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June 24, 2009
The Draft Pool
Backcourt

by Kevin Pelton

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Last year in this space, I introduced the Pelton Translations--statistics for NCAA players translated to their NBA rookie-season equivalents, based on how past players had seen their numbers translate and adjusted for strength of schedule. All along, however, I had something different in mind. While those translated statistics are an interesting an important part of the puzzle that is analyzing prospects, they fail to incorporate age, playing style or physical measurements.

There are a variety of ways we could account for these other factors. ESPN.com's John Hollinger has used regression analysis, for example. My answer was simple: To turn to the same similarity scores that are the bedrock of the SCHOENE projection system. Give Richard Lu credit for being the first person to publicly use NCAA similarity scores, doing so prior to the 2006 Draft at 82games.com. Leading into this year's draft, he is blogging about his HOPSON System at The Draft Outcast Blog.

My system uses the same 13 categories as my NBA similarity system, all of them except minutes per game using stats that have gone through the NBA translation:

  • Height
  • Weight (Note that for every player but one, height and weight are from NBA.com's profiles. I've done this to be consistent with past players, for whom I used their current NBA measurements.)
  • MPG
  • Two-point percentage
  • A "shooting" rating that combines three-point percentage, threes made per minute and free-throw percentage
  • Rebound percentage
  • Assist percentage
  • Steal percentage
  • Block percentage
  • Turnover percentage
  • "Inside" rating: percentage of possessions used on free throws minus percentage of possessions used on threes
  • Usage rate
  • Per-minute winning percentage from my WARP rating system

As with the NBA, I chose comparable players from amongst a group within six months of the same age as the player in question. I've built a database of more than 230 college players, using stats from their final season. It goes back through 2000, though it is complete through 2004 depending upon which players had team stats available online because I use per-possession statistics rather than per-minute ones, important given the wide variance in pace amongst NCAA teams.

While the similarity scores offer plenty of information, to boil them down into a measure of NBA potential I've scored each past pick based on their WARP per year since the draft. I've ranked players at each position based on the average WARP per year of players with a similarity of greater than 90. In a few exceptional cases where players were lacking in comps, I've used up to three players with a similarity greater than 80. A couple of players ended up with no comps at all.

In addition to this information, for each player I have listed up to five best comparables as well as their translated statistics in a few key areas: per-minute winning percentage, True Shooting Percentage, Usage rate, Rebound percentage and a Pass rating that combines assists per minute and assist-to-turnover ratio. See the BP Glossary for more on any of these statistics.

Today I'll look at point guards and shooting guards, and tomorrow I'll wrap things up with the three frontcourt positions.

POINT GUARDS

Top 10

1. Nick Calathes, Florida (3.5 WARP)
Age: 20.2 | Translated Stats: 0.463 Win% | 0.494 TS% | 18.4 Usage | 8.1 Reb% | 3.47 Pass

Andre Iguodala (96.5); Delonte West (96.5); Jay Williams (95.8); Rajon Rondo (93.5); Deron Williams (93.3)

Let's jump right in with what I consider the biggest surprise of the results. I figured Calathes would rate well--his translations this year and last have suggested a player who could step right in and play for an NBA team thanks to his versatility. However, the similarity scores suggest a player with the skills of a top-flight classic point guard with size to match. In addition to Rondo and Williams, Calathes scores as similar to Chris Paul, taking advantage of a comp nearly twice as valuable as any other in the database. That makes his WARP total very optimistic, but Calathes looks like a steal anywhere after the lottery.

2. Tyreke Evans, Memphis (2.6 WARP)
Age: 19.6 | Translated Stats: 0.405 Win% | 0.446 TS% | 24.0 Usage | 9.3 Reb% | 0.93 Pass

Javaris Crittenton (94.4); Rudy Gay (93.8); Gilbert Arenas (93.1); Russell Westbrook (91.7); Joe Johnson (91.7)

The combination of Evans' size, his age and his usage rate gives him a group of comparables drawn from top-flight perimeter players, be they wings or point guards. Either way, Evans' future appears to be bright. He scores as the fifth-best prospect overall.

