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NBA Pioneers of Drafting and Stashing Foreigners

Recently at the end of every NBA draft there are foreign names, who even for hardcore fans, seem like they could be just randomly generated. But they are in fact long shot prospects who are drafted and stashed for later just for an outside chance they could be good someday [*]…

How did NBA arrive to this point?
Which team did start this trend? What did happen to those pioneers?

To find out, I used my list of all Draft-and-Stash players in history to identify such cases based on two criteria:
1) according to basketball-reference.com player didn’t play in US college,
2) player had a contract outside of US during his draft year.

There were over 100 players in history who fit (I’m assuming here that all of them were drafted with an understanding NBA team had to wait for them… even though it’s hard to prove this for everybody).
I think it’s the best to start this topic with a graph…

Number of Foreign Players Drafted by the NBA Each Year who Started Career Later than Their Draft Class

A couple of facts which may help explain this graph or could be just a coincidence:
– Oscar Schmidt and Greg Wiltjer participated in the 1984 Summer Olympics which I’m assuming was announced before the 1984 NBA draft.
– Peja Stojakovic debuted in the NBA in February of 1999 and made his first all-star team in 2002.
– in October of 2001 Andrei Kirilenko, Primoz Brezec, Predrag Drobnjak and Zeljko Rebraca joined the league from previous draft classes.
– in October of 2002 list expanded with Manu Ginobili, Mehmet Okur, Marko Jaric and Gordan Giricek.

So I would summarize history of Drafting and Stashing Foreigners like this…

According to various sources, including an interview with him, Greg Wiltjer did play in US college so he made the list only because of a rare bug on basketball-reference.com which means…
the grandfather move of drafting foreigner with a contract happened thanks to the Nets with their shot at Oscar Schmidt in 1984.
That makes sense, he was a truly dominant scorer not only on his clubs but also in the Summer Olympics.

Oscar Schmidt didn’t play in the NBA in the following years but it didn’t discourage Hawks and Blazers to take a chance at other foreign stars: Drazen Petrovic and Arvydas Sabonis (if you want to learn a lot more about the background of these transactions, and Drazen Petrovic’s life in general, I strongly recommend Drazen Petrovic retrospective podcast from inallairness.com). For the next couple of years one or two teams bought such a foreign lottery ticket but nothing materialised out of them until 1989 when Drazen Petrovic, Sarunas Marciulionis and Alexander Volkov joined the league.
All of them were reserves initially and only Petrovic reached a starter status but unfortunately he died in a car crash in 1993. It doesn’t change the fact that Nets, who acquired Petrovic’s rights from Blazers, were the first team not only to try this move but also to gain something out it. Maybe two solid seasons from Petrovic don’t seem like much but he was poised for more.

In 1994 and 1995 arrival of Sabonis, improvements from Kukoc and brief success of Dino Radja created a slight bump in foreign players being drafted. One of them in my opinion became the second milestone in the history of this strategy: Peja Stojakovic was drafted 14th by Kings in 1996.
Even though his first couple of seasons were underwhelming he was the first drafted and stashed player to join the NBA at the age similar to his American counterparts.
He debuted at the age of 21, not only 3 or 4 years earlier than all previous draft-and-stash players, but also at a point in his career where he wasn’t fully formed as basketball player and had some upside.
I’m guessing such a proof that talented young foreigners were willing to come over early led to the draft class of 1999 which featured, record at that time, 5 draft-and-stash players.

It created another wave of players who finally arrived in 2001 and 2002 which along the growing success of Peja Stojakovic created followers and another spike in interest of drafting such players later in the draft. It remains at the high level a decade later even though success rates has since plummeted… but that’s for another post.

Does it make sense? Have I missed anything important? Let me know.

[*] more probably those players are drafted for the certainty of not paying them anything right now.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Expanding Horizons

 

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All Draft-and-Stash Players in NBA history

While 2013 NBA draft was very unpredictable at the top, it had a familiar strategy at the bottom of each round: draft-and-stash.

