Wildcat Player Impacts

[UPDATE 7/3/09: After some discussion with some readers from wildaboutazcats.com, I revisited the formula to account for positions played by players. While the numbers are different overall, and the order in which players are listed has changed, the results are basically still the same.]

Yesterday, I wrote about a comparison between Arizona NBA players and UConn players.

Today, let’s compare some other schools – UCLA, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky. All of these schools are “basketball blue-bloods”, so one would think that they all should have their share of shining stars and impact players.

The criteria was simple, top 7 players from a specific school that have played in the NBA a minimum of 2 seasons. Rookies were left off because it’s too early to tell if their careers are boom or bust. After two full seasons, one should have a good idea of where the player is headed.

All stats listed are career stats. PERs listed are John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating. These are not counted in the calculation of the Player Impact Rating (PIR) but are listed to satisfy curiosity and as points of reference.

The PIR is a metric I created to summarize a player’s impact to the game based on the person’s stats over time – this takes into account the number of minutes played, so the career stats aren’t skewed by the longer careers of people like Mike Bibby, for example. Team PIRs are calculated two ways – one with 7 players, since empirical evidence suggest that the average school has at most 7 players in the NBA at any one point in time, and the other with 5 players, since you can only have 5 players on the court at any time. Obviously, the 5 player team PIR is calculated using the best five players.

Again, for comparison, I also did four other player PIRs. Unsurprisingly, none of the players calculated are even close to these four (one of which is a Hall of Famer, the other three will definitely be joining him).


As a reminder, here’s Arizona’s players and their individual PIR’s

Now, let’s start with the UCLA Bruins. Nothing like a conference rivalry to get things started. Plus, with the history of UCLA in the NCAA Tournament, one might think that there are a plethora of former Bruins in the NBA that are major players…


Hmm… Ok, let’s go cross-country to another tradition-laden school in Kentucky. Those Wildcats have a pedigree in basketball, dontcha know! They MUST have some pretty good players that are lighting up scoreboards, right?


OOPS! There are only 5 players from Kentucky currently in the NBA with more than 2 seasons under their belts. So, I guess Kentucky wasn’t as good a comparison after all, it seems. How about … North Carolina? Surely that would be a better comparison.


Wow… now there’s some heavy hitters in this group. But still, something seems not quite right. Maybe a midwestern school holds the solution? Let’s look at Kansas.


Uh oh… only 6 players here. That’s not really good either. I guess it’s up to Duke.

Now, before I did this calculation, I fully expected the results to be similar to everything else I’ve been seeing so far. However, Duke actually has 8 players in the NBA currently right now that qualify, so I had to use their top 7. How scary is that??


Notably, Shane Battier is NOT listed here for Duke. He was the 8th player and has a PIR of 43.62. If you include him and do a team PIR of 8 players, Duke would drop to a team PIR of 61.87. Ouch.

So what’s the verdict? Are any teams going to beat Arizona? Actually, the answer is “yes.”


How about just top 5’s?


As a side note, players with top 250 career PERs have been noted in the tables above and counted. Final tally: Arizona 5, North Carolina 4, Duke 3, UCLA 1, Kansas 1, Kentucky 0.

If any team was combined with Arizona players, Arizona players would outnumber the other team players except for Duke. Duke would have Hill, Boozer, and Brand, while Arizona would have Arenas and Bibby.

So, using this information, what have we learned? We already know that Arizona has the most draft picks of any school since the Lottery Era began. We know that of all the current NBA players, Arizona has more career PER players than any other school. We know that as a group, Arizona players have higher Player Impacts than any other school except Duke. And in head-to-heads against the “blue-blood” of college basketball, Arizona beats them all, again except for Duke.

For one last comparison, I’ll calculate the Arizona State’s NBA players’ individual PIRs (This one wasn’t even worth doing a table for – that’s how bad it is):

Ike Diogu 55.76
Eddie House 52.25

If combined with Arizona, Diogu makes the 6th spot out of top 7. I couldn’t calculate a team rating for ASU because they don’t have enough players in the NBA, and they won’t for next two years either with only 4 (add Pendergraph and Harden to the list).

Does Arizona belong now in the annals of college basketball as one of the “blue-bloods”? With 25 straight NCAA appearances, several Final Fours and a National Championship, the last measuring stick of “Players In The NBA” is still in review, but based on this evidence, I would argue that Arizona belongs now to that upper echelon of blue-bloods, the college basketball elite.

East-West Comparison

[UPDATE 7/3/09: After some discussion with some readers from wildaboutazcats.com, I revisited the formula to account for positions played by players. While the numbers are different overall, and the order in which players are listed has changed, the results are basically still the same.]