3. Ty Lawson, North Carolina (2.6 WARP)
Age: 21.5 | Translated Stats: 0.563 Win% | 0.564 TS% | 16.0 Usage | 4.9 Reb% | 7.05 Pass

Devin Harris (93.8); Nate Robinson (93.0); Mario Chalmers (92.6); George Hill (90.7)

Lawson's translated efficiency ranks fourth among all collegians, trailing big men DeJuan Blair, Blake Griffin and John Bryant of Santa Clara. His age and size knock him down a little bit using comparable players, but not dramatically so; he's still sixth overall amongst the prospects. While Lawson's combination of shooting, passing and a high steal rate makes him relatively unique, the list of similar players does seem to suggest that concerns about his height are overstated. Both Chris Paul and Jameer Nelson (one a little too young and the other too old to appear above) have become stars at 6'0".

4. Jrue Holiday, UCLA (2.4 WARP)
Age: 18.9 | Translated Stats: 0.411 Win% | 0.452 TS% | 14.4 Usage | 8.7 Reb% | 1.85 Pass

Russell Westbrook (96.4); Javaris Crittenton (95.8); Gilbert Arenas (93.5); Trevor Ariza (92.0); Jordan Farmar (91.4)

There's something about UCLA: Three of Holiday's best comps were also Bruins, including the most natural analogue, Westbrook. All three of those UCLA predecessors outperformed their college numbers in the pros, and Holiday seems like a good bet to do the same. His relatively meager production last season is tempered by the fact that Holiday was on the young side for an elite freshman (he's the youngest prominent American in the draft, having just turned 19). Though he ranks fourth among point guards, Holiday comes out as the seventh-best prospect overall.

5. Jonny Flynn, Syracuse (1.7 WARP)
Age: 20.2 | Translated Stats: 0.401 Win% | 0.491 TS% | 18.3 Usage | 3.8 Reb% | 3.19 Pass

D.J. Augustin (97.7); Deron Williams (96.2); Maurice Williams (96.1); Jerryd Bayless (95.9); Kenny Satterfield (94.4)

Flynn probably combines scoring and passing as well as any point guard in this class, drawing comparisons to a pair of Williamses (as well as Jay Williams) and T.J. Ford. His uncertainty seems to be a little higher than the point guards ahead of him, with a handful of busts amongst his best comps, but there's the chance to become a star, too.

Mid-First Round

6. Stephen Curry, Davidson (1.5 WARP)
Age: 21.1 | Translated Stats: 0.430 Win% | 0.474 TS% | 25.4 Usage | 5.4 Reb% | 1.64 Pass

Jay Williams (97.8); Rodney Stuckey (97.5); Devin Harris (95.5); Delonte West (94.5); Marcus Banks (93.1)

Curry's projected numbers are a bit odd because we don't account for the fact that he was the guy on a Davidson team short on elite talent. Expect him to beat that True Shooting Percentage easily, while seeing his Usage rate take a tumble. The same effect drags down his three-point percentage (a translated 30.7 percent), meaning Curry ends up compared to guys who are not nearly his peers in terms of perimeter shooting. Overall, Curry may be a little bit overrated, but he's certainly not an unreasonable lottery pick.

7. Jeff Teague, Wake Forest (1.5 WARP)
Age: 20.9 | Translated Stats: 0.380 Win% | 0.515 TS% | 19.3 Usage | 4.7 Reb% | 0.56 Pass

Maurice Williams (95.8); Smush Parker (95.6); Jay Williams (95.5); O.J. Mayo (95.1); Ben Gordon (94.8)

Teague has a noticeably lower translated winning percentage than anyone on the list ahead of him, but his comparable players still end up looking pretty good because of his skill set, and in particular, his ability to get to the free-throw line. Guys like O.J. Mayo and Ben Gordon have done well despite middling to poor translations.