Drafting players with no chance of coming to the NBA right away – either because of player’s intentions or because team doesn’t want him there – seems weird at first glance but it became such a staple of recent NBA drafts I just had to investigate this topic futher to get to the bottom of it.

So here’s what I did:
1) based on draft recaps from basketball-reference.com since 1950 I created a list of draftees who either didn’t play a single game in the NBA or they debuted at least a year later than their draft class.
a) among players who didn’t play at all I focused only on those drafted in the first couple of rounds because for decades draft in the NBA was way too long [and let's be frank - I wanted to save a lot of time chasing unknown 7th rounders who really had no chance of playing in the NBA because of limited number of spots available].
b) I included all players who played in the NBA but started career later than they should based on draft year.

2) for every player from list above I used wonders of Google to identify possible reasons behind the delay.
If a possible draft and stash players were simply cut before their first season or for some other reasons didn’t really qualify as draft-and-stash type I deleted them from the list.

3) “Probable reason(s) for delay” below is my best guess at what happened to the player after the draft but in most cases [especially before 2000!] I have no idea about the relationship between cause and effect.
In other words, did player sign somewhere else because he wanted to or because he was able to get better contract or because he didn’t receive any offer from the NBA? Either way he became a draft-and-stash type so he is on the list below but we just don’t know who made that decision.

Starting in 1989 in some cases I had to gave up searching so I used “????????” as an explanation which means I couldn’t find anything. On the other hand, in situations I found interesting or unique for some reason I included links to sources and more than one word description. If you have any questions, or maybe if you know what did happen to some unsolved by me situations, let me know in the comments.

In total final list includes over 600 players so that’s why this post is basically only about the data.
For more analysis on this topic, using list below, please visit blog later this week…

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Posted by on July 4, 2013 in Fringe Stats

 

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Grading NBA Mock Drafts 2013 From Best To Worst

NBA Draft 2013 started with a huge surprise at the top and remained unpredictable through the rest of it.
Because I once again gathered data for my project accuracy of NBA mock drafts I accidentally measured just how unpredictable it was! Here are some key statistics… I processed 263 NBA mock drafts and among them:
Only 4 mock drafts had Anthony Bennett going number 1. F-O-U-R! That’s below 2 percent!
Congratulations to Todd Salem, Greg, Trey and Jason Quint for a really bold prediction which turned out to be accurate but, interestingly, overall their mocks were average.

66 different players appeared in at least one first round mock draft and I have to give props to Tim who was the only one with Solomon Hill included.

Around 22% of mock drafts nailed selection of Victor Oladipo at number 2 but only 6 mocks had Cody Zeller 4th to Bobcats, 21 mock drafts had Alex Len at #5, only 3 mocks had Ben McLemore at #7 and…
literally NOBODY had Nerlens Noel being drafted at #6!! How is that for unpredictable top picks?!?
For comparison, among Top7 picks in mock drafts in 2012 only Dion Waiters and Harrison Barnes were surprises on a similar scale.

On the other side, Otto Porter was at #3 in majority of mocks – 73% to be precise.

With all that said you can see why it wasn’t a great year for mock drafts’ accuracy but despite such wild Top7 and lower average score than in previous years, people at the top still managed to distance themselves from others. So…Who Had The Best and Worst 2013 Mock Drafts on the Internet?

