NBA Draft 2013: Finding a frame of reference for a number three draft pick

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA draft is always a crapshoot. Sometimes you think you've drafted a stud, only to find out later that he is a dud. So, the draft is a less sure thing than trading for a star, or signing one in free agency. Of course, not all teams are capable of making trades or signing free agents.So, that leaves us with the draft. And the draft is a big deal. It's hard to get a good pick. And then a pick alone does not mean automatic success. You still have to draft a good player, not have them pull a Steve Francis and pout his way off your team, then play them. In fact, if you draft a good player and keep them in their original packaging -- they will actually depreciate. The NBA game, particularly for high picks, is a ruthless one.

If you are good, you better show that you are good quickly. The slow and steady race isn't one that is the winning strategy for high draft picks. Let's take a look at the #3 draft pick. You've had a number of useful players picked at this spot over the last 40 seasons. Most of these guys produced, some became stars, but almost all of them were good returns on the high draft pick initial investment. What was common out of this group? Well, one of the commonalities was that the teams that they signed with ended up playing these guys a lot -- and a lot right out of the box. I guess this is the quickest way to get a return on that investment; while finding out if this player was worth it, or not.

For example, over the last 40 years, the #3 draft pick has played 28.6 mpg as a rookie, and finished his first 5 seasons with a cumulative career average of 31.2 mpg. If you can believe it, both of those numbers increase when you reduce the same size from 1973-2012 (40 years) to just 1993-2013 (the last 20 years). By the numbers, these high draft picks are being used more and more.

Of course, it's not uniform for all picks. Chris Washburn ('86) only played in 68 total regular season and playoff games, at the rate of 8.5 mpg. Kevin McHale ('80) played in 99 regular season and playoff games, at the rate of 19.6 mpg in his rookie season alone. If you are good, you should have an opportunity to show it on the floor. If you are bad, you will not. What does this say about Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter who have played the least minutes in their early careers as #3 picks of all the #3 picks of the last 20 years save for Raef LaFrentz?

Are they good, bad, or just behind the curve?

Here is how they stack up against their peers over their first five years in the league. The breakdowns are:

  • All the #3 picks in the last 40 years (n=40)
  • All the #3 picks in the last 20 years (n=20)
  • All the #3 picks in the last 10 years (n=10)
  • All the #3 picks in the last 5 years (n=5)

N.B., the data for the last 10, and 5 groups are lower than they should be because not every player has played 5 seasons yet -- including Favors and Kanter.

Career_cumulative_minutes_for_draft_spot_3

For the most part we see that the #3 pick plays about 2,000 minutes every season on average. This is true for all sections/groupings except for Favors and Kanter. They are about 800+ mins (cumulative average) behind after their rookie years. (Part of this was the lockout year) However, they seem to fall behind early in these vital First 3 years in the league. We hope that the issue here was that their minutes were cannibalized by Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, and not that DF and EK are bad players.

Right?

If you are drafting at #3 this year, you should be getting a player capable of playing over 10k minutes in his first five seasons. God help you if your head coach has other plans though. Of course, this just may be evidence of the Jazz not doing things wrong compared to the last 40 years of NBA history -- it's just that everyone else was wrong before, even the same Jazz front office that played D-Will 37.2 mpg (cumulative reg + playoffs) in his 2nd year in the league.

.

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All of the damn data (if you asked for it):

