Back in September 2013 I took a look at the value of an NBA lottery pick, but one thing that always bugged me about that analysis was that there was an inherent assumption that all drafts are created equal. In other words, the expected value of the number one pick was always the same regardless of the talent available. This is, of course, demonstrably false, so I wanted to come up with a way to account for this quirk.
Earlier this week over at ESPN Insider I took a look at the average career value produced by each of the top 14 NBA draft picks (i.e., the lottery picks).
You have to be an Insider in order to read that piece, so let me briefly summarize what I did in order to get a career value for each player:
- A player’s season value is equal to his regular season win shares plus his postseason win shares.
- The player’s season values are ordered from best (highest) to worst (lowest).
- The player’s career value is equal to 100 percent of his best season, plus 95 percent of his second-best season, plus 90 percent of his third-best season, etc.
In the Insider column I went on to give the average value for each of the lottery picks as well as the top three players and bottom three players for each slot.
In today’s post I’m going to expand on that idea a bit by building a model to figure out the expected value for each lottery pick*, then use that model to find some of the best and worst draft picks since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.
* From here on out I will use the term “lottery pick” to refer to a top 14 pick even though the draft lottery did not start until the 1985 NBA Draft, not to mention that not all top 14 picks were technically lottery picks.