NBA Draft Prospects: College Career vs. Athleticism

Now that the NCAA season is over and the first round of the NBA playoffs has begun, most professional basketball fans are focused on the now rather than the future. However, plenty of GMs are spending their playoff time looking over film from this past college season, breaking down statistics and play styles to find their next potential franchise player. This year especially will feature one of the most interesting drafts in recent memory, with the Thunder receiving their first lottery pick since James Harden and the T-Wolves “earning” their 10th lottery pick in as many years.

When deciding who to pick, there are two popular stances to take: selecting a player based off of their performance at the previous level, or choosing someone with tremendous physical attributes that signal a promising “upside.” Admittedly, these aren’t the only factors teams take into consideration when drafting a top pick, but they’re the most observable traits to measure and analyze. Looking at the top rookies from the past three NBA seasons, what carries more weight: athletic traits or collegiate success?

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Does Tanking Really Work?

Since the race for once-in-a-lifetime prospect Anthony Davis, tanking has been one of the most controversial topics in NBA conversation. The then-Bobcats aggressively lost games to put themselves in position to get the Brow, leading them to the worst winning percentage in the history of the league.

The biggest argument about tanking is usually regarding its morality, and whether a team and its fans should root for failure in order to find long term success. The league is also split on whether tanking is good for the NBA and its franchises, as shown by the failed “anti-tanking” vote that would’ve revolutionized the lottery system. However, for most NBA fans, there is little doubt that tanking is a “smart” plan. But is tanking really smart? Does it often work?

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The Comprehensive 2014-2015 NBA Preview: Western Conference

After an amazing 2013-2014 season, the unbearably long offseason is finally coming to a close. There’s a lot to look forward to this year in the NBA, with superstars on new teams, contenders adding pieces, and more squads than ever with a chance to make noise. Let’s continue with my projected standings for the Western Conference, and analysis for the teams in it:

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Who has the Best Backcourt in the NBA? Part 1

Recently there has been a lot of talk about which team has the best backcourt in the league. This began with Dion Waiters stating that he and Kyrie Irving own the title. Next, John Wall stepped up and said that he and Bradley Beal gave the Wizards the best backcourt in the league.  In preparation for the Corner Three Positional Rankings and the Corner Three Top 100, we decided to tackle the backcourt argument using stats.

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The Comprehensive 2014-2015 NBA Preview: Eastern Conference

After an amazing 2013-2014 season, the unbearably long offseason is finally coming to a close. There’s a lot to look forward to this year in the NBA, with superstars on new teams, contenders adding pieces, and more squads than ever with a chance to make noise. Let’s get started with my projected standings for the Eastern Conference, and analysis for the teams in it:

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A Quick Reminder of How Good Andrew Wiggins is

There is a lot of fret about the Kansas Jayhawks and their tournament hopes after the injury of Joel Embiid, especially after the recent hype around Embiid potentially being the #1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. This is no slight to Embiid, who is a great player, but the injury is being overhyped, because the Jayhawks’ best player is, far and away, Andrew Wiggins. How much better?

KenPom is one of my favorite sites, and overall it is the best advanced statistics site for college basketball on the internet. However, one important piece of information that slips past Ken Pomeroy’s stats system is Individual Defense. Offensively, Wiggins and Embiid are very similar players. Wiggins has a 113.9 ORating on a higher usage, but Embiid has a 112.2 ORating for himself, which is extremely impressive for a big man, especially a big man as raw as he is. Embiid’s insane block rate leads college basketball fans to believe that Embiid patrolling the center is the motor that makes Kansas’ defense go, but when you look a bit more into the stats, a different story is told.

Using data from GroupStats, (groupstats.wordpress.com), we can see the points per possession differences when each player is on and off the floor. When Joel Embiid is on the floor, Kansas outscores their opponents by .16 points per possession, a very strong number, and when he is off the floor Kansas outscores their opponents by .11 points per possession, or a .05 point benefit when he is on the floor. To put that number in comparison, Perry Ellis has a similar difference number at .04 PPP.

Now, lets get to Wiggins.

When Wiggins is on the floor, Kansas scores 1.18 Points per possession and gives up 1.00 Points per possession good for a PPP difference of .18. Now is where it gets good. When Wiggins is not on the floor, Kansas scores 1.08 points per possession and gives up 1.10 points per possession, good for a difference of -.02. Kansas is a whole 0.2 points per possession better when Wiggins is on the floor than when he is not! That is four times better than Embiid, and far and away the best of any Kansas starter. Lets put that .2 points per possession into context.  This year, Kansas is averaging 68.3 possessions per game. So, for each game, Wiggins is giving a 13.66 point boost to the Jayhawks, compared to a 3.415 point boost from Embiid. 13.66 points is an absolutely insane number for one single player to be adding to a squad.

So, as we are going into the Oklahoma State – Kansas game that many, if not most, experts are Kansas to lose in mainly because of the lack of Embiid, lets remember that the key player for the Jayhawks isn’t the big Cameroonian. Its Wiggins. And he will be playing today. That might just be all Kansas needs.

by Robert Garcia, Northwestern University

*Editor’s Note: this article was written BEFORE Wiggins dropped 30 points and 8 rebounds in their victory over Oklahoma State.