8. Patrick Mills, St. Mary's (1.4 WARP)
Age: 20.7 | Translated Stats: 0.327 Win% | 0.427 TS% | 21.0 Usage | 3.4 Reb% | 0.87 Pass

Jay Williams (94.5); Daniel Gibson (94.4); Maurice Williams (94.0); O.J. Mayo (93.8); Ben Gordon (93.8)

Mills' list of comparable players is virtually identical to Teague's, so naturally they end up very close together. Mills has the kind of game that figures to work better in the pros than in the NCAA because the NBA's rules re-interpretations have favored quickness at the point. My favorite subjective comparison for Mills is Aaron Brooks, but Brooks had superior shooting numbers coming out as a senior.

Late First Round

9. Darren Collison, UCLA (0.8 WARP)
Age: 21.7 | Translated Stats: 0.441 Win% | 0.528 TS% | 17.3 Usage | 4.8 Reb% | 2.52 Pass

George Hill (97.0); Andre Barrett (96.7); Luke Ridnour (96.6); Earl Watson (96.5); Chris Duhon (95.4)

Collison could step in as a backup point guard tomorrow, but as a four-year player his upside is limited compared to the top prospects at the position. Based on his comparables, the most likely outcome seems to be a fringe starter or solid backup. That sounds about right.

Second Round and Beyond

10. Eric Maynor, Virginia Commonwealth (0.7 WARP)
Age: 21.9 | Translated Stats: 0.419 Win% | 0.475 TS% | 22.2 Usage | 5.0 Reb% | 3.22 Pass

Acie Law (97.8); Luke Ridnour (97.5); Andre Barrett (96.6); George Hill (96.5); Aaron Brooks (96.2)

As a senior, Maynor needs to rate as a more capable contributor right off the bat to be considered a strong first-round pick. When VCU's poor strength of schedule is taken into account, Maynor has never come out particularly well by my translations.

11. Curtis Jerrells, Baylor (0.5 WARP)
Age: 22.2 | Translated Stats: 0.408 Win% | 0.481 TS% | 19.0 Usage | 7.4 Reb% | 1.78 Pass

Chris Quinn (97.8); Sean Singletary (97.8); George Hill (97.5); Acie Law (97.3); Luke Ridnour (97.0)

Ditto Maynor, as Jerrells has a similar set of comparable players.

12. Tyrese Rice, Boston College (0.3 WARP)
Age: 21.9 | Translated Stats: 0.361 Win% | 0.479 TS% | 19.7 Usage | 5.9 Reb% | 1.78 Pass

Luke Ridnour (98.0); Dee D. Brown (96.6); Acie Law (96.2); Daniel Ewing (95.5); Jarrett Jack (95.5)

13. Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga (0.0 WARP)
Age: 23.1 | Translated Stats: 0.356 Win% | 0.444 TS% | 14.3 Usage | 5.6 Reb% | 2.86 Pass

Mateen Cleaves (95.2); Bernard Robinson (94.9); Luke Walton (94.0); Sean Singletary (93.4); Chris Quinn (92.7)

Pargo went back to school and tried to recast himself as a pass-first point guard as a senior. It didn't work in the eyes of the scouts or the numbers; the comps suggest Pargo will be hoping for call-ups from the D-League...at best.

14. Toney Douglas, Florida State (-0.2 WARP)
Age: 23.1 | Translated Stats: 0.392 Win% | 0.491 TS% | 21.5 Usage | 5.7 Reb% | 0.40 Pass

Randy Foye (97.2); Keith Bogans (96.7); Courtney Alexander (95.2); Chris Quinn (94.9); Morris Peterson (94.1)

Douglas comes out as similar to shooting guards as point guards, but he's not an exceptional scorer at the NBA level and he's already 23. Pass.

