A couple of years ago, I introduced my method for identifying players most likely to translate their amateur production to the NBA level. Today, I'm applying that method to this year's class.
There's more explanation in the linked article, but here's the theory in a nutshell: The better a prospect's applied athleticism (ATH), the more likely likely he is to convert his performance to the professional ranks. By applied athleticism, we're not referring to a player's physical measurables (baseline-to-baseline speed, vertical leap, etc.). We're talking about how he uses those attributes for actual basketball production. The rating is based on height-adjusted values in categories most associated with athletic ability: foul drawing, blocks, steals and rebounding.
One modification I've made for this year's ratings, which will be the basis for all of my draft-related material this week, is that I've taken each player's ATH-based rating and applied age adjustments so each player's result is expressed as an Age-25 value. That way we adjust for players long in the tooth--from an NBA prospect perspective--and the younger guys with more upside.
To start, let's look at some players that may be over-ranked by scouting-based methods and some that may be overlooked. While there are many players in my prospect database whose statistics translate well, we'll try to limit our discussion to those with an actual chance of being drafted.
Keith Benson (PF, Oakland) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 96.8; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 66.1
Hey, good players have come out of the Summit before. (See George Hill.) Benson logged one of the better defensive ratings on the board. Shot blocking and rebounding generally translate well to the pros, and Benson is adept at both. Scouts have him pegged as a mid-second rounder. I'm not saying a team should overreach for him in the lottery, but he's one second-rounder with a real chance to stick.
Rick Jackson (PF, Syracuse) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 82.8; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 55.3
Jackson is a tough read. As an offensive player, it's been questioned whether his solid post game will translate to the NBA. ATH suggests he has the athleticism to make that happen. However, ATH really liked his defense, but his numbers were compiled in the middle of Jim Boeheim's zone scheme.
Travis Leslie (SG, Georgia) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 93.7; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 67.6
While ATH attempts to evaluate measurable athleticism, Leslie may be a case where even a stat like that can't do justice to his natural physical gifts. Offensively, he may be without a clear position. However, Leslie has the attributes of a disruptive perimeter defender.
Greg Smith (C, Fresno State) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 71.8; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 56.1
Smith is just the kind of player you want to take a flier on in the latter part of the second round, if you have the roster spot available. A raw talent, Smith will need to log considerable time in the D-League.
Kenneth Faried (PF, Morehead State) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 99.2; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 85.3
Because of where he played, Faried is a wild card except to draftniks, but ATH likes him even more than the scouts do. Already projected as a first-rounder, Faried's translations suggest he could be lottery-worthy, with a Dennis Rodman-like skill set. Unfortunately, like Jackson, his sterling defensive numbers were compiled on a team that mostly played zone defense.
JaJuan Johnson (PF, Purdue) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 89.0; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 75.3
LaceDarius Dunn (SG, Baylor) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 57.8; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 45.3
Jordan Williams (C, Maryland) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 84.3; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 72.3
Furkan Aldemir (PF, Turkey) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 53.9; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 42.3
Brad Wanamaker (PG, Pittsburgh) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 62.5; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 51.5
Isaiah Thomas (PG, Washington) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 64.8; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 54.6
Marshon Brooks (SG, Providence) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 87.5; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 77.6
Tristan Thompson (PF, Texas) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 98.4; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 90.7
Charles Jenkins (PG, Hofstra) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 78.1; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 70.7
Trey Thompkins (PF, Georgia) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 80.4; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 73.8
Iman Shumpert (PG, Georgia Tech) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 75.7; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 70.0
Bismack Biyombo (PF, Spain) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 97.6; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 93.0
Jimmy Butler (SF, Marquette) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 67.9; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 65.3
Jeremy Tyler (PF, Japan) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 76.5; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 74.6
Chris Singleton (SF, Florida State) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 90.6; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 90.0
Enes Kanter (C, Kentucky) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 7.0; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 97.6
Kanter has turned into a scout's darling and the dream target of many a draft-informed fan. I'm not saying those people are wrong. I've watched the video--I love the kid, too. Statistically, we have absolutely nothing to go on, save for four EuroLeague games two years ago. I include Kanter just to underscore the fact that whichever team drafts him will be doing so without the benefit of a useful performance record.
Davis Bertans (SF, Latvia) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 10.1; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 83.8
Bertans really falls into the same category as Kanter. There is not much of a track record to go on. Scouts love his shooting, but he hasn't done it against high-level competition. Well, to be more precise, he hasn't done it in high profile games for which we can find statistics on the internet.
Brandon Knight (PG, Kentucky) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 27.3; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 98.4
ATH hates Knight the way advanced systems did DeMar DeRozan a couple of years ago. DeRozan actually posted lousy college stats; I wouldn't classify Knight's results that way. He also has the nice resume item of pushing a high-profile team deep into the NCAA tournament. One-and-done players are often hard to read, with Jrue Holiday falling into the same category as DeRozan. In Knight's case, he translates so poorly in my system because his athletic ability rates in the 55th percentile of this year's prospects. This is an essential point for Knight. If my system is correct, then his level of quickness won't stand out at the professional level and that will be a serious problem for the team that drafts him. He could have assuaged any concerns on that front on the pre-draft circuit, but he decided to skip head-to-head workouts against other elite point guards. I'm wary.
Darius Morris (PG, Michigan) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 15.6; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 84.6
Morris' workouts have been praised lately, which is why I include him here. His ATH ratings suggest that his offensive ability won't translate well to the next level. And while he has every natural physical trait you'd want in a good-defensing guard, Morris had one of the lowest defensive scores among prospects in the ATH database. Morris improved a lot from his freshman to sophomore seasons, and his first-year numbers may be dragging down his metrics.
Malcolm Lee (SG, UCLA) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 17.1; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 76.1
Lee's ATH profile is almost a dead ringer for Morris', though they are projected to play different positions at the professional level. ATH doesn't like Lee's defense and his numbers were consistently underwhelming over three seasons with the Bruins. Nevertheless, Lee is projected to go in the late first round or early second.
Josh Selby (PG, Kansas) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 24.2; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 80.7
Jan Vesely (SF, Czech Republic) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 39.8; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 95.3
Shelvin Mack (PG, Butler) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 35.1; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 71.5
Justin Harper (PF, Richmond) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 44.5; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 80.0
Nikola Mirotic (PF, Serbia) ATH25 PERCENTILE: 46.8; SCOUT PERCENTILE: 81.5
Bradford Doolittle is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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