• Confidence in Pre-draft Rankings and ADP

    If you are a long-time faithful of Hoop Ball, you may remember our own Mr. Dan Besbris analyzing the reliability of pre-draft rankings throughout different stages of the draft. The vastly oversimplified findings: early-round rankings are generally fairly solid, as well-known first and second round players generally finish around that range barring a catastrophe. As the draft moves to the middle-rounds (rounds 3-6) the rankings quickly become less reliable. By the time you hit the later rounds (no man’s land) the rankings hold little water – you are better served going after categories of need and “your guys” regardless of where they fall on the pre-draft big board.

    I thought it might be fun to go through a similar exercise this year; however, instead of using pre-draft rankings, use average draft position (ADP) as the metric against which we will measure season-long performance. While ADP is not necessarily the metric that most owners will base their draft on, it is arguably the best indicator of the fantasy market value of players at that time as informed by the myriad sets of pre-draft rankings available.

    A quick disclaimer: ADP values referenced are averages of numerous fantasy sites. That was done to ensure that any one site’s pre-draft rankings were not overly weighted, and the broader fantasy marketplace was evaluated.

    Calculating Deviation in Season-Long Value from ADP

    Pick Range Average Deviation from ADP (in ranking spots)
    1-10 9.93
    11-25 8.60
    26-50 28.10
    51-100 62.99
    101-150 63.53

    The chart above largely confirms what we discussed above. The closer you are to the top of the draft, the more likely it is that a player will end the season ranked close to their ADP. Interestingly, this year players were more likely (on average) to return value equivalent to their ADP in the early-to-middle rounds than the first round. That is largely due to a higher than average number of first round “busts:”

    • Russell Westbrook – Average ADP: 2.95; Per-Game 9-cat Ranking: 26
    • Kawhi Leonard – Average ADP: 8.91; Per-Game 9-cat Ranking: 25 (based on small sample)
    • John Wall – Average ADP: 10.85; Per-Game 9-cat Ranking: 56

    It is not rocket science by any means, but the numbers confirm it – don’t get overly cute in the early rounds as those players will generally return equivalent value more often than not. By the same logic, once the draft moves beyond the middle-rounds, feel free to throw the default pre-draft rankings out the window and go with your top sleeper picks, or players that best fill categories of need.

    So, now let’s dig a little bit deeper and look back at which players would end up being the biggest draft day steals and busts. 

    Draft Day Duds

    Completely whiffing on a few draft picks here and there is nothing to be ashamed of – in fact, it is inevitable in fantasy hoops. I would wager that just about every championship squad out there likely had a few players that did not live up to their draft position. I would go a step further and bet that those players likely fell in the pick ~75-125 range (no man’s land), and not in the pick 1-25 range. It is extremely rewarding to meticulously research sleepers and nail your mid-to-late round selections on draft day, but sometimes all it takes to build a contender in the draft is an absence of big mistakes. Here’s some of the players that were likely absent from your squad if you found yourself a champion this year.

    Player AVG ADP 9-cat Rank Deviation from ADP
    Russell Westbrook OKC PG 2.95 26 -23.05
    Kawhi Leonard SA SF 8.91 25* -16.09
    John Wall WAS PG 10.85 56 -45.15
    Hassan Whiteside MIA C 18.73 35 -16.27
    Myles Turner IND C 24.79 53 -28.21
    C.J. McCollum POR PG 26.95 54 -27.05
    Mike Conley MEM PG 28.6 132* -103.4
    Blake Griffin DET PF 30.47 59* -28.53
    DeMar DeRozan TOR SG 30.7 46 -15.3
    Paul Millsap DEN PF 38.16 82* -43.84
    DeAndre Jordan LAC C 39.71 63 -23.29
    Goran Dragic MIA PG 40.26 102 -61.74
    Brook Lopez LAL C 43.16 109 -65.84
    Ricky Rubio UTA PG 46.22 81 -34.78
    Carmelo Anthony OKC SF 48.07 133 -84.93
    Jusuf Nurkic POR C 50.46 101 -50.54
    Dennis Schroder ATL PG 51.87 90 -38.13
    Serge Ibaka TOR PF 51.89 67 -15.11
    Andrew Wiggins MIN SF 53.2 172 -118.8
    Lonzo Ball LAL PG 54.28 87 -32.72
    D’Angelo Russell BKN PG 55.87 191* -135.13
    Harrison Barnes DAL SF 61.99 92 -30.01
    Elfrid Payton PHO PG 64.22 131 -66.78
    Isaiah Thomas LAL PG 65.65 257* -191.35
    Dwight Howard CHA C 65.91 146 -80.09

    Note: Players on this list finished at least 12 spots (one round) below their average ADP. A * next to the ranking indicates ranking volatility due to extended injuries. Overall Rankings will significantly fade punt category players like Dwight Howard, Hassan Whiteside and DeAndre Jordan.

