I’m not lying, this was even boring for me to do, but I do think that this was still somewhat worthwhile. Isolated predraft camp measurements for any given class mean so little. Not just because how you measure as a rookie means little to how you measure as a 5th year pro – but they mean little because in the NBA you’re not competing against only other guys from your class. Your class includes a lot of guys who don’t even get drafted. Furthermore, in the NBA you’re playing against the best of the best. Some guys don’t do all the drills. Some guys don’t even show up to be measured (Europeans playing professionally, etc) at all. Lastly, some of the drills mean little within the context of their playing class. Monta Ellis couldn’t do one rep on the bench press station. Not only are there zero bench presses necessary to do during an actual NBA game, but bench press is biomechanically testing for something that shooting guards need less of. A guy like Monta, who plays all game long and is always running, needs stronger legs and greater endurance. He’s been a solid pro, even if he couldn’t do one rep on the bench as a kid entering the draft straight out of high school.
Anyway, here’s an evaluation of the bigs from the draft classes of 2000 all the way to 2011. And these are not all the bigs who tested, nor is it all the bigs who were drafted. It’s a select 70 few guys who help establish a proper frame of reference for the hopeful rookies that were just tested.
Who are these guys?
The bigs I used for this analysis were: Aaron Gray, Al Horford, Al Jefferson, Amare Stodemire, Andrew Bogut, Bryon Mullens (BJ), Blake Griffin, Brendan Haywood, Brian Scalabrine, Brook Lopez, Carlos Boozer, Channing Frye, Charlie Villanueva, Chris Bosh, Chris Kaman, Chris Wilcox, Cole Aldrich, Craig Smith, Curtis Borchardt, Darko Milicic, David Lee, David West, DeJuan Blair, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, DeSagana Diop, Drew Gooden, Dwight Howard, Ed Davis, Eddy Curry, Ekpe Udoh, Elton Brand, Emeka Okafor, Enes Kanter, Greg Monroe, Greg Oden, Hakim Warrick, Hasheem Thabeet, Hilton Armstrong, Jared Jeffries, Jarron Collins, Jason Collins, JaVale McGee, Joakim Noah, Jordan Hill, Josh Smith, Keith Benson, Kenneth Faried, Kevin Love, Kris Humphries, Kwame Brown, LaMarcus Aldridge, Larry Sanders, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Melvin Ely, Mouhamed Saer Sene, Nene Hilario, Nick Collison, Patrick O’Bryant, Patrick Patterson, Paul Millsap, Sean May, Shelden Williams, Tobias Harris, Tristan Thompson, Troy Murphy, Tyrus Thomas, and Tyson Chandler. Clearly this exhaustive group can produce a solid frame of references with which we can use to understand these potential rookies. Some of these guys were lotto picks. Some of them were late 1st round picks. Some of them barely made it into the second round.
The critical criteria
They test a ton of things at the predraft camps. For a big, I think, the critical criteria are height (in shoes – they don’t play in socks after all), weight, wingspan, standing reach, stationary (or no step) vertical, max reach, lane agility, and bench press repetitions. Height and weight are obvious reasons. Wingspan helps to determine if they can get their hands on balls on defense. Denying a post entry pass, deflecting something in the lane, there are many reasons why you’d want a long wingspan. Lane agility helps with moving around in a defensive stance all around the paint. The quicker you are, theoretically, the better you will be in helping out team mates or moving to meet penetrators. No Step vertical is important because on defense a bigman is usually boxing out someone. You do not often get a chance to make a full run at rebound. Furthermore, when a guard penetrates you do not get to run up to them and try to block their shot. You have to jump straight up, and usually off of two feet. The No step vertical is important for all of these things. Standing reach shows how long you can be if you do not even get a chance to jump to contest a shot. Max reach shows how high a ball you can get to. We may remember all those Chris Paul to Tyson Chandler alley-oops. (Or Earl Watson to Jeremy Evans) Max reach shows what you can get to. This is a cumulative value that incorporates max vertical (not listed), wingspan, and height. The basket is 10 feet high. The apex of a ball’s arc towards the basket can be much higher depending on the release point of the shooter. The biggest and best can challenge even the most difficult of shot attempts. After all, we saw what a great athlete can do in that Miami/Chicago series on defense. A dynamic guy helps here.
Player height, weight, wingspan, and standing reach
The standard deviations exist as a color gradient. Within one standard deviation is lightest, with the higher standard deviations are increasingly full in color. Values above average are in blue tones. Values below average are in red tones. Rookies are in yellow cells. Former Jazz players are in grey cells. Current Jazz players are in Jazz colored cells.
Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair…
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Height: Would it be that much of a stretch to suggest that our boys have been undersized, when it comes to height? There are some very big boys on this list. Not all of them went on to become All-Stars, but it’s fair to say that they’ve made bigger impacts on defense. Aside from Kanter and Benson, the rest of the potential Top Big draft picks (who went to this camp) are kind of shrimpy.
Weight: On the other end of the spectrum, our players have been more filled out. Obviously we’re not +3 or +4 standard deviations from the norm filled out, but all of the potential rookies this year aside from Kanter look small in relation. Height and weight are good, simple metrics, but do not tell the whole story.
Wingspan: The average wingspan was 7’1.5" – and that’s exactly where Big Al is. He’s a good player, but he’s not a defensive anchor despite very solid blocks numbers. Favors appears to have more to give in this department. Of course, both are standard deviations away from guys like Thabeet, or Diop.
Standing Reach: Sometimes all you can do on defense is keep your footing and put your hands straight up. Sometimes this is enough to change a shot. Sometimes all this results in is you getting called for a foul. Longer is better here. And no one is better at this than Chris Bosh, whose passive nature may help as he’s within three standard deviations (above 2, below 4) above the norm in this department. Favors and Al appear in the top 25 here. The potential rookies show poorly here, like in all the other physical stats.
Lane agility, bench press, No Step Vertical, and Max reach
Same legend as before…
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Lane Agility: Boozer was the best at this. This means that Boozer should have been one of the best help defenders. Unfortunately Booz was a better help yeller ("Oh Sh*t!" "Grab it, Memo!"). After finishing his rookie contract he went on to focus his defensive energies on his sonic defense, not on his actual defense. The better athletes appear to do well here. Hustle guys like David Lee, Nene, Kevin Love, and Troy Murphy all feature in the top 15. A number of guys did not participate in this drill at all, so we don’t have numbers for them (obviously). Al Jefferson was dead last in this. We could have assumed that from just looking at his pick and roll defense. Four potential rookies are in the Top 20.
Bench Press Reps.: Like I wrote earlier, bench press doesn’t translate to immediate success on the NBA, however if you look at the guys who were +2 standard deviations above the average, most of them have been very solid pros. Who you are at the predraft camp isn’t who you are years into your career – but it does show who has done more work on their body. Two high school kids had the lowest results here, Big Al and Ty Chandler. Both are among the best centers in the league today. That’s food for thought.
Stationary Vertical: Unlike the max vertical (where you get a full run up), this one is used by bigs more frequently during a game. (jumping for boards after boxing out, doing a hook shot, jumping straight up to contest a shot…) Obvious the better athletes are going to kick up on this. The top of the list agrees with me. Jarron Collins seems to agree with gravity. Dude couldn’t get up at all. Kanter isn’t so hot here either. If you couple that with his 9’1.5" standing reach you have a guy who is going to have to do his work on defense before the other guy gets the ball. When he does get the ball, he’s not going to challenge many shots in the half court.
Max Reach: Best athletes, biggest max verticals, longest reaches – these are the guys who can get to any shots. Not surprisingly, these guys routinely make the absolutely most devastating blocks (or alley oops) we see in NBA high lights. Yes Favors is awesome. We’re going to need him to be that, because the bottom part of this list is populated by jazz or former jazz players. The potential rookies are all over the map here.
This class of potential rookie bigs does not look that impressive when you look at their predraft measurements. None of the good prospects that tested (there are some Euros and Africans that did not) were that big, and none of them where in the Top 25 in wingspan or standing reach. They fared better in the other four categories I picked out (there are more than just 8 though). The top big here, Enes Kanter, was above or below one standard deviation from the norm in each category (above the mean 6, below 2). He wasn’t super athletic or a physical beast. He’s a really good player though. That’s why I think of him like Luis Scola: smart player, good mechanics, good moves – but not big or athletic enough to be a game changer. He could be a 20-10 guy, but still be a guy who’ll get his shots blocked in the playoffs by Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Been there. Done that.
The Jazz only have three guys on this list on our team. That doesn’t mean that we’re bereft of guys with really long wingspans and lane agility (Andrei Kirilenko). It doesn’t mean that we’re without a really big beast who has a great height, weight, and standing reach (Kyrylo Fesenko). And it doesn’t mean we’re without guys with huge jumping ability and a max reach (Jeremy Evans). This is simply a list of the best representation of drafted guys from 2000 to 2011 that look like the average distribution of guys we’ll see at the 4 or 5 spot in the NBA – who were actually measured at a predraft camp. Yao Ming isn’t here. Andrew Bynum isn’t here. Also there are guys drafted before this who I didn’t include on the list, like Shaq, who still ‘play’ in the NBA. This isn’t everyone. But this is a good place to start.