Career Value of a Lottery Pick
A summary of the career value of lottery picks from 1985 through 2009.
The success or lack thereof of an NBA franchise is often dependent on how well it does in the draft. High picks are expected to produce a lot of value, and a miss at the top of the draft can have a crippling effect on a franchise’s future. So how do we measure the value of a draft pick?
I wanted to do something relatively simple to measure a player’s approximate value in a given season, so here’s what I came up with:
Divide the player’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) by 15, since 15 is league average.
Multiply the above by minutes played to factor in playing time.
Do the above for the regular season and postseason (if applicable) and add the two figures together.
In order to obtain a player’s career value, I used a weighting scheme similar to what Doug Drinen, creator of Pro-Football-Reference.com, uses for his Approximate Value metric (or AV, for short). Here’s Drinen’s description of the method:
My opinion is that most people mentally rank players by counting all the player’s seasons, but weighting their best seasons more. In order to mimic that, I’ve defined each player’s career “value” to be:
100% of his best season, plus 95% of his 2nd-best season, plus 90% of his 3rd-best season, …
So, for two players with the same career AV, the one with the higher peak will be rated a little higher. And junk seasons at the end of a player’s career count for almost nothing.
I used this process to compute the career value for every player drafted from 1985 — the first year of the NBA Draft Lottery — through 2009. Below is a summary of the career value produced by the players selected in each of the top-14 slots over that time period (i.e., choices that would be considered lottery picks in today’s NBA).
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