest of the way.
46 Jordan Williams Maryland PF Brandon Bass 95.5
47 Jon Leuer Wisconsin PF Brian Cook 96.4
48 E'Twaun Moore Purdue PG Marcus Thornton 96.7
49 Ben Hansbrough Notre Dame PG Keith Bogans 98.0
50 David Lighty Ohio St. SG Royal Ivey 96.9
51 Demetri McCamey Illinois PG A.J. Price 96.5
52 Isaiah Thomas Washington PG Andre Barrett 97.5
When Thomas gets drafted, he will inevitably be compared to Oklahoma City guard Nate Robinson, who paved the way for sub-6-foot guards playing off the ball at the University of Washington. However, their similarity was just 94.6; Thomas is a substantially better playmaker than Robinson, though not quite in his class as a shooter.
53 Andrew Goudelock Charleston PG A.J. Price 97.2
54 Scotty Hopson Tennessee SG Joe Crawford 97.0
55 Malcolm Thomas San Diego St. PF Othello Hunter 96.9
56 Jereme Richmond Illinois SF DeMar DeRozan 93.5
58 Greg Smith Fresno St. PF DeMar DeRozan 95.2
Of all the random comparisons here, two consecutive DeRozan comps might be the oddest--especially since the latter is to a 250-pound big man.
59 Cory Joseph Texas PG Daniel Gibson 96.1
Because schools have distinct styles of play, it's not uncommon for prospects to end up getting compared to their predecessors. This year, we only have one such match in the case of Longhorn tweener guards Joseph and Gibson.
This free article is an example of the kind of content available to Basketball Prospectus Premium subscribers. See our Premium page for more details and to subscribe.
Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.