To answer this question here’s what I did:

1) after the draft lottery I saved on my hard drive pages from as many first round mock drafts as I could quickly gather. Mostly from widely known authors/sources but I also added many googled ones and tried to include authors from last years’ post [hence the growth]. I repeated this exercise weekly up to the day before actual NBA Draft when I had a final push for the data.
In 2011 I checked 33 mock drafts, in 2012 I expanded efforts to 122, this year I ended up with 263 NBA Mock Drafts. So my quest to cover every mock available on the web continues ;-)

2) I graded every mock by an average absolute difference between the mocked and actual picks.
So for example, if you had Nerlens Noel at number 1 in your mock draft your score for #6 [where he went] was “5” but if you had him at #9 you would get a score of “3”. Simple, right?
I did the aforementioned thing for every pick in every mock and calculate an average for the entire first round so the lower the number the more accurate mock was. Players who were predicted as first rounders but were drafted in the second round counted but if a player went undrafted his position was “61”.

There are three important notes about this excercise:
– because I tried to capture content which was quickly changing some of the links provided won’t work. It’s not my fault that people use the same address or page for often changing content. I could just upload those saved files but that probably wouldn’t be legal so I just posted a PDF file with every pick of every mock I’ve processed.

- as in previous years, I didn’t try to include versions of mocks published in the last hours before the draft because not only I don’t want to chase last minute updates or rumors from teams or possible leaks but I also question the value of such mocks which are online for 50 minutes… especially when at this point you can just wait for the real event.

- it’s kind of obvious but, as a remainder, please don’t assume that mock drafts represent entire value of those sites or authors. Even if someone had a really good/bad mock it doesn’t mean their analysis of players was good/bad too. It may have been, I don’t know, I didn’t include it in any way.

OK, let the mock draft challenge begin! Here are the results…

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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Expanding Horizons

 

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Accuracy of NBA Mock Drafts in 2012, Best, Worst

NBA Draft 2012 is in the books so it’s time for a lot of grading… no, I don’t mean judging teams or drafted players because it’s too early but there’s one draft-related topic which doesn’t require waiting few years:
Who Had The Best and Worst 2012 Mock Drafts on the Internet?

After humble beginnings last season I expanded my efforts to 122 NBA Mock Drafts this year.
Obviously, it doesn’t mean I covered every mock available on the web but I think I was close ;-)

Seriously speaking though here’s what I did:
1) after the draft lottery I saved on my hard drive pages from as many 1st round mocks as I could quickly gather. Mostly from widely known authors/sources but I also added many googled ones.
I repeated this exercise weekly up to the day before actual NBA Draft when I had a final push for the data.

There are two important notes here:
a) because I tried to capture content which was quickly changing some of the links provided won’t work. The most extreme example was probably with Chad Ford from ESPN who published 10 mock drafts and the last 3 or 4 had multiple “updates” which by the way block the entry to original versions.
I could just upload those saved files but that probably wouldn’t be legal so I just posted a PDF file with every pick of every mock I’ve processed.
b) I included 3 mocks from the day of the draft from [my guess at] 3 most popular sources but I don’t feel great about it. On a draft day rumors from teams, possible leaks and updates are so rampant that I question the value of those mocks for 10 minutes… especially when at this point you can just wait for the real event.

2) I graded every mock by an average absolute difference between the mocked and actual picks
For example Bradley Beal was drafted third so if you had him at #2 you would get a score of “1” but if you had him at #5 you would get a score of “2”. Got it? If a player went undrafted I counted that as a “30” because of the entire second round. I did the aforementioned thing for every pick in every mock and calculate an average for the entire first round so the lower the number the more accurate mock was.

OK, let the mock draft challenge begin! Here are the results…
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Posted by on July 4, 2012 in Expanding Horizons

 

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Fantasy NBA Why Snake Draft is Unfair in Basketball

Whenever you’ve just started playing fantasy NBA or consider some offseason alternatives like fantasy all-time draft one of the first questions you need to ponder is: “how are we going to redistribute players between teams”? And one of the most common answers to this question is “Snake Draft”.

It’s a draft where the positions flip flop every round. For example, if someone drafts first during the very first round, they’ll draft last the following round, then they’ll draft first again in the next round, and so on. This type of draft is the most fair.

This concept is easy to grasp, it was always easy to organize and it just sounds so fair. Well, there’s only one problem with it: in fantasy NBA snake draft is unfair! And it’s not even close to being fair!

