Results of my stat-based draft prospect evaluation tool — Ye Olde Draft Analyzer (YODA for short) — are in near final form. YODA includes each prospect’s production, as well as adjustments for level of competition, age, position and measurable physical and athletic tools.
All the information I use in YODA is publicly available. The base formula: points + 0.7 x offensive rebounds + 0.3 x defensive rebounds + 0.5 x assists + 0.5 x blocks + steals - 0.7 x missed field goal attempts - field goals made - 0.44 x free throw attempts - 0.5 x fouls - turnovers.
I made a few tweaks to the position adjustment for 2022. The NBA continues to evolve towards an emphasis on skill, agility and IQ over size. Size still matters, of course, but traditional interior-based big men are increasingly getting targeted and played off the floor in the biggest games.
As Kyle Kuzma tweeted a few days ago, the game is moving away from specialists and more towards players who can perform on both ends of the court. For example, take a look at game four of the NBA Finals. Draymond Green is one of the best defenders of all time, and yet he got benched in the fourth quarter — and then subbed offense/defense — because his offensive game has regressed to the point of self-check.
The other change to the position adjustment was to deep-six the PG, SG, SF, PF, C breakdown. Those designations may have had meaning in the past, but it doesn’t really reflect how the game is played in the NBA now.
Here’s how I’m defining positions in YODA:
- Guards — This designation includes traditional PGs and combo guards. Typically, these prospects have some combination of ball handling, playmaking and three-point shooting, but lack the size to play SF in the NBA. For the Wizards, “guard” would include guys like Ish Smith, Raul Neto and Bradley Beal. In this year’s draft, guards include guys like Kennedy Chandler, Dyson Daniels, Jaden Ivey, and TyTy Washington.
- Wings — These are prospects who project to be SGs and SFs in the NBA. In practical terms, there’s little functional difference between SGs and SFs at the highest level. Probably the biggest differentiator is size, and even that gets blurry. Generally, a “SF” in the NBA can play “SG” (think Jaylen Brown) and a SG could play at SF (think Kentavious Caldwell-Pope). Typically, these prospects would be expected to shoot well and defend, but would have less developed playmaking skills than pure guards. In this year’s draft, wings include guys like A.J. Griffin, Kendall Brown, Bennedict Mathurin, Jalen Williams, David Roddy and Dalen Terry.
- Forwards — NBA teams used to crave “stretch-fours.” That’s already antiquated. Increasingly, teams are playing multiple wings. Prospects in the “forwards” bucket could theoretically play three or four (SF or PF) in NBA lineups, but may be too slow or unskilled (think ball handling and playmaking) to match up against guards. Think Kyle Kuzma, Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija. In this year’s draft, forwards include Keegan Murray, Chet Holmgren, Tari Eason, Jabari Smith and Paola Banchero.
- Centers — There’s still a place in the game for big men, though it’s shrinking. As the game emphasizes skill over size, smaller players are moving up in position, and we’re going to see more teams using tall forwards at center. Probably not all the time (at least not yet), but for extended stretches. For example, I could see Washington using Kuzma as a skill-ball five in some situations. A player with the physical tools of Hachimura could theoretically play in the middle, though in Hachimura’s case, he’s shown no inclination to offer the help defense and rim protection needed in the role. For the Wizards, the center prototype most comparable to my YODA position definition is Daniel Gafford. In this year’s draft, centers include Mark Williams, Christian Koloko and Walker Kessler.
This year, YODA has 20 players with first round grades and another 18 in the “draftable” category. Another six are borderline draftable, and usually a decent player or two emerges from this group. For example, Garrison Mathews was a hit for the Wizards (now the Rockets) from this borderline group.
For today, here’s a quick look at this year’s guard prospects with a draftable grade (this may not be the final order):
- Dyson Daniels, G-League Ignite — Big and athletic, Daniels measured 6-6 without shoes, and he has an 8-9 standing reach and a 6-10.5 wingspan. That’s big enough to play forward in the NBA, but he has guard skills like ball handling and playmaking. He defends and plays hard. His stat line is filled with indicators of effort and athleticism. The problem? His shooting is atrocious. Just 27.3% from three in the G-League last season and 52.5% from the free throw line. The Wizards think they can teach shooting, and they’ll need to do that if they’re able to draft him.
- Kennedy Chandler, Tennessee — A PG with serious game who figures to go in the late first or early second round because he’s small. At the combine, he measured just under six feet without shoes. He also tested as an elite athlete, and the athleticism shows in his numbers — above 50% on twos and lots of steals without fouling. He also shot 38.3% from three, though just 60.6% from the FT line. He’s unlikely to end up with the Wizards barring trades. Still, YODA thinks he has a shot to be a good NBA guard.
- Jaden Ivey, Purdue — Almost certain to go in the top 5, Ivey doesn’t leap out in the numbers. His shooting was decent, he finishes well around the basket and gets to the FT line. His playmaking didn’t impress (3.9 assists per 40 minutes), he committed plenty of turnovers (3.2 per 40) and defensive effort didn’t seem to be his thing (just 1.9 steals + blocks per 40 minutes — Daniels produced 3.4 and Chandler 3.1).
- TyTy Washington, Kentucky — A number of mock drafts earlier this year had Washington coming to the Wizards. Consensus now has him getting selected later. He’s a decent enough prospect to think he could become a long-term starter, though he has enough yellow flags to suggest he could top out as a decent backup. A lot will depend on how hard he works on his body and game. Pluses: big enough to play either guard spot, solid playmaking and low turnovers. Yellow flags: 49.6% on twos, just 35.0% on threes, and 12.0% body fat at the combine.
- Ryan Rollins, Toledo — Combo guard who rebounded well (7.3 per 40 minutes) and did some playmaking (4.4 assists per 40) while also scoring 23.1 points per 40. He shot just 31.1% from three, and the competition he faced at Toledo was on the weak side, but his FT shooting was excellent, and his size and athleticism measured at least adequate at the combine. He figures to be a second round pick, which is also where his grade falls in YODA.
- Wendell Moore Jr., Duke — Deemed a SG in most draft evaluations, YODA sees PG potential. He has good size (6-4.25 without shoes) and athleticism, and his shooting was outstanding this season (54.4% on twos, 41.3% on threes, 80.5% on FTs). He rebounded well (6.3 per 40) and also showed some playmaking (5.2 assists). Don’t get too hyped — he still grades as a second round pick — he was a junior and the shooting was on low volume. Even so, he’s someone who could provide some real value in the second round.
- Johnny Davis, Wisconsin — Mock drafts typically have him going in the 10-12 range. YODA has him lower than that, in large part because of his inefficient offense — poor shooting from two and three-point range and more turnovers than assists. He collected a high number of defensive rebounds (8.1 per 40 minutes), though his steals and blocks were low. The Eye Test analysts like him more than the numbers do.
- Jean Montero, Overtime Elite — This rating is more speculative than for anyone else because Overtime Elite is a new producer of draft prospects. The available numbers are impressive in the abstract, though it’s difficult to assess the level of competition. His size and athleticism tested at least adequate at the combine, and he has a chance to provide value in the second round.
Guards with borderline grades in YODA:
- Andrew Nembhard, Kansas
- JD Davison, Alabama
- Trevor Keels, Duke
Next time: wings.