Season 1 Season 2 Season 3 Season 4 Season 5 Cumulative Mins per Career Cumulative
Player Draft G Min MPG G Min MPG G Min MPG G Min MPG G Min MPG 1 2 3 4 5 5 Yr MPG
1 Ernie DiGregorio 1973 87 3,150 36.2 31 712 23.0 76 1,581 20.8 81 2,267 28.0 52 606 11.7 3,150 3,862 5,443 7,710 8,316 25.4
2 Tom Burleson 1974 91 2,252 24.7 88 2,855 32.4 82 1,803 22.0 76 1,525 20.1 56 927 16.6 2,252 5,107 6,910 8,435 9,362 23.8
3 Marvin Webster 1975 51 553 10.8 86 1,372 16.0 104 3,814 36.7 60 2,027 33.8 20 298 14.9 553 1,925 5,739 7,766 8,064 25.1
4 Richard Washington 1976 82 2,265 27.6 78 2,231 28.6 22 213 9.7 82 1,204 14.7 80 1,812 22.7 2,265 4,496 4,709 5,913 7,725 22.5
5 Marques Johnson 1977 89 3,086 34.7 77 2,779 36.1 84 2,989 35.6 83 2,808 33.8 66 2,135 32.3 3,086 5,865 8,854 11,662 13,797 34.6
6 Rick Robey 1978 79 1,763 22.3 91 2,069 22.7 99 1,834 18.5 92 1,308 14.2 64 884 13.8 1,763 3,832 5,666 6,974 7,858 18.5
7 Bill Cartwright 1979 82 3,150 38.4 84 2,974 35.4 72 2,060 28.6 88 2,640 30.0 89 2,885 32.4 3,150 6,124 8,184 10,824 13,709 33.0
8 Kevin McHale 1980 99 1,941 19.6 94 2,676 28.5 89 2,522 28.3 105 3,279 31.2 100 3,490 34.9 1,941 4,617 7,139 10,418 13,908 28.6
9 Buck Williams 1981 84 2,904 34.6 84 3,046 36.3 92 3,476 37.8 85 3,305 38.9 85 3,196 37.6 2,904 5,950 9,426 12,731 15,927 37.0
10 Dominique Wilkins 1982 85 2,806 33.0 86 3,158 36.7 90 3,383 37.6 87 3,409 39.2 91 3,442 37.8 2,806 5,964 9,347 12,756 16,198 36.9
11 Rodney McCray 1983 79 2,081 26.3 87 3,182 36.6 102 3,445 33.8 85 3,295 38.8 81 2,689 33.2 2,081 5,263 8,708 12,003 14,692 33.9
12 Michael Jordan 1984 86 3,315 38.5 21 586 27.9 85 3,409 40.1 92 3,738 40.6 98 3,973 40.5 3,315 3,901 7,310 11,048 15,021 39.3
13 Benoit Benjamin 1985 79 2,088 26.4 72 2,230 31.0 66 2,171 32.9 79 2,585 32.7 71 2,313 32.6 2,088 4,318 6,489 9,074 11,387 31.0
14 Chris Washburn 1986 40 314 7.9 28 262 9.4 314 576 576 576 576 8.5
15 Dennis Hopson 1987 61 1,365 22.4 62 1,551 25.0 79 2,551 32.3 66 746 11.3 71 1,314 18.5 1,365 2,916 5,467 6,213 7,527 22.2
16 Charles Smith 1988 71 2,161 30.4 78 2,732 35.0 74 2,703 36.5 54 1,458 27.0 96 2,560 26.7 2,161 4,893 7,596 9,054 11,614 31.1
17 Sean Elliott 1989 91 2,323 25.5 86 3,176 36.9 85 3,257 38.3 80 2,985 37.3 88 2,983 33.9 2,323 5,499 8,756 11,741 14,724 34.2
18 Mahmoud Abdurl-Rauf 1990 67 1,505 22.5 81 1,538 19.0 81 2,710 33.5 92 2,956 32.1 76 2,158 28.4 1,505 3,043 5,753 8,709 10,867 27.4
19 Billy Owens 1991 84 2,667 31.8 37 1,201 32.5 82 2,865 34.9 70 2,296 32.8 66 2,113 32.0 2,667 3,868 6,733 9,029 11,142 32.9
20 Christian Laettner 1992 81 2,823 34.9 70 2,428 34.7 81 2,770 34.2 84 2,829 33.7 92 3,543 38.5 2,823 5,251 8,021 10,850 14,393 35.3
21 Anfernee Hardaway 1993 85 3,148 37.0 98 3,750 38.3 94 3,488 37.1 64 2,441 38.1 19 625 32.9 3,148 6,898 10,386 12,827 13,452 37.4
22 Grant Hill 1994 70 2,678 38.3 83 3,375 40.7 85 3,350 39.4 81 3,294 40.7 55 2,028 36.9 2,678 6,053 9,403 12,697 14,725 39.4