When it comes to NCAA basketball, no one can deny the fact that since the NBA shortened the draft to only two rounds in 1985, Arizona has had the most draft picks of any university (31) – more than Duke (29), UCLA (28), North Carolina (25), or Connecticut (23).

Some of those picks have been superstars (Gilbert Arenas), while others… not so much (Marcus Williams).

What would happen, then, if you had an all-Arizona NBA team vs. say an all-UConn NBA team?

Let’s take a look – for Arizona (all stats are career stats):
PG – Gilbert Arenas (22.8 PPG, 4.2 REB, 5.5 AST, 1.8 STL, 20.74 PER)
PG – Mike Bibby (16.4 PPG, 3.3 REB, 6.1 AST, 1.3 STL, 16.91 PER)
C – Channing Frye (8.2 PPG, 4.6 REB, 0.5 BLK, 0.4 STL)
SG – Andre Iguodala (15.6 PPG, 5.7 REB, 4.4 AST, 1.8 STL, 16.89 PER)
SF – Richard Jefferson (17.7 PPG, 5.3 REB, 3.0 AST, 0.9 STL, 16.56 PER)
PG – Jason Terry (16.2 PPG, 2.9 REB, 4.9 AST, 1.3 STL, 17.86 PER)
SF – Luke Walton (5.6 PPG, 3.2 REB, 2.5 AST, 0.6 STL)

for UConn (all stats are career stats):

SG – Ray Allen (20.9 PPG, 4.4 REB, 3.8 AST, 1.2 STL, 19.72 PER)
SF – Caron Butler (16.7 PPG, 6.0 REB, 3.0 AST, 1.7 STL, 16.72 PER)
SF – Rudy Gay (16.7 PPG, 5.4 REB, 1.7 AST, 1.2 STL)
SG – Ben Gordon (18.5 PPG, 3.0 REB, 3.0 AST, 0.8 STL)
SG – Richard Hamilton (17.9 PPG, 3.3 REB, 3.4 AST, 0.8 STL, 16.96 PER)
C – Emeka Okafor (14.0 PPG, 10.7 REB, 1.9 BLK, 0.8 STL)
PF – Charlie Villanueva (13.4 PPG, 6.3 REB, 1.2 AST, 0.6 STL)

If one went purely on PPG, UConn has the decided advantage at 118.1 PPG to Arizona’s 102.5. How about PER? Arizona has five career leaders versus UConn’s three.

However, I created another metric to summarize a player’s impact (PIR) based on the person’s stats over time – this takes into account the number of minutes played, so the career stats aren’t skewed by the longer careers of people like Bibby and Allen.

For comparison, I also did four other player PIRs. Unsurprisingly, none of the UConn or Arizona alums are even close to these four (one of which is a Hall of Famer, the other three will definitely be joining him).

Michael Jordan 96.87
LeBron James 89.92
Shaquille O’Neal 88.41
Steve Nash 79.03

Where do the UConn players rank?
Ray Allen 65.49
Emeka Okafor 61.28
Charlie Villanueva 61.16
Ben Gordon 60.42
Rip Hamilton 58.98
Caron Butler 58.87
Rudy Gay 54.46

Arizona … much, much better:
Gilbert Arenas 72.65
Mike Bibby 64.46
Jason Terry 62.48
Andre Iguodala 60.46
Richard Jefferson 58.88
Luke Walton 52.73
Channing Frye 50.24

Now, you have Arizona with three highly rated players along with Ray Allen and Emeka Okafor.

Also, if we drop all players who have not played 10000 minutes (which actually is 2 players from each side) and sum the PIRs, you get an average team (5 players) total of:

UConn: 61.01
Arizona: 63.79

(Even if you keep all 7 players and do the average PIRs, UConn ends up with 60.10, Arizona slightly higher with 60.27.)

In summary, UConn players may score more, but Arizona players have a little more impact in and on games than UConn players do. This is one of the many reasons why Arizona has more players drafted than any other school in the country.

High Schoolers, College Kids, and the NBA Draft, Oh My!

You know, this whole declaring early, withdrawing, one-and-done, playing overseas, all just trying to get an 18-, 19- or 20- year old multimillions of dollars so he can buy an Escalade, about twenty PS3’s for his “posse”, and a new house for his mama because his daddy left them when he was a baby, is starting to get really old.

When the NBA created the Development League, the idea was to snatch the farm system idea from Major League Baseball without the multiple levels – you know, AAA, AA, High-A, Low-A, etc. – because the shelf life of an NBA player is about 5-6 years, while an MLB player can play for a good 10-12.

Of course, the NBA erred at once by creating it’s league acronym as “DL”. If you’re going to borrow from the MLB, you don’t want your league, which is supposed to have a similar function as the MLB’s AAA farm team, being called the DISABLED LIST (DL).