How do I know this? Not only it’s essentially the same problem as with competitive balance in the NBA but more importantly we can easily calculate why and how is it unfair.

I’ll use Yahoo’s Default Points Scoring [FGA (-0.45), FGM (1.0), FTA (-0.75), FTM (1.0), 3-pt Made (3.0), Point Scored (0.5), Rebound (1.5), Assist (2.0), Steal (3.0), Turnover (-2.0), Blocked Shot (3.0)] as an example but it really doesn’t matter, you can repeat this exercise for every possible settings with the same results.

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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Fantasy for Real

 

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Fantasy Basketball All-Time Draft – Possible Rules

Whenever you want to compare the greatest players in the history or you just want to play fantasy basketball without any current games in the NBA [like during lockout...], all-time fantasy draft is a way to go.

Let me start this topic by addressing two main concerns about this game…
[if you don't have any or you are ready to roll do yourself a favour and scroll down one page].

“Isn’t it too predictable since we know everything about the past?”.

I agree it could be a concern but there are four strong counter-arguments:

1) Even if we assume we know everything about retired players, there always will be a gray area because of the differences between eras.
For example, would Bill Russell belong to all-time greats if he played against today’s athletes?
Would fringe NBA player from the 90s dominate in the late 50s? How many stars would be out of the league in a different era when their best skills were considered less valuable? Etc.

2) Even though we have easily available statistics from the past it’s not obvious how to interpret them.
Simple example: Dennis Rodman. Was he one of the all-time greats or merely lucky and good role-player?
How changes in the NBA rules over time would affect players’ past accomplishments?
Would Steve Nash have a great and long career [with two MVP awards] if he was drafted in the 1990 or is he a product of changes in hand-check rules? How many rebounds per game would Wilt Chamberlain have in today’s NBA with different approach to the game’s pace and defence? Etc.

3) You don’t know what other managers will do in such draft.
That’s a key element of uncertainty in this game. Even if you choose only 100 players eligible to be drafted it creates enormous possibilities for creative roster management. Keep in mind that if you have obvious strategy, opponents can quickly see through it and react accordingly.

4) With a simple tweaks you can greatly improve uncertainty [more specifics on that below].

“How can you possibly do it more than once?
Isn’t it by definition very repetitive exercise?”

That’s a possibility… but only if you play over and over by the same rules.
One simple change in them can significantly alter your draft strategy! For example, you can add a rule “you have to draft someone from [enter different decade or team] at least 2/3/4/etc times”. That change alone creates many unique draft scenarios. What’s more, you can also limit available pool of players, for example by excluding obvious choices like Jordan or MVPs, or All-Stars, or players in their prime or players under 6-5… you get the idea. Possibilities are limitless.

I have no idea whenever those changes would allow you to have fun but that really depends on your preferences and it’s not because game’s rules are too obvious and too limited.

With all that in mind here are possible rules for fantasy basketball All-Time Draft

Head-to-head imaginary games.

How can it work: you draft a team and then debate with other GMs why it would be the best one and/or why it would win all it’s matchups. You can create as many rounds as you wish. After that judges [which could mean "other GMs in this league"] vote which case seems the most convincing. It’s probably the most common version played of all-time draft and examples can be found on RealGM, multiple times actually and other places.

IMHO key features: It generates a LOT of discussions, arguments and additional research. I mean A LOT!
It’s also the only option for people who don’t like using statistics as an argument or as a deciding factor.
IMHO key bugs: You need a LOT of time to do it. Your debating skills may be more important than your team. Almost every unconventional idea is either doomed or at a clear disadvantage because of a voting process.

Classic rotisserie scoring, 1 season.

How can it work: You draft one season of any players in the history and after rosters are completed you sum all their statistics by standard rotisserie scoring to determine the winner.
One possible tweak is to draft players