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Nerd Alert: Quantifying the quality of international basketball leagues and their NBA Draft prospects

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Here is a scale to take a look at how various professional leagues are based on their quality of play, and ultimately, how to evaluate NBA Draft prospects.

Los Angeles Dodgers v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Many of the comments directed at my last article were about Turkish center Alperen Sengun, his relative merits as an NBA prospect, and the need to account for level of competition in assessing players.

I’m fairly agnostic on his perceived shortcomings. His highlight videos seem to support some of the critiques, but not others. He may indeed be too small, too slow and too ground-bound to become a quality NBA player. Then again, we’ve all heard the same observations about many other prospects who turned out to be good (or better).

The comments in response to the article did get me to take another look at how I quantify the different levels of competition potential draft prospects face. The NCAA is straightforward — there are good measures of team and conference strength that can be applied simply. International leagues are a bigger challenge.

Building on research by Layne Vashro, who’s now a senior analyst with the Denver Nuggets, I refined the “degree of difficulty” factor in my stat-based draft analysis tool — Ye Olde Draft Analyzer (YODA). This change enables YODA to better compare players across leagues.

For example, if an NCAA-championship level team rates a 10 in degree of difficulty, I can estimate that Spain’s ACB (the best international basketball league) is a 10+ in its ability to predict future NBA success. Australia’s NBL and Turkey’s BSL would rate about an 8 — the approximate quality of a high NCAA tournament seed (think second or third seed, at the lowest).

Deni Avdija’s Israeli BSL would rate about a five according to this analysis — about the level of a team that gets into the NCAA tournament but isn’t among college basketball’s best teams. Had I been using this approach for last year’s draft, Avdija would have rated like a late- instead of mid-first, and his ranking in the draft class would have fallen from 8th to 23rd.

In terms of quality and predictive power for future NBA success, here are the top non-NBA leagues and their relative comparison to elite NCAA teams (elite NCAA = 10):

  • EuroLeague 15
  • ACB 13
  • NBA G-League 12
  • Lega Basket Serie A 11
  • NCAA elite 10
  • Russian VTB United League 10
  • Adriatic Liga ABA 9
  • Australian NBL 8
  • Turkish BSL 8
  • French LNB Pro A 7
  • German BBL 7
  • Belgium Scooore League 6
  • Israeli BSL 5
  • Baltic BBL Elite 5
  • Greek A1 Basketball League 4
  • Puerto Rico BSN 4
  • Lithuanian LKL 3
  • Spanish LEB Gold 3
  • Argentina Liga A 2
  • Poland TBL 2
  • Canada NBL 2
  • Ukraine SuperLeague 2
  • Cyprus Division A 2
  • Serbia KLS 1
  • Spain LEB Silver 1

EDITED to correct Russian leagues error and to add lower tier leagues.

Much more draft coverage will be coming in the month ahead.