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NBA Draft (06/28)

June 27, 2012
Drafting by Similarity
2012 Comps

by Kevin Pelton

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Player comparisons are at least 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. These 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. There's a reason SCHOENE uses upwards of 50 comparables in projecting performance. Using age at the time the player is drafted limits the pool of possible comparisons, as does the fact that the 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 comparison are fun and can be enlightening at times.

Players are ranked by their current spot in DraftExpress' mock draft.

  1 Anthony Davis            Kentucky           C    Greg Oden           87.1

Davis is, naturally, the most unique player in this year's draft. Everyone else has at least one similarity score of 90 or better. The most Davis-like players in the league (Marcus Camby and Kevin Garnett) aren't in the college database.

 2 Thomas Robinson          Kansas             PF   Glen Davis          95.3

Fun fact: Two of Robinson's four most similar players are the Morris twins, whom he backed up in 2010-11.

 3 Bradley Beal             Florida            SG   Xavier Henry        97.6
 4 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist   Kentucky           SF   Tobias Harris       95.7

Since early in the college season, I've compared Kidd-Gilchrist to Luol Deng. That was his best comp at 95.1 until I added the 2011 class and Tobias Harris moved ahead. Gerald Wallace, another popular comparison, ranks fourth.

 5 Harrison Barnes          North Carolina     SF   Terrico White       96.9
 6 Damian Lillard           Weber St.          PG   Jordan Crawford     98.5
 7 Dion Waiters             Syracuse           SG   Iman Shumpert       96.1
 8 Austin Rivers            Duke               SG   Lance Stephenson    96.8
 9 Andre Drummond           Connecticut        C    Kosta Koufos        94.3

Like Davis, Drummond presents challenges for similarity scores because of his size and youth. He has just three players with scores of 90 or better.

10 Jeremy Lamb              Connecticut        SG   Terrico White       93.9
11 John Henson              North Carolina     PF   Larry Sanders       97.8

I like this one because of the excellent DraftExpress scouting report comparison BrewHoop.com ran featuring Henson, Sanders and Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside actually doesn't score as particularly similar to Henson, however.

12 Tyler Zeller             North Carolina     C    Lonny Baxter        97.4
13 Terrence Ross            Washington         SG   Antoine Wright      97.8
14 Meyers Leonard           Illinois           C    DeAndre Jordan      96.7
15 Perry Jones, III         Baylor             PF   Luke Babbitt        97.1

This is the only place in the world you will ever see Perry Jones compared to Luke Babbitt.

16 Maurice Harkless         St. John's         SF   Anthony Randolph    97.1
17 Terrence Jones           Kentucky           PF   LaMarcus Aldridge   97.5
18 Kendall Marshall         North Carolina     PG   Marcus Williams     94.4

As a throwback, pass-first point guard, Marshall has just two comps with scores of better than 90.

19 Jared Sullinger          Ohio St.           PF   Brandon Bass        96.6
20 Arnett Moultrie          Mississippi St.    PF   Derrick Brown       96.5
21 Royce White              Iowa St.           PF   Earl Clark          93.3
22 Fab Melo                 Syracuse           C    Solomon Alabi       96.0
23 Quincy Miller            Baylor             SF   Lance Stephenson    95.7
24 Andrew Nicholson         St. Bonaventure    PF   Malcolm Thomas      96.7
25 Evan Fournier            France             SF                           

Fournier is one of two European prospects that do not have projections because they did not play in one of the domestic competitions or in the ACB.

26 Draymond Green           Michigan St.       SF   David Lee           96.4
27 Festus Ezeli             Vanderbilt         C    Solomon Alabi       95.0
28 Jeffrey Taylor           Vanderbilt         SF   Wesley Matthews     99.0

Taylor and Wesley Matthews is the single closest match for any player in this year's draft.

29 Will Barton              Memphis            SG   Travis Leslie       97.1
30 Marquis Teague           Kentucky           PG   Eric Bledsoe        95.4

Kentucky point guards!

31 Tony Wroten              Washington         PG   Trevor Ariza        96.7
32 Miles Plumlee            Duke               C    Alexander Johnson   92.7
33 John Jenkins             Vanderbilt         SG   Arron Afflalo       98.0
34 Bernard James            Florida State      PF                           

James is the third player missing comparables. At 27, he's two years older than the oldest draftee currently in my database (one-time Atlanta Hawks guard Travis Hansen).

35 Tyshawn Taylor           Kansas             PG   Acie Law            97.1
36 Doron Lamb               Kentucky           SG   Terrico White       97.4
37 Darius Miller            Kentucky           SF   Jason Kapono        95.3
38 Kim English              Missouri           SG   DeAndre Liggins     95.8
39 Jared Cunningham         Oregon St.         PG   Jeff Teague         97.6
40 Orlando Johnson          UC Santa Barbara   SG   Mychel Thompson     97.0
41 Drew Gordon              New Mexico         PF   David Lee           97.4
42 Kyle O'Quinn             Norfolk St.        PF   Malcolm Thomas      98.3
43 Jae Crowder              Marquette          SF   Mike Dunleavy Jr.   97.7

Imagine if Crowder and Dunleavy traded haircuts!

44 Tornike Shengelia        Georgia            PF                           
45 Kostas Papanikolaou      Greece             SF   Rasheed Wallace     95.7

For the other four European prospects, these similarity scores are among NBA players from SCHOENE using translated performance in either the EuroLeague, the EuroCup or the ACB. This one's pretty amusing, too. Does Papanikolaou have trouble with technicals?

46 Mike Scott               Virginia           PF   Sam Young           96.4
47 Kevin Jones              West Virginia      SF   Luke Harangody      93.8
48 Khris Middleton          Texas A&M          SF   Bill Walker         97.2
49 Darius Johnson-Odom      Marquette          PG   Andrew Goudelock    98.3
50 Tomas Satoransky         Czech Republic     PG   DerMarr Johnson     95.5
51 Kevin Murphy             Tennessee Tech     SG   Cory Higgins        97.7
52 Furkan Aldemir           Turkey             PF   Darius Miles        96.4
53 Scott Machado            Iona               PG   John Salmons        93.1

Machado's other comps are all true point guards, so I take this to say less about him and more about how Salmons played at Miami.

54 JaMychal Green           Alabama            PF   Gani Lawal          96.6
55 William Buford           Ohio St.           SG   Jason Kapono        97.3
56 Kris Joseph              Syracuse           SF   Mychel Thompson     96.5
57 Henry Sims               Georgetown         C    Chris Wright        95.3
58 J'Covan Brown            Texas              PG   Andrew Goudelock    98.6
59 Leon Radosevic           Croatia            PF   Jared Jeffries      96.6
60 Tu Holloway              Xavier             PG   Acie Law            98.1

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Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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