    There are undoubtedly bigger “busts” than many players listed above if you are purely considering ADP and season-long ranking. Markelle Fultz, Jae Crowder, Gorgui Dieng and Marquese Chriss were all players that ended the season ranked at least 100 spots lower than their ADP. The difference is that they were likely selected in the no man’s land portion of the draft, so failing to return value is less impactful to a team when compared with struggles of the higher-selected players above.

    Draft Day Steals

    Early-to-Mid Round Steals

    Player AVG ADP 9-cat Rank Deviation from ADP
    Anthony Davis NO PF 6.88 1 5.88
    Damian Lillard POR PG 16.26 8 8.26
    Khris Middleton MIL SF 42.86 28 14.86
    Otto Porter WAS SF 44.63 23 21.63
    Andre Drummond DET C 46.55 21 25.55
    LaMarcus Aldridge SA PF 50.43 16 34.43
    Nikola Vucevic ORL C 51 29 22
    Victor Oladipo IND SG 53.33 13 40.33
    Jrue Holiday NO PG 54.56 20 34.56
    Clint Capela HOU C 64.74 33 31.74
    Robert Covington PHI SF 69.29 37 32.29
    Tobias Harris LAC SF 69.44 47 22.44
    Lou Williams LAC SG 73.73 42 31.73
    Gary Harris DEN SG 80.13 36 44.13
    Steven Adams OKC C 83.52 66 17.52
    Evan Fournier ORL SG 92.43 64 28.43

    Similar to the busts list above, a player had to finish at least 12 (one round) spots better than their average ADP to qualify as a draft day steal. A few exceptions were made for the early round players, as snagging the top player in fantasy with the 7th pick, or ending up with a top-8 player at pick 16 still qualifies a massive steal.

    Biggest Overall Value Returned on ADP

    Player AVG ADP 9-cat Rank Deviation from ADP
    Tyreke Evans MEM PG 147.45 49 98.45
    Donovan Mitchell UTA SG 149.81 58 91.81
    Lauri Markkanen CHI PF 144.13 65 79.13
    Will Barton DEN SF 129.77 51 78.77
    Josh Richardson MIA SF 126.86 52 74.86
    Nikola Mirotic NO PF 116.71 43 73.71
    Enes Kanter NY C 111.9 44 67.9
    Jayson Tatum BOS SF 127.61 60 67.61
    Larry Nance Jr. CLE PF 150.62 86 64.62
    John Collins ATL PF 148.82 85 63.82
    Joe Ingles UTA SF 124.57 61 63.57
    Taj Gibson MIN PF 132.4 69 63.4
    Kris Dunn CHI PG 136.53 77 59.53
    Al-Farouq Aminu POR PF 149.24 94 55.24
    Taurean Prince ATL SF 148.85 95 53.85
    Darren Collison IND PG 101.26 48 53.26
    Courtney Lee NY SG 150.97 100 50.97
    Jamal Murray DEN PG 105.83 57 48.83
    DeWayne Dedmon ATL C 127.66 80 47.66
    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson BKN SF 137.73 93 44.73
    T.J. Warren PHO SF 117.21 73 44.21
    Gary Harris DEN SG 80.13 36 44.13
    Victor Oladipo IND SG 53.33 13 40.33
    Jeremy Lamb CHA SG 143.89 106 37.89
    DeMarre Carroll BKN SF 149.48 112 37.48

    No real surprises here at the top of this list if you haven’t been living under a rock. Tyreke Evans ended up missing critical time in the second half of the season, but there is no doubt that his per-game value when healthy was one of the more pleasant surprises of the season. Donovan Mitchell, Lauri Markkanen and Will Barton could have easily been drafted in the final rounds of standard league drafts (or even been found on the wire), so it is no surprise to see them top the list of highest value returned on ADP investment.

    Way too early draft day predictions for next year

    Keep in mind that all of these predictions are just that at this point – predictions and not necessarily analysis. We need to see how free agency and the draft play out before really starting to hone in players’ projected value for next season. But, that said it is still helpful to start thinking through which players will inevitably be over hyped, and which players may slip through the cracks and be available for a discount on draft day next season.

    Players that may be drafted too high

    Tyreke Evans: Injury concerns aside, it seems unlikely that Evans will re-sign with the Grizzlies in unrestricted free agency this upcoming offseason. In another situation outside of the talent-starved Grizzlies, he still should have a strong chance at cracking the top-100, but it is hard to see him staying in the conversation as a top-50 asset on just about any other team.

    Will Barton: Barton posted career numbers this year, increasing production across the board while also shooting a career high 45-percent from the field on 12.7 shots per game. He exploded down the stretch with a huge top-30 run over the final two months of the year – he also played nearly 35 minutes per game over that same period (he has never averaged over 28.7 minutes per game until this season). An almost certainly lucrative unrestricted free agency awaits Barton this offseason. Will the Nuggets fork over enough to keep Barton, or will he opt for a bigger payday elsewhere if offered? Will a healthy Juan Hernangomez, or Torrey Craig (if he gets a contract) eat into Barton’s minutes next season? Your guess is as good as mine at this point, but there is enough uncertainty to warrant a second look before locking Barton in as a top-75 asset for next season.

