Since I mentioned Kevin Durant in the first post, it makes sense to start with the 2007 NBA draft, made famous by the Durant/Oden debate and Yi Jianlian’s workout against a folding chair. I probably won’t touch on everyone, but there are usually a few highly ranked comps that I find interesting and/or comical so who knows. Again, all of this information comes from Layne Vashro’s Prospect Comparison Tool.
I wish Greg Oden’s list was more interesting. Bryant Reeves, Greg Ostertag and Shelden Williams all show up three times each in Oden’s Top 50. The problem here is there just aren’t many basketball players like Greg Oden. 7’0″ freshman who put up amazing numbers just exist in the college landscape all that often. Oden’s comps list is basically just 39 guys that were good centers in college.
Al Horford, however, starts off his comp list perfectly. His top two comps, at the time, were two fellow Gators. #1 was Joakim Noah from the same season. #2 (technically, #3, but I’m avoiding looking into the future unless it tells a good story) was David Lee’s 2005 season. The Noah comp is amazing. Only 229 minutes separate Horford and Noah in the NBA. Total separation by Win Shares: 4.6. It’s no wonder Florida was amazing.
#4 pick Mike Conley has Ty Lawson twice in his first four comps, plus Tyus Edney showing up at #6 AND #7, but the most interesting part of Conley’s comp list is Aaron Craft showing up four times. The VAL number for Craft is -0.49. VAL goes from -1 to +1. Anything negative means the person in question was better, statistically, than the comp. Positive means the opposite. Vashro’s tool explains it as a “rich man/poor man” comparison. In this case, Mike Conley is the Mark Cuban version of Aaron Craft.
Jeff Green is the first guy to land on the list of “Guys That Might Not Have Been Drafted So High If This Tool Existed In 2007.” Besides Richard Jefferson at #10, there is a lot of crap on that list, including the O’Bannon brothers. Surprisingly, Jeff Green is #10 in Win Shares in this draft class, so maybe he wasn’t such a gigantic overdraft after all.
Corey Brewer had a pretty interesting comp list, with Todd Day showing up three times in the top 17, with fellow Gator Mike Miller coming up twice. The Todd Day comp has been pretty accurate, with similar numbers across the board through their first 7 seasons. Mike Miller represented Brewer’s “upside” heading into the draft.
#8 pick Brandan Wright might be the most fascinating person of all. His top 10 comps contain a lot of NBA talent. Rasheed Wallace, Antawn Jamison, Nick Collison, David Lee, LaMarcus Aldridge. Wright’s per minute numbers in the NBA have been amazing. His WS/48 is well above average. He’s efficient from the field, has great rebounding numbers and is an excellent shot blocker. The problem is, he has only played 4,460 minutes in coming into the league. To give you a frame of reference, Kevin Durant played just short of 4,000 minutes between the regular season and playoffs LAST SEASON. Injuries have derailed most of his early career, but the past two seasons have been incredibly productive while playing 18 minutes per game over 60 games for the Mavs. For someone who played in all 37 games of his freshman season at UNC while averaging 27 mpg, Wright becomes another datapoint in the unpredictable nature of the draft.
I have a confession to make. I am an addict. I am completely addicted to Layne Vashro’s NCAA Prospect Comparison Tool at Nylon Calculus. I spent hours yesterday going through just about every major prospect and bust for the past 20 years. I find it all fascinating, with the perfect amount of hilarious sprinkled in. There’s an overview section at the bottom of the link to the tool, for those wondering what it is. For a brief synopsis, this tool allows you to compare college basketball player seasons for all prospects since 1990, using different weights for different stats. There are 26 categories, from points to eFG% to strength of schedule. I’ve tweaked them to what I like, but there is no right answer. Here are the weights I’m using. If a stat isn’t shown, it’s weight is zero.
So, until I get sick of doing this. I’m going to go back and look through some draft classes and look for interesting comps or things I just simply find funny.
For example, using my weights and taking a look at 2007 #2 pick Kevin Durant, his top-5 comp list is pretty interesting.
That’s right, everyone. Coming out of college, Kevin Durant was the black Keith Van Horn. You know we all thought it. No one had the guts to say it. But really, is that such a crazy comparison? We know that Durant was a better athlete. That athleticism allowed Durant to reach offensive heights that KVH couldn’t dream of. This is a table of their rate stats through their first four NBA seasons. Obviously, it’s not the best comparison due to Durant entering the league after his freshman year while KVH was a senior, but I think it works. They were both high usage players. Van Horn was a slightly better rebounder, while Durant’s assist rate was a bit higher. They had similar steal and block rates, with KVH turning it over a touch more. I’m rolling with this from now on. When people talk about this draft and discuss the Oden/Durant comparison, just remember…Kevin Durant was the athletic Keith Van Horn.