That said, the NBA really hasn’t gotten its DL moving as fast as it probably should be this time. There’s a stigma associated with the DL that just hasn’t gone away. Maybe it’s the “disabled list” thing. Maybe it’s the (very) small paycheck you get as a DL’er. Maybe it’s the (very small) per diem you get as a player. Maybe it’s the venues you play in – they’re not exactly major cities. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. Or maybe it’s because it’s Just Not The NBA.

In addition, the NBA still has this silly rule that high schoolers cannot declare for the NBA draft; they must be one year removed from high school. This forces a lot of HS’ers that “think” they are good enough for the NBA – I say “think” because, really, if you’re in HS, are you really playing against elite competition? The answer is “NO” for about 99% of them – to consider one-and-done stints in major college programs. I mean, you’re not going to get one-and-done kids to go to West Texas Tech and Farming College… c’mon, be reasonable. The one-and-done kids have to get national recognition so they can up their draft stock, which means playing in a major program – like Arizona, or Maryland, or Florida, or UCLA.

Or they can take the Brandon Jennings route and try their luck overseas. Except that Jennings, who thought he was NBA material before he left, really didn’t help himself in Europe. In fact, he played poorly there – which just shows that a) he’s not really ready to play against elite competition (ie. the NBA, or even a elite major NCAA team), and b) he’s still a kid who thinks he’s better than he is. And yes, other kids are watching and seeing just how good those Europeans are – they’re WAY more physical and they concentrate on skills more than just raw athleticism. How many HS’ers are talented skillwise enough to play in Euroleague? Probably 1% of the 1% of the kids that even consider it.

The whole mess can be avoided if the NBA does something really simple – combine forces of the DL and the draft. Here’s how:

  1. Allow high schoolers to declare for the draft. However, HS’ers can only be drafted into the DL, where they must play their first year and may not be “called up” during their first season.
  2. NBA teams who draft a HS’er are not subject to the first round rookie scale contract – instead, they can negotiate a contract similar to second round draft picks which may or may not include incentive bonuses (they probably will include them though).
  3. If a HS’er decides not to opt for the draft, or is drafted and opts not to sign for the drafting team, the kid must play three years in college (this rule already exists for baseball and works perfectly well), or may go overseas but the same three year rule applies. Note that the rule is “PLAY THREE YEARS”. If you redshirt one of those first three years, you still have to play three years before being eligible.
  4. An NBA team that drafts a HS’er and is not able to sign said pick would receive a “compensation pick” in between the first and second round of the next draft. This is similar to MLB as well.
  5. After three years, the now-college junior or senior (see “redshirt” above) (or overseas player) may declare for the NBA draft, but has to decide to stay in or withdraw by May 15th. This will force kids to either sh_t or get off the pot and finish their studies so as not to penalize the school’s graduation rate.
  6. If the college student withdraws, the rule of “declaring twice means you’re automatically in” is moot because his next year would be his last year eligible anyway and he’d have to stay in.
  7. NBA teams who draft college kids are still subject to the first round rookie scale contract, however, they have the option to immediately send their draft choice to the DL. Their draft choice may be “called up” at any time.

What this would do for basketball at the college level and the NBA level would be a VAST improvement. For the college level, it avoids any further O.J. Mayo / Derrick Rose / Brandon Jennings problems. Kids either are committed for three years or they don’t attend at all. Money-hungry parents would not longer be encouraging their kids to do a one-and-done, if they value their kids education at all. Of course, Europe / Israel / Russia / Asia is still an option for those that are so determined to get their money that they don’t care where they play, just so long as they get their paycheck.

At the NBA level, it would really showcase the top talent – teams will have already drafted top high school talent and stuck them in the DL for a year of seasoning. If they aren’t improving enough to be called up, the kids can stay in the DL, and the team isn’t on the hook for a multi-million dollar rookie contract. If they wash out in the DL – they just can’t deal with elite talent – then the team can release them, and again, the team isn’t on the hook for a multi-million dollar contract for a draft bust. And for those kids that take the SMART choice and go to college for a couple of years, the kids get the benefit of a paid-for education (for at least three years), and play against elite competition the entire time, and the NBA will have to evaluate like it does now on draft day – and it will also have the option to draft a kid and send him to the DL, EXCEPT that if they draft a kid who has played for three years, they will be on the hook for a mega-contract if the kid’s a bust… which is how it is now.

Does it make sense? Of course. Will it be implemented? Not likely, unless someone from the NBA or Players’ Union is paying attention…

NFL draft parting shot

Tempe Normal – 2 players drafted in the 7th round. Two others with free agent deals.
Arizona – 2 players drafted, one in the 2nd, one in the 4th. Two others with free agent deals.

For all those Tempe Normal fans who flap about their team being better, just look at the draft and tell me again which were better.