    Jayson Tatum: There is no doubt that Jayson Tatum exceeded just about everyone’s expectations and turned in one heck of a rookie season. With no definitive timetable for Gordon Hayward’s return, it is hard to say if Tatum will get another year in the spotlight out on wing, but the potential of a Hayward return does give me some pause in drafting Tatum at his likely market rate next season. His inclusion on this list is not an indictment on Tatum as a real-life or fantasy asset, it is more a guess that the price for Tatum given the hype around his name may not quite match up with the return.

    Marcin Gortat: This is a warning to always look beyond the name value of players. Gortat has been a reliable top-50 anchor for blocks and boards for about as long as mohawks have been a hair style. That said, it should have been a dire warning sign when a then 33-year old Gortat’s block rate fell off a cliff in the 2016-2017 season. Flash forward one year later and Gortat ends the season just barely inside of the top-175 (and still owned in 70% of leagues). After signaling the beginning of the end in 2016, Gortat still posted an ADP of around 70, so I’m inclined to believe that he will be over-drafted again next year on name value alone. Burn a late-round flier on Gortat next year if you want, but there will almost certainly be higher upside options available.

    Enes Kanter: Kanter has a lucrative $18 million player option if he chooses to accept and return to the Big Apple next season. Assuming Kyle O’Quinn also accepts his $4 million option, that leaves the Knicks’ center rotation unchanged… with one huge exception. The firing of Coach Jeff Hornacek may bring Joakim Noah and his albatross of a contract out of the doghouse and back into the rotation. It is hard to say, but it would be impossible for Noah to play less under a new coach than he did under Hornacek, so there is the chance that Kanter losses some minutes. If he remains the primary rebounding force in the Knicks frontcourt, I can see another big season from Kanter. Still, there are more scenarios than not where a top-50 draft price for him surpasses what he ultimately returns.

    Hassan Whiteside: As the season progressed, Whiteside was increasingly left on the bench in favor of small-ball lineups. He only averaged 25 minutes per game this season, and was often out of the action down the stretch in close games. Concerns over minutes aside, the increasingly frequent injuries for an aging big man and the career-low block rate this season all seem to spell the beginning of a steep decline for Whiteside. Offseason moves could find him in a more favorable position, but as it stands right now, paying an early-round price for Whiteside next season could end up being a losing investment.

    Players that may be drafted too low

    Lonzo Ball: At an average ADP of 54, Ball had a pretty steep hill to climb to meet expectations as a fantasy asset. He was consistently inconsistent and oft injured, but the flashes of fantasy brilliance were there. If he can make even marginal improvements in efficiency from the floor and the line there is a chance that Ball returns early-to-mid round value given the counting stat potential that he has shown. As a notoriously conservative drafter, I wouldn’t touch him next season with a pick that early, but given the relatively disappointing year that he had my hope is that no one else does either. I think the ceiling for Ball next season could end up being significantly higher than his draft price.

    Dennis Smith Jr.: Most of what was said above for Lonzo Ball rings true for Smith. He ended his rookie season shooting just under 40 percent from the field on 14.8 shots per game, and going 69 percent at the line on 2.8 attempts per game. That is difficult to own outside of a punt build in head-to-head, but his contributions in the counting categories showed some significant promise. It his hard to imagine his shooting continuing to be this poor given his 56 percent true shooting mark in college, so a mid-to-late round gamble on DSJ could pay off in a major way if his shooting sees even a bit of positive regression.

    Myles Turner: Remember 2016-2017 Victor Oladipo? Remember all of the hype around him as an early-to-mid round draft pick, and the utter disappointment at the end of it all? Now contrast that with 2017-2018 Victor Oladipo who wound up being one of the biggest steals of the draft. It would be a tall order for Turner to follow the same fantasy trajectory, but pending any major offseason shake ups in Indiana, he has a chance to at least imitate it. Turner failed to live up to expectations as a second-round asset this season, and he still may struggle to hit that mark if he doesn’t fill out his stat set further. However, if you didn’t cash in on the Oladipo angst this year, be sure to keep a close eye on the market price for Turner on draft day next year.

    Brook Lopez: Following a massively disappointing season with the Lakers, Lopez enters the offseason an unrestricted free agent. After averaging only 23 minutes per game on the season, Lopez landing just about anywhere but the Lakers again would represent an improvement in his fantasy prospects. In the right situation he has an early-to-mid round ceiling, but following a disastrous year outside of the top-100 it is hard to imagine Lopez not sliding significantly in drafts next season.

    Ricky Rubio: Lost in all of the excitement over Donovan Mitchell’s stellar rookie campaign was the eventual melding of Ricky Rubio into the Jazz backcourt. His season-end top-100 ranking does not quite portray just how bad it was at times this year. However, the top-50 run that Rubio enjoyed down the stretch demonstrated that Rubio and Mitchell can coexist, and when they do the Jazz win games. His upside is probably capped as Mitchell evolves into more of a facilitator, but following so much disappointment for much of the season, I can see Rubio falling on draft day beyond where his value will ultimately land.

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