Inspired by the Washington Wizards record of draft day futility, about a decade ago I wondered whether I could build a stat-based prospect evaluation tool that could analyze potential draft picks.
I developed the first version largely in public — I posted about it regularly on the Wizards message board at RealGM. Along the way, I referred to it as Ye Olde Draft Analyzer, someone trimmed that to YODA, and the name stuck.
The basics are still in place. YODA uses only publicly available information in the form of in-game stats and measurements/times from the NBA combines or other similar events. In the case of prospects who don’t get measured or timed, I’ll sometimes review game footage to see if I can discern size and athletic tools by comparing them to prospects with measurements/times.
The evaluation process includes adjustments for position, age and level of competition. While I do look at mock drafts and information from other analysts, I don’t include their evaluations in YODA.
I’ve tweaked the system significantly over the years, especially how I handle position, age and level of competition. The base production formula is probably the only thing that hasn’t changed: points + 0.7 x oreb + 0.3 x dreb + steals + 0.5 x (blocks + assists) - 0.7 x FGs missed - FGM - turnovers - 0.5 x (personal fouls + FTA)
That production then gets rolled together with the adjustments for position, age, level of competition, size and athleticism to produce a score and ranking.
The results from each season are available online wherever I was writing that year.
The 2022 NBA Draft looks fairly normal to YODA, though the system differs a bit with some of the other evaluations out there. I’m not about to assert that I’m right, and they’re wrong. One of the key lessons from going through this exercise the past few years is humility. Turns out, it’s difficult to forecast the future development of 18-22 year olds.
For this year’s draft, I tweaked the system (again) to four position groups:
- Guards — These are traditional point and combo guards who are likely too small to make a living competing against NBA wings.
- Wings — These are shooting guards and small forwards, who won’t play PG but don’t seem to have the size or athleticism to play against big forwards or centers.
- Forwards — PFs and SFs with the size and athleticism to compete against other big forwards, but aren’t likely to play the bulk of their NBA minutes in the middle.
- Centers — Big guys who figure to play inside. In some cases, these are athletic forwards who lack the shooting or ball skills to play on the perimeter in the NBA. In others, they’re the traditional rim-running, rim-protecting, rebounding big.
Here’s this year’s draft, according to YODA:
- Keegan Murray, F, Iowa — Most mock drafts have Murray lower, and I spent a fair amount of time trying (and failing) to see why. The only potential concerns in the numbers: little playmaking (just 1.9 assists per 40 minutes) and perhaps some concern about lateral agility. What pops in the numbers are the positives: big-time scorer on crazy-high efficiency (62.1% on twos, 39.8% on threes), plus rebounding, steals and blocks, and almost no turnovers. His statistical profile suggests someone who will be successful in the NBA.
- Chet Holmgren, C, Gonzaga — Super-skinny, skilled and productive. Holmgren will likely start his career at forward and shift to the middle as his body matures and he gets stronger. His length and athleticism figure to make him a defensive asset as his career progresses — he averaged 5.5 blocks per 40 minutes in the NCAA last season.
- Jabari Smith Jr., F, Auburn — Impressive prospect with a few statistical yellow flags. The brightest of the warning flags is his 43.5% shooting on twos, which suggests some difficulty getting to and finishing at-rim. The low two-point percentage, pedestrian steals and blocks, and low offensive rebounding numbers at least raise some questions about his applied athleticism. Still, he can really shoot (42.0% on threes, 79.9% from the FT line), and he did a good job drawing fouls.
- Paolo Banchero, F, Duke — BIG forward who may end up playing center in the NBA...if he can learn to be a rim protector on defense. Given his reputation, I was a little surprised at the below-average offensive efficiency. Still, the overall production was excellent, and he showed high-level playmaking that will be a major asset in the NBA.
- Tari Eason, F, LSU — An interesting prospect to evaluate, in part because he came off the bench (and won the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year award). He still averaged 24.4 minutes per game, and his production was excellent. By the numbers, he’s a good mix of size, athleticism, skill and motor. A recent report quoted an unnamed NBA scout who said Eason struggled to learn offensive and defensive systems. That’s a concern, but his overall package still looks likely for a successful NBA career.
- Bennedict Mathurin, W, Arizona — Good shooter with the size and athleticism to excel in the NBA. A few weeks ago, it seemed that he would be available to the Wizards at 10. Now it looks like they’ll need to trade up to get him. He apparently wowed executives in team interviews.
- Dyson Daniels, G, G League Ignite — A big and athletic guard, who has the size to play on the wing as well, who can do everything except shoot. Coming over from Australia, Daniels showed rebounding, playmaking and defense in the G League...while also shooting just 27.3% from three-point range. The Wizards believe they can teach shooting, though they probably won’t get the chance with him if they stay at 10.
- Jaden Ivey, G, Purdue — Considered by most to be a top five pick, he’s unlikely to slip past four. Recent rumors have Tommy Sheppard and the Wizards trying to trade up to the fourth pick to select Ivey. I suspect more smoke than fire with that rumor. The talent is there, though the efficiency and overall production wasn’t eye-popping.
- Jeremy Sochan, F, Baylor — Big forward with rebounding and defensive skills. Converted well inside, but his offensive efficiency was subpar, in part because of poor shooting from three-point range and the free throw line.
- Mark Williams, C, Duke — The massive center (9-9 standing reach) looks like he’ll be a rim-running, rim-protecting, rebounding big man for the next decade. He averaged 4.8 blocks per 40 minutes this season. His offensive game is basically three-feet and in.
- AJ Griffin, W, Duke — Good shooter who’s a solid athlete. His non-shooting numbers are kinda ordinary, and he’s suffered multiple knee injuries. If he can stay healthy and improve defensively, he can be a valuable 3&D wing.
- Johnny Davis, G, Wisconsin — Impressive looking prospect whose numbers don’t pop. His backers argue that his efficiency was dragged down by an ankle injury and from a heavy load. The injury and the load weren’t enough to prevent him from grabbing 9.6 rebounds per 40 minutes. The concerns: poor shooting (46.6% from two, 30.6% from three) and more turnovers than assists.
- E.J. Liddell, F, Ohio State — A little undersized, but he’s a good shooter and an outstanding athlete.
- Jalen Williams, W, Santa Clara — After evaluating his numbers, I watched some video and thought he might be a bit underrated. On the other hand, his rebounding numbers were a little anemic for an NBA-caliber athlete against relatively weaker competition. I think his combination of shooting and playmaking make him a good bet for team potentially as early as 10.
- Kennedy Chandler, G, Tennessee — Small guard (measured a shaded under 6-0 in socks at the combine), who’s hyper-athletic. Superb playmaker and decent shooter, though he converted just 60.6% from the FT line.
- David Roddy, W, Colorado State — A wide body with superior agility, Roddy is slated as a second round pick in most mock drafts. In the numbers, I see a terrific shooter (62.0% on twos, 43.8% on threes) with rebounding and some playmaking. If he’s truly available in the second round, the Wizards could do well to acquire a pick to take him.
- TyTy Washington, G, Kentucky
- Dalen Terry, W, Arizona
- Christian Koloko, C, Arizona
- Ochai Agbaji, W, Kansas
- Kendall Brown, W, Baylor
- Jalen Duren, C, Memphis
- Walker Kessler, C, Auburn — 70.2% on twos and 7.1 blocks per 40 minutes.
- MarJon Beauchamp, G, G League Ignite — A couple weeks ago, I heard the Wizards were considering him at 10. Haven’t heard that in the last few days, however.
- Jake LaRavia, W, Wake Forest
- Ryan Rollins, G, Toledo
- Wendell Moore Jr., G, Duke — Terrific shooter.
- Christian Braun, W, Kansas
- Keon Ellis, W, Alabama
- Ousmane Dieng, W, NBL — Horrible season in the Australian league, but plus size and athleticism. Scouts love Dieng.
- Michael Foster Jr., C, G League Ignite
- Malakhi Branham, W, Ohio State — Excellent shooter slated to go in the first round. YODA doesn’t like the lack of non-shooting production.
- Gabriel Procida, W, International
- JD Davison, G, Alabama
- Justin Lewis, F, Marquette
- Josh Minott, C, Memphis
- Jean Montero, G, Overtime Elite — Tough evaluation for YODA because Overtime Elite is new. Some of Montero’s numbers were superb...but they were compiled mostly against high school teams. We’ll see.
- Jabari Walker, W, Colorado
- Blake Wesley, G, Notre Dame
Next is a group of players who YODA thinks are more borderline as prospects. These are players to select in the latter part of the second round or pursue as undrafted free agents.
- Julian Champagnie, F, St. John’s
- Andrew Nembhard, G, Gonzaga
- Dereon Seabron, W, NC State — When I watched video on him, I subjectively liked him better than his YODA score. But, he shot just 25.6% from three.
- Moussa Diabate, F, Michigan
- Trevor Keels, G, Duke
- Nikola Jovic, F, International — Considered by most to be a first-round pick. He’s long and has playmaking skills. He also shot poorly, didn’t rebound or defend, and produced almost as many turnovers as assists.
Finally, there’s a group of interesting players with potential who could become NBA contributors if they work hard enough and get lucky.
- Alondes Williams, G, Wake Forest
- Tevin Brown, W, Murray State
- Scotty Pippen Jr., G, Vanderbilt
- Kofi Cockburn, C, Illinois
- Ismael Kamagate, C, International
- Bryce McGowens, W, Nebraska
- Vince Williams, W, VCU
- Jaden Hardy, W, G League Ignite
- Orlando Robinson, C, Fresno State
- Jaylin Williams, C, Arkansas
If I missed anyone you’re interested in hearing about, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter @So_Wizards.