By Steve Shea, Ph.D. (@SteveShea33)
April 6, 2016
College Prospect Ratings (CPR) is a formula that uses NCAA players’ on-the-court performance to quantify their NBA potential. Below, I will present the CPR ratings for 105 of the top prospects in the 2016 draft. Before I get to this year’s ratings, I go through some of the aspects of the model and present some of the model’s successes and failures among recent draft classes.
A Performance-based Model
CPR uses each player’s performance on the court (as measured by box-score stats) to approximate his pro potential. There can be a number of reasons a prospect does not perform well on the floor. Many of these are an indication that the prospect will not be a great pro. However, there are other reasons for a lack of performance that may not suggest lesser potential. The most extreme example is an injury that takes the player off the court entirely. This happened for high-profile prospects Kyrie Irving and Nerlens Noel in recent seasons. When an injury takes a player off the court, it’s going to hurt his CPR. In these cases, it’s important to understand that a lower CPR does not reflect a lower talent level for these prospects.
As a performance-based model, CPR will not like players like Skal Labissiere and Cheick Diallo. These players did not perform well this season. Any team that drafts them will be doing so based on indicators besides their on-the-court performance this past season.
Quality of Opposition
CPR does not adjust for quality of opposition. It’s true that certain players face different contexts, but I have not yet seen an appropriate way to measure this context.
Often, quality of opposition is factored into a model by measuring the quality of the teams the individual faced. For example, Andrew Harrison’s Kentucky team in 2014-15 faced tough competition. That Kentucky team had a strength of schedule score (according to Sports-Reference.com) of 8.67. In contrast, Steph Curry’s 2008-09 Davidson team did not face very difficult competition. Davidson had a strength of schedule score of -3.33.
In 2008-09 Curry shot 38.7% on 3s. In 2014-15, Andrew Harrison shot 38.3%. Since Harrison’s team faced a tougher schedule, should the model be more impressed by Harrison’s 3P%? I’d argue the exact opposite. Harrison played on a loaded Kentucky team. How often was the defense focused on stopping Harrison? How often was Harrison double-teamed? Almost never.
Curry was the offense in Davidson. Opponents schemed specifically for Curry. Curry may have been playing mid-major competition, but they were draped all over him, and he still managed to shoot an amazing percentage. If we were going to adjust for quality of opposition, I’d argue that Curry’s numbers should be inflated as opposed to Harrisons.
In my experience, using measures such as strength of schedule in a draft model grossly underappreciates the context players like Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum played in, and thus, grossly underrates these players.
No Physical Measurements
CPR does not include height, weight, wingspan, or any other physical measures of the prospect. These measurements are important information, but mashing physical characteristics with on-the-court performance into one metric can be difficult to interpret.
Speaking about Providence’s Ben Bentil, a scout said, “He’s not going to be a power forward in the pros. He’s not 6-9. I’m hoping he’s 6-8 with a pair of sneakers on, so that means he’s going to have to be some form of a small forward.”
It sounds like what scouts said about Draymond Green in 2012. “The consensus is that Green won’t be able to guard either forward position because true small forwards will be quicker and true power forwards taller and able to post him and shoot over him.”
First, guarding in the post has far more to do with a player’s footwork, anticipation, awareness, athleticism, grit, length, etc. than it does an inch in his height. Second, the traditional five positions is an antiquated notion. In an NBA where the ability to switch screens is incredibly important, players like Green shouldn’t be labeled “tweeners.” They are versatile.
The scouts can determine whether an inch or two in height is important. The teams can decide to pass on Karl Towns because he doesn’t have a big enough ass. CPR will focus on basketball performance.
CPR has correctly identified numerous 2nd round picks that eventually went on to have pro careers that far exceeded the expected value of a 2nd-rounder. For example, in 2012, Draymond Green (CPR=5.0), Jae Crowder (CPR=4.7) and Will Barton (CPR=6.2) all went in the 2nd round, but CPR rated all 3 in the top 10 for the class. In retrospect, all three would have been great 1st round selections. CPR had Kyle Korver (CPR=5.2) as a first round talent in 2003, and thought Hassan Whiteside (CPR = 14.6) was a ridiculous steal when he went 33rd overall in 2010.
CPR has made the right choice when many teams have missed. Here are just a few examples. In 2009, Minnesota selected Johnny Flynn (CPR=4.3) ahead of Steph Curry (CPR=10.6). In 2010, Golden State took Ekpe Udoh (CPR=4.8) when they could have had Paul George (CPR=8.9). In 2011, Phoenix took Markieff Morris (CPR=2.1), and Houston drafted Marcus Morris (CPR=2.3) right before Indiana drafted Kawhi Leonard (CPR=5.7). In 2012, Cleveland drafted Dion Waiters (CPR=1.8) 4th overall when Damian Lillard (CPR=4.8) went two spots later.
CPR correctly identifies superstar talent. Kevin Durant (CPR=38.6), Anthony Davis (CPR=24.1) and Carmelo Anthony (CPR=14.9) are the top 3 overall scores (among an incomplete run of recent draft classes). The “above 10” class also includes Blake Griffin (CPR=10.1), Tim Duncan (CPR=12.7), DeMarcus Cousins (CPR=10.9), and Kevin Love (CPR=14.5) among others.
CPR doesn’t always find the late-round steals. CPR thought Chandler Parsons (CPR=1.7) was a 2nd round pick in 2011. That’s where he went, but his performance in the NBA has made that pick look great in retrospect.
CPR has missed at the top. CPR had Greg Oden (CPR=10.2) as the 2nd best prospect behind Kevin Durant in 2007. Oden went 1st overall. Unfortunately, Oden’s career was derailed by injuries.
In a poorly rated 2013 class, CPR thought Anthony Bennett was a top 3 pick (CPR=7.6). Bennett went 1st overall, but has been a complete bust thus far in his brief career.
CPR offers a perspective that differs from traditional scouting. When CPR agrees with scouts, it provides added assurance on the prospect. When CPR disagrees with scouts, it should prompt teams to ask why and to take a second look at the player. With that in mind, here are the 2016 scores.
|Pascal Siakam||New Mexico St.||5.6|
|Denzel Valentine||Michigan State||5.6|
|Isaiah Whitehead||Seton Hall||5.3|
|Malik Beasley||Florida State||4.2|
|Bryant Crawford||Wake Forest||3.9|
|Gary Payton II||Oregon St.||3.2|
|Georges Niang||Iowa St.||3.2|
|Dwayne Bacon||Florida State||3.2|
|Joel Bolomboy||Weber St.||3.2|
|Jameel Warney||Stony Brook||3.0|
|Deandre Bembry||St. Joseph's||2.5|
|Michael Carrera||South Carolina||2.5|
|Anthony Barber||N.C. State||2.4|
|Demetrius Jackson||Notre Dame||2.4|
|James Webb III||Boise St.||2.2|
|Monte Morris||Iowa St.||1.9|
|Ron Baker||Wichita St.||1.9|
|Alex Caruso||Texas A&M||1.7|
|Malik Newman||Mississippi St.||1.7|
|Fred VanVleet||Wichita St.||1.7|
|Danuel House||Texas A&M||1.5|
|Deyonta Davis||Michigan State||1.1|
|Zach Auguste||Notre Dame||1.1|
|Devin Thomas||Wake Forest||1.0|
|Shevon Thompson||George Mason||1.0|