15. A.J. Price, Connecticut (-0.5 WARP)
Age: 22.5 | Translated Stats: 0.333 Win% | 0.446 TS% | 19.0 Usage | 5.5 Reb% | 2.01 Pass

Willie Solomon (95.0); Acie Law (94.9); Chris Quinn (94.5); Aaron Brooks (94.4); Luke Ridnour (92.8)

SHOOTING GUARDS

Top 10

1. James Harden, Arizona State (3.0 WARP)
Age: 19.7 | Translated Stats: 0.493 Win% | 0.525 TS% | 24.3 Usage | 9.6 Reb% | 1.28 Pass

Derrick Rose (94.0); Andre Iguodala (93.1); Mike Miller (92.9); Gilbert Arenas (91.9); Russell Westbrook (91.7)

Of the 10 players with a similarity to Harden of at least 90, the only ones who have yet to establish them as solid starters are Javaris Crittenton and Jerryd Bayless, and it's far too early to write off Bayless. That's enough to make Harden the No. 4 overall prospect by the numbers. Harden gets a bit of a boost because of his age; he's younger than one-and-done B.J. Mullens and draws Derrick Rose from his lone college season as a comparable. See also my glowing Every Play Counts on Harden prior to the NCAA Tournament.

Late First Round

2. Demar DeRozan, USC (1.3 WARP)
Age: 19.7 | Translated Stats: 0.362 Win% | 0.479 TS% | 17.3 Usage | 10.4 Reb% | 0.08 Pass

Mike Miller (95.5); Joe Johnson (94.4); Linas Kleiza (93.7); Wilson Chandler (93.0); Brandon Bass (91.8)

DeRozan is a guy who could go either way without surprising me. The comparables suggest something similar, with guys like Johnson and Jason Richardson alongside non-factors. DeRozan does take a bit of a hit because he draws Donte Greene (-3.4 WARP as a project rookie) as one of his comps. The other positive note on DeRozan is he played much better late in the season. We'll see if that translates.

3. Gerald Henderson, Duke (1.1 WARP)
Age: 21.4 | Translated Stats: 0.396 Win% | 0.462 TS% | 21.2 Usage | 9.4 Reb% | 0.40 Pass

C. Douglas-Roberts (96.8); Kirk Snyder (96.7); Antoine Wright (96.6); Brandon Roy (96.5); Sonny Weems (95.6)

Henderson's numbers at Duke have never been anything to write home about, and at 21 he's going to need to be contributing at replacement level at the very least right off the bat. Defense could be what separates Henderson from similar players, but I'm not especially optimistic.

Second Round and Beyond

4. Jerel McNeal, Marquette (0.5 WARP)
Age: 21.9 | Translated Stats: 0.390 Win% | 0.465 TS% | 21.3 Usage | 7.1 Reb% | 0.84 Pass

Tarence Kinsey (97.9); Kirk Hinrich (97.5); Daniel Ewing (97.2); D.J. Strawberry (97.0); Quincy Douby (96.5)

5. Wesley Matthews, Marquette (0.5 WARP)
Age: 22.5 | Translated Stats: 0.410 Win% | 0.516 TS% | 18.5 Usage | 9.2 Reb% | 0.27 Pass

Joey Graham (97.9); Desmond Mason (97.8); DeMarcus Nelson (97.1); Keith Bogans (97.0); Ronald Dupree (96.9)

6. Marcus Thornton, LSU (0.5 WARP)
Age: 21.9 | Translated Stats: 0.420 Win% | 0.475 TS% | 21.6 Usage | 8.4 Reb% | 0.25 Pass

Tarence Kinsey (97.8); C. Douglas-Roberts (96.6); Rodney Carney (96.6); Kirk Hinrich (96.3); Quincy Douby (95.6)

Three seniors, two of them Golden Eagles, with relatively similar numbers. Any of the group could play spot minutes next season and not embarrass themselves, but there's not much upside in any of them.

7. Lee Cummard, BYU (0.4 WARP)
Age: 24.1 | Translated Stats: 0.443 Win% | 0.509 TS% | 17.2 Usage | 9.7 Reb% | 1.16 Pass

Britton Johnsen (90.5); Dan Gadzuric-86.5); Hanno Mottola-86.4)

Because of his LDS mission, Cummard is the second-oldest prominent American in the draft, limiting his set of comparable players (naturally, two of the three guys are from rival Utah). I like the versatility in Cummard's numbers. For example, he translates as the best shot-blocker of any guard in the draft. If he goes undrafted, there should be a bit of a competition to get him into camp to try to make a team.

8. Wayne Ellington, North Carolina (0.4 WARP)
Age: 21.4 | Translated Stats: 0.398 Win% | 0.510 TS% | 16.0 Usage | 8.1 Reb% | 0.53 Pass

Arron Afflalo (96.9); Malik Hairston (96.4); Antoine Wright (96.1); Casey Jacobsen (95.5); C. Douglas-Roberts (94.7)

It is hard to overstate how poor Ellington's comparable players are; a full seven out of 10 have been below replacement level over the course of their NBA careers. Ellington doesn't rate as a good enough shooter to overcome his deficiencies elsewhere, not unlike his No. 10 comp, J.J. Redick.

9. A.J. Abrams, Texas (0.3 WARP)
Age: 22.5 | Translated Stats: 0.263 Win% | 0.444 TS% | 16.1 Usage | 3.2 Reb% | 0.06 Pass

Aaron Brooks (90.0); Salim Stoudamire-88.9); Anthony Morrow-88.3)

Abrams' translated winning percentage is the worst of any of the prospects I ranked, yet he still comes out with a fairly decent set of comparable players. Do note that the similarities are relatively quite low.

10. Jermaine Taylor, Central Florida (0.2 WARP)
Age: 22.4 | Translated Stats: 0.405 Win% | 0.479 TS% | 27.2 Usage | 8.5 Reb% | 0.11 Pass

Randy Foye (97.7); Morris Peterson (96.5); Quincy Douby (95.4); Keith Bogans (95.3); Desmond Mason (94.6)

Taylor actually comes out decently by my translations. In part, he's hurt by the fact that two of his best comps are Morris Peterson and Desmond Mason, two guys who were productive early in their careers but have undone that good work by rating as well below replacement the last couple of seasons.

11. Dionte Christmas, Temple (0.1 WARP)
Age: 22.6 | Translated Stats: 0.348 Win% | 0.461 TS% | 22.5 Usage | 8.6 Reb% | 0.38 Pass

Keith Bogans (98.2); Tarence Kinsey (97.5); Randy Foye (97.0); Courtney Alexander (96.7); Morris Peterson (96.1)

12. Lester Hudson, Tennessee-Martin (-0.2 WARP)
Age: 24.7 | Translated Stats: 0.404 Win% | 0.438 TS% | 23.4 Usage | 9.5 Reb% | 0.68 Pass

Travis Hansen (91.7)

Hudson traversed a long path to get to Tennessee-Marin, so similarity is essentially worthless in his case. The only player even remotely comparable is former BYU player Hansen, another guy who, like Cummard, interrupted his NCAA career for a mission. Hudson's translated stats are decent enough to merit second-round consideration.

13. Jodie Meeks, Kentucky (-0.3 WARP)
Age: 21.7 | Translated Stats: 0.347 Win% | 0.520 TS% | 21.9 Usage | 4.8 Reb% | 0.08 Pass

J.J. Redick (98.0); Arron Afflalo (97.0); Sonny Weems (96.2); Allan Ray (96.1); Antoine Wright (96.1)

Meeks is even more one-dimensional than Ellington is. He should have gone back to school.

14. Jack McClinton, Miami (-)
Age: 24.3 | Translated Stats: 0.330 Win% | 0.497 TS% | 21.2 Usage | 5.1 Reb% | 0.44 Pass

McClinton is another 24-year-old, and the similarity system came up for no matches with his game. His translated numbers are wildly unimpressive for a player who will have to contribute immediately.

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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