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2014 Draft Prospect Similarity Scores

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USA Today Sports

It’s time again for Hickory-High’s Draft Similarity Scores, a system I created to compare NBA draft prospects to those from previous seasons based purely on their statistical profiles. This all be began four years ago because I had become frustrated with the amount of subjective comparisons and analogies being made when it came to scouting draft prospects:

For years, every guard with exceptional leaping ability was potentially the next Michael Jordan. Every long white player who can shoot is the next Larry Bird, Keith Van Horn or Adam Morrison; depending on the era. Although, in some parts of Rhode Island they’re referred to as the second coming of Austin Croshere. Every point guard from Gonzaga is the next John Stockton, every huge, awkward center is the next Greg Ostertag and every shot-blocking center with African roots is the next Dikembe Mutombo. These comparisons, based on skin color, position, the college they attended or one singular attribute, do a diservice to the players and fans alike.

This system is my answer to those tenuous connections made on the most obvious and least meaningful criteria. The idea was to create an objective method for comparing players, instead of having to rely so heavily on subjective observation. I recognize that this is largely an over-reaction which creates its own set of problems. This system is based on college statistics, and just those from the season before the player was drafted. Therefore, it doesn’t capture potential, patterns of development, personality, or athleticism; besides how they are tangentially reflected in a player’s production. What these similarity scores are meant to identify are the players who produced at the most comparable level to each draft prospect. This is merely a snapshot - at this moment in time Player A’s college production is most similar to Player B’s.

Because of the nature of this system it contains only a small amount of information in determining the future value of each player. However I think it provides an interesting and unique place to start conversations about future value and puts questions of potential and development into a different context then how they are normally discussed. Often you learn as much from the differences between players as you do from the similarities.

Here are the 21 categories the comparisons are based on.

  1. Team Strength of Schedule (Taken from back to 2003, beyond)
  2. Height
  3. Weight
  4. Age (On the day of the NBA Draft)
  5. Minutes per Game
  6. Points per 40 minutes
  7. Offensive Rebounds per 40 minutes
  8. Defensive Rebounds per 40 minutes
  9. Assists per 40 minutes
  10. Steals per 40 minutes
  11. Blocks per 40 minutes
  12. Personal Fouls per 40 minutes
  13. 2PT Field Goal Percentage
  14. 3PT Field Goal Percentage
  15. Free Throw Percentage
  16. Free Throw Attempts per 40 minutes
  17. 3PT Attempts per Field Goal Attempt
  18. Assists per Field Goal Attempt
  19. Percentage of Team’s Possessions Used
  20. Points per Possession
  21. Turnovers per Possession

My database for comparison uses every collegiate player selected in the 1st Round of the draft going back to 2001. A few 2nd Round picks from the past three years are included as well. Each prospect for this year’s draft is compared to that set in each of the 21 categories. using a technique was borrowed from this Basketball-Reference article.

For this year’s list of prospects I’m starting with all the collegiate players listed in Draftexpress’ 2014 Mock Draft. That list may change so I may be adding more players as the draft approaches. If there’s someone you’d like to see that I haven’t included, just let me know in the comments. The list below will take you to a page for each player with their similarity information in spreadsheet form, as well links to draft profiles from a few other sites. I will be populating the list below with links as the pages are finished, so check back regularly if there is someone specific you are looking for. As always, feedback and comments are always welcome.

The 2014 prospects:

  • Dan Mikanmaster

    Any thoughts of adding combine measurements to the comparisons? Wingspan, especially, if you’re using height and weight seems essential.

    • Ian Levy

      I have looked at doing that, but those measurements are available for a much smaller pool of players which shrinks the whole project down. In the end I thought it would be better to make them more inclusive, even though it might sacrifice some detail.

  • Andrew Sutton

    Stephan Van Treese?
    Very underrated player who should have gone to a lesser known team in favor of playing time. That is a problem I find with high school players picking schools. They go for the big name/winning vs. opportunity of playing time. But it is their choice. C’mon NBA get with the college times. Let the players pick where they want to play.

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