23 Jerry Stackhouse 1995 72 2,701 37.5 81 3,166 39.1 79 2,545 32.2 47 1,312 27.9 85 3,268 38.4 2,701 5,867 8,412 9,724 12,992 35.7
24 Shareef Abdur-Rahim 1996 80 2,802 35.0 82 2,950 36.0 50 2,021 40.4 82 3,223 39.3 81 3,241 40.0 2,802 5,752 7,773 10,996 14,237 38.0
25 Chauncey Billups 1997 80 2,216 27.7 45 1,488 33.1 13 305 23.5 80 1,816 22.7 85 2,489 29.3 2,216 3,704 4,009 5,825 8,314 27.4
26 Raef LaFrentz 1998 12 387 32.3 81 2,435 30.1 78 2,457 31.5 86 2,700 31.4 89 2,102 23.6 387 2,822 5,279 7,979 10,081 29.1
27 Baron Davis 1999 86 1,580 18.4 92 3,589 39.0 91 3,719 40.9 55 2,083 37.9 74 2,946 39.8 1,580 5,169 8,888 10,971 13,917 35.0
28 Darius Miles 2000 81 2,133 26.3 82 2,227 27.2 67 2,008 30.0 79 2,079 26.3 63 1,699 27.0 2,133 4,360 6,368 8,447 10,146 27.3
29 Pau Gasol 2001 82 3,007 36.7 82 2,948 36.0 82 2,592 31.6 60 1,923 32.1 84 3,293 39.2 3,007 5,955 8,547 10,470 13,763 35.3
30 Mike Dunleavy 2002 82 1,305 15.9 75 2,336 31.1 79 2,570 32.5 81 2,578 31.8 82 2,580 31.5 1,305 3,641 6,211 8,789 11,369 28.5
31 Carmelo Anthony 2003 86 3,138 36.5 80 2,788 34.9 85 3,134 36.9 70 2,696 38.5 81 2,952 36.4 3,138 5,926 9,060 11,756 14,708 36.6
32 Ben Gordon 2004 88 2,155 24.5 86 2,727 31.7 92 3,099 33.7 72 2,291 31.8 89 3,303 37.1 2,155 4,882 7,981 10,272 13,575 31.8
33 Deron Williams 2005 80 2,307 28.8 97 3,607 37.2 94 3,572 38.0 73 2,716 37.2 86 3,200 37.2 2,307 5,914 9,486 12,202 15,402 35.8
34 Adam Morrison 2006 78 2,326 29.8 52 711 13.7 33 254 7.7 2,326 3,037 3,291 3,291 3,291 20.2
35 Al Horford 2007 88 2,817 32.0 76 2,494 32.8 92 3,233 35.1 89 3,172 35.6 14 456 32.6 2,817 5,311 8,544 11,716 12,172 33.9
36 O.J. Mayo 2008 82 3,120 38.0 82 3,113 38.0 84 2,231 26.6 73 1,934 26.5 82 2,913 35.5 3,120 6,233 8,464 10,398 13,311 33.0
37 James Harden 2009 82 1,858 22.7 99 2,726 27.5 82 2,576 31.4 78 2,985 38.3 1,858 4,584 7,160 10,145 10,145 29.8
38 Derrick Favors 2010 78 1,535 19.7 81 1,903 23.5 65 1,376 21.2 1,535 3,438 4,814 4,814 4,814 21.5
39 Enes Kanter 2011 70 917 13.1 70 1,078 15.4 917 1,995 1,995 1,995 1,995 14.3
40 Bradley Beal 2012 56 1,745 31.2 1,745 1,745 1,745 1,745 1,745 31.2
All 40 Years 3,086 88,387 28.6 2,945 92,169 31.3 2,890 94,086 32.6 2,711 85,903 31.7 2,511 80,416 32.0 2,210 4,514 6,866 9,014 11,024 31.2
Last 20 Years 1,518 43,875 28.9 1,524 49,411 32.4 1,345 44,530 33.1 1,170 39,243 33.5 1,069 37,095 34.7 2,194 4,664 6,891 8,853 10,708 32.3
Last 10 Years 788 21,918 27.8 723 21,147 29.2 627 19,475 31.1 455 15,794 34.7 352 12,824 36.4 2,192 4,307 6,254 7,833 9,116 31.0
Last 5 Years 368 9,175 24.9 332 8,820 26.6 231 6,183 26.8 151 4,919 32.6 82 2,913 35.5 1,835 3,599 4,836 5,819 6,402 27.5
Favors + Kanter 148 2,452 16.6 151 2,981 19.7 65 1,376 21.2 0 0 N/A 0 0 N/A 1,226 2,717 3,405 3,405 3,405 18.7

Blerg . . . no many numbers. Bottom line? Playing time = development, if the player is good enough. I think our dudes are.

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