## How can we measure the growth of Washington's young players?

l got next.

Welcome to Friday Morning Pseudoscience with Professor Exile.

The Wizards have amassed a stable of young talent an Andalusian horse breeder might envy.  Some of us feel Ernie has been gathering youth aimlessly, shouting 'Yankee Swap!' at every opportunity without applying the imagination of a Sam Presti, and missing out on the gold standard while happily claiming the bronze.  Some are just happy to be on the winner's podium, remembering Chris Webber for Mitch Richmond.  Others still believe we got into the best possible trades that were available for us given our assets.  The point is that while discussion on this will endure far past Ernie's reign as GM, we have little way to assess the prospects of our prospects, as it were, without much more accuracy than throwing darts and aiming for triple 20 after a few shots of Jack Daniels.

We all feel the need to project the growth of our stars in the making, and while statistical evidence can be found to support that growth, it involves a sample size which prohibits effective projection without a body of evidence, defeating the purpose of meaningful speculation.  So, we enter the realm of pseudoscience, and as most us trust our eyes over the stats, it's a jump we're used to making.  Today's article deals with the possibly indefensible adaptation of Drake's equation, which calculates the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations, to measure the development of our youth.

A brief mention of Drake's equation for the casual NBA fan:

N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible; [which equals]
R* = the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy [times]
fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets [times]
ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets [times]
f = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point [times]
fi = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life [times]
fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space [times]
L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space.[3]
via Wikipedia

I know this sounds crazy.  The major problem with Drake's equation is that the last three variables could be literally anything, which is why many deride it as meaningless.  So adapting a variation of this equation for our own purposes requires cataloguing observational minutiae, watching for positive and negative indicators.  The big ones for the NBA version of Drake's equation:

Health - Factor in diet, stamina, upper and lower body strength, the more commitment a player shows here, the higher the chance they take the next step.

Attitude - Watch for body language, will to win, diving for loose balls, wicked screens, boxing out, the little things that make you smile during the game.  And if they have to make a spectacle of themselves, hope for Lakers' Ron Artest instead of Pacers' Ron Artest.

Mechanics - Delivering and receiving passes, proper stance on defense, shooting form, this is what assistant coaches live for.

Positional Defense/Shot Selection - Indicator of a player's understanding of his strengths and weaknesses while assessing his opponent's in a fluid situaiton, including off ball movement.  I would argue this is the first level of veteran savvy, the ball doesn't stick with this kind of player.

Understanding Schemes - This player knows where to be on the court on offense, sharp cuts off ball, spacing the floor well, hard picks.  Player evidences good help defense, vocal in transition, rotates quickly, the coach trusts these guys.  Veteran savvy level 2.

Instincts - Shocker; steep learning curve in the NBA!  This means that it's often difficult for a player to trust his gut when the competition is on another level, doing so as a young gun usually leads to getting benched.  Likewise, not doing the things you were drafted for usually gets you benched.  A Catch-22 that usually results in a maddening lack of playing time.  As all the other DEEP variables improve, a player's trust in his instincts increases, and the color commentator begins delivering such original masterpieces as, 'Player X is looking really comfortable out there.'

You never know when when of your chess pieces is going to hit the back row and pull a Nick Young.  The initial version of the NBA Drake's Equation for the Evaulation of Prospects, DEEP, shakes down like this:

H = a player's Health combined with

A = a player's Attitude combined with

M = a player's progress in game Mechanics combined with

V1 = their decision making, what we called Veteran Savvy, level one combined with

V2 = their total court awareness and basketball IQ, what we called Veteran Savvy, level two results in

S = the chance a young guy takes the proverbial next step and goes from prospect to player

S = H . A . M . V1 . V2

In essence, we already do this, and this is mostly an effort to provide a little more structure to our observations.  Let me know what you'd like to add to the DEEP formula, and it'll make a cameo appearance later in the season.  In any case, hope it's a fun read for Friday morning.  Cheers.

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