Tag Archives: nba draft

INBOX: The 2014 NBA Draft Edition

Zach Lavine: Future Timberwolf?

Zach Lavine: Future Timberwolf?

The draft is tomorrow. It kind of snuck up on Punch-Drunk this year. Rather than micro-analyze each prospect’s interviews like last year, we haven’t paid the whole thing much attention at all.

I blame Kevin Love.

Anyway, we’ll dig into what we feel are the big questions facing the Wolves, and Wolves fans as we head into another NBA Draft – a draft that doesn’t promise to be memorable for the franchise, but certainly could be.

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Learning from The Machine: Some Observations about Past Timberwolves Draft Picks

Learning from The Machine

Learning from The Machine

I recently read an interesting paper, entitled “Profiting from Machine Learning in the NBA Draft (paper available here).” The author of the paper is Philip Maymin, Assistant Professor of Finance and Risk Engineering at the NYU School of Engineering. Maymin has written several articles applying machine learning techniques to NBA basketball.

Here’s the study’s abstract: I project historical NCAA college basketball performance to subsequent NBA performance for prospects using modern machine learning techniques without snooping bias. I find that the projections would have helped improve the drafting decisions of virtually every team: over the past ten years, teams forfeited an average of about $90,000,000 in lost productivity that could have been theirs had they followed the recommendations of the model. I provide team-by-team breakdowns of who should have been drafted instead, as well as team summaries of lost profit, and draft order comparison. Far from being just another input in making decisions, when used properly, advanced draft analytics can effectively be an additional revenue source in a team’s business model.

Based on The Machine’s* projections, we’re going to discuss some choice decisions the Wolves made in past drafts.

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Assessing DeMarcus Cousins’ Potential

DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins

Bill Simmons’ ever-intriguing “Trade Value” series of columns has begun over at Grantland. He has lots of provocative, interesting opinions, whether or not you agree with any/many of them. Simmons, tongue-in-cheek as can ever, also talks a lot of sense from angles that matter: player potential and history, team cap situation, and team need. It makes for a good read.

There are a bunch of guys I’d flag as worth checking out to see if Simmons’ idiosyncratic ratings comport with your own. But none more than DeMarcus Cousins, the almost-Wolf who was passed over in favor of Wesley Johnson.

I found what Simmons had to say – both the goods and the bads – remain revealing about what a team might be getting in Cousins. This isn’t directly Wolves’ related except insofar as he easily could’ve been a Wolf and probably still would be had we drafted him at #4 instead of Wes Johnson, but Simmons makes a fairly credible case both about what’s wrong (and right) with Cousins, what’s wrong in SAC, and how we might come to see this behemoth talent realize at least a good part of its massive potential.

Simmons writes:

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March Madness, (PD)Wolves Style

It’s March. Spring is (officially) here.  Flowers are blooming and the air is warm. There’s still piles of snow on the ground and it’s cold as hell. But NBA and NCAA tournament basketball is being played. Basketball fans are in a state of full receptivity, like a f*cking lightning rod.*

Me, I’ve been traveling the last week, first to Minnesota, then to Chicago. Catching games when I could. But travel is disruptive, especially for someone who’s usually planted in his lounger in front of a 60-inch TV with the full suite of League Pass and cable options, and two(!) laptops, one usually dedicated to picking up  a second NBA game on League Pass Broadband and the other to NBA Twitter.  While on the road I’ve been catching games when possible. But it hasn’t been the same as my home base in The Hoops Junkie’s Blogger Lair. But now I’m back in the captain’s chair, and it’s on.

Anyway, here’s some stuff I’m thinking about.

The Wolves Remain Intriguing In Spite Of Everything
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Forecasting the Draft

Adam Silver will be in the house

The NBA Draft is tonight. What’s going to happen?

Andy G and I look into Punch-Drunk Wolves’ crystal ball (an old fishbowl with a goldfish floating belly up) and weigh in on the prospects. Let us know which ones we’re wrong on in the comments.

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INBOX: Would You Draft Perry Jones III?

Perry Jones III

Andy G: Chad Ford posted his Mock 8.0 today. Wolves take Fab Melo of Syracuse (!!!) at Number 18, immediately followed by the enigma from Baylor, Perry Jones III.

If you know anything about David Kahn, and if you know anything about Perry Jones III, you know that it would absolutely crush our POBO–perhaps to the point of tearful pouting–to have this type of LENGTH AND ATHLETICISM suffer the Adelman Family Veto.

What do you think? (more below the fold)

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Musings on the Draft

Jay Bilas had a nice piece (Insider) yesterday on NBA Draft prospects who have star potential. Bilas isn’t perfect, but (1) he has a good feel for the draft by virtue of actually having seen most players play multiple times, and (2) he sees the forest for the trees on this issue–the draft is all about identifying potential impact players – stars – which is correlated, but not synonymous, with college advanced stats.

It’s a deep draft, but beyond Anthony Davis it isn’t clear who will break out as the kind of player teams  later regret passing on.

Bilas sees five potential stars in the draft–maybe more.

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Royce White: Now and Then

Royce White (Photo by rivals.yahoo.com)

Royce White burst onto the national scene last night with an eye-opening performance against the NCAA Tournament-favorite Kentucky Wildcats. White and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, who matched up against each other for much of the game, were the two best players of the floor. White ended the night with 23 pts on 9-12 shooting, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 block. He did have 3 turnovers, but had the ball in his hands almost constantly during the 34 minutes he played.

On Iowa State’s first possession of the game, White showed what kind of night it was going to be, taking Davis to the left block, receiving the entry, and making a strong hop move into the middle of the lane and curling in a lefty flip beyond Davis’ outstretched arms. White outmuscled UK’s entire front line several times, using a variety of drop steps and nifty moves to create space and score the ball.  Davis was no slouch either, putting up 15, 12, and 5 blocks, but Royce White was the story.

The question is, why hasn’t Royce White been the story– or, at least, a story–all season long?

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Where Are They Now? Jonny Flynn Edition

Jonny Flynn (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Timberwolves will face Jonny Flynn and the Houston Rockets for the first time since cutting bait with the 2009 1st-round pick on draft night in June.

We all remember how bad Flynn’s Wolves tenure was.

This was arguably only partly Jonny’s fault.

Kurt Rambis, whom Wolves POBO David Kahn hired AFTER he drafted PGs Ricky Rubio and Flynn with the 5th and 6th picks, implemented the point-guard unfriendly triangle offense–the kiss of death not only for Flynn, but also for Ramon Sessions, whose career non-Wolves PER of 17.6 dropped to 12.9 under Rambis.

Flynn also suffered a hip injury that required surgery during the summer after his first season. He missed the season’s first six weeks and never regained whatever explosiveness he occasionally showed in his rookie year. Flynn’s lack of basketball ability also hindered his development.

It’s hard to erase the memories of Flynn’s ball stopping and thrown-away passes and ill-advised heat checks that are etched into Wolves fans’ collective psyche, and it’s hard to forget that Kahn could’ve drafted Stephen Curry or Demar DeRozen or Brandon Jennings or Jrue Holiday or Ty Lawson (oops, he did!) instead of Flynn. And it’s hard to forget that picking Flynn immediately after he had picked Rubio was what ignited so many KAAAAAAAAAAAHHHN! refrains heard over the past two and a half years.

What The Numbers Say

Statistics were consistent with what Wolves fans witnessed on a nightly basis: Flynn was historically bad during his sophomore season. (More on this below.)

So it was interesting when Houston Rockets GM Daryl “Dork Elvis” Morey–a man-god among NBA stats geeks who is a living symbol of the evidence-based movement–traded for Flynn on draft night. Morey has shown signs of eschewing statistics in making other decisions, including hiring former Wolves vice-president Kevin McHale as Rockets coach, but one year earlier Morey would’ve been the last GM Wolves fans would’ve thought might take a flier on Flynn.

The statistics aren’t encouraging.

First, consider how analytics rate Flynn’s 2010/11 season with the Wolves.

How bad was it?

The 4th worst in the past 26 years, according to one estimate.

In more than 800 minutes, Flynn sported a 7.1 PER, an offensive rating of 85, and a defensive rating of 114. He had negative win shares.

By these metrics, no guard has had as bad a season since Charlie Scott out-stunk Flynn in 1979/80.

There is little evidence that a fresh start with a new franchise and a point guard-friendly coach are resuscitating Jonny’s career prospects. Flynn has only played 70 minutes over 5 games in 2011/12, but his 9.8 PER remains abysmally low and his WS is 0.0.

Jonny’s TS percentage and eFG percentage have dropped from .444 and .417 to .383 and .325, respectively, and his 90 offensive rating is closer to last season’s abomination than his rookie rating of 97.

This despite the fact that, albeit a limited sample, Flynn has been playing with better teammates in a point-guard friendly offense.

Kyle Lowry, who is physically similar to Flynn, is sporting a PER of 22.3 and a WS of 2.0; Lowry’s TS percentage is .570 and his eFG is .506.

After fewer than 5 games in Houston, Rockets writers have already written Jonny off. This pretty much sums it up:

Awesome graphic courtesy of red94 (http://www.red94.net/)

Starting Fresh

Yet Flynn believes he’s now in a better situation. He clearly does not miss playing for Rambis.

“That’s not my style; I don’t think that’s anybody’s style,” Flynn said about Rambis’ > triangle offense. “Most coaches, they play to the style of their players. You
never hear of a coach going out there and doing something totally opposite to what his > players do best.”

So far Flynn has failed to crack McHale’s rotation. He’s stuck behind Kyle Lowry, who’s having an All-Star season, and Goran Dragic, another solid point. So it’s safe to assume Jonny won’t be playing much this season unless the Rockets’ backcourt suffers a rash of injuries. (TONYA HARDING ALERT!)

Still, Jonny remains optimistic:

“In this league, you just have to wait sometimes,” Flynn said. “Wait for things to turn  around in your direction. When it does, it’ll be good finally to show everybody the
real me.”

Somewhere out there, Jonny’s smiling that toothy grin Kahn found so seductive, smiling because somehow he’s still on an NBA roster.


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