Commentary

Draft Rater: Who will be good in pros?

Originally Published: June 20, 2011
By John Hollinger | ESPN.com
IrvingHoward Smith/US PresswireMany experts think Kyrie Irving is the best prospect in the 2011 draft. What does the Draft Rater say?

It's a fool's errand, but let's do it anyway.

Yep, it's time for the Draft Rater. There are inherent limitations in trying to pore through a player's statistics and project what he'll be capable of five years down the road. The things the stats don't tell us -- about his dedication, eating habits, off-court life, the system his team runs, and 10,000 other things -- badly outnumber what the stats do tell us.

Yet, surprisingly, the stats seem able to tell us quite a bit. That's the premise behind the Draft Rater, my annual data-driven guide to the draft, and this year we have better clues than ever as to how it can help us and how it can't.

To review, my Draft Rater is a regression analysis comparing 16 variables to a player's NBA player efficiency rating, using the average of their top three seasons in their first seven years as a pro. Some haven't played three seasons yet or won't ever, so we take their career PER. We've also set a PER floor of 4.0 for those who couldn't make the league, and 5.0 for those who barely made it.

I've once again rebuilt it from the bottom up this year. Along with this year's revisions, the Rater was already getting smarter every year as it got more data and more NBA results from players already drafted. As a result, we can see with greater specificity which statistics translate to the pro game and which ones don't.

Second, we've seen the particular ways in which it fails. The most obvious one is on all the squishy stuff -- character, dedication, conditioning, etc. Michael Beasley, Michael Sweetney and DeMarcus Cousins all got huge marks from the Draft Rater, but one could justify passing on them on draft day given the other red flags. Similarly, we don't have a good measure for injury-proneness either -- Curtis Borchardt, Brandan Wright and Greg Oden, take a bow.

But more particularly, in back testing this year's Draft Rater, it's become obvious where it succeeds and where it falters. To wit: