Quantitative Analysis Of Early Entry Decisions: Part II

In part one of this series on the decisions of early entrants to the 2011 NBA Draft, the focus was on the goal of getting drafted. Using recent historical trends, we were able to see that this year’s group of early entrants stand a pretty good chance of being drafted despite a much-maligned status. But most hoop dreams don’t end on draft night. Borderline or questionable prospects have to hope that many factors fall in their favor in order to realize the goal of actually playing in the NBA.

Like in the first post, I’ll be working with the past three years of early entrant draft classes. To get a very basic feel for the post-draft fates of these early entrants, I gathered up the amount of minutes each player has logged over the course of his career. Because lottery picks are a different breed altogether, I once again focused on non-lottery first round picks and second round picks — or the guys who have the toughest decisions to make in terms of whether to stay in college or go pro. After establishing the total minutes played for each segment of players, a per game average was calculated for each eligible year. In graph form:

As one might expect, the non-lottery first round early entrants play a lot more minutes on average than the second round early entrants. Looking at the 2008 class in specific, we can see that the earlier selections also appear to have a higher ceiling as the second rounders have reached a plateau of around 11 minutes per game. The second round picks from the 2009 class did experience a rather large boost from year one to year two, however. But the 2010 class featured a number of players who logged no more than 200 total minutes. Again, these numerical figures represent an aggregation of minutes, so the 2009 class gets a hefty boost from the rather large contributions of DeJuan Blair and Jodie Meeks, which helps to balance out the minor minutes played by a guy like DeJuan Summers.

Since the opportunities to play vary considerably between those last 16 first round picks and those in the second round, it’s no wonder that second round early entrants fall out of the league (or fail to debut at all) much quicker. Since 2008, every early entrant chosen as a non-lottery first round pick is still in the league, and the only one who didn’t log any minutes in his first year was Daniel Orton (2010 class). By comparison, the second round picks have not fared as well.

As the pie charts on the bottom row display, there hasn’t been much uniformity in terms of the fates of second round picks who declared as early entrants. We can be sure there will be a few guys who never make it to the league after being drafted, as has thus far been the case for many of last year’s second rounders. But looking at the numbers (and using a little common sense), we can see why that first round guarantee is so desired.

In 2011, there are 40 early entrants fighting for a shot to be one of the 60 draft picks. Separating out the guys who are here because of non-basketball circumstances leaves us with a pool of about 36. Based on recent trends, about 9 to 10 of those guys should get the precious first round selection outside of the lottery, and 9 to 10 others will likely fall to the second. But after looking at what has become of those latter draft choices, it’s clear the odds of being drafted are far better than those of actually becoming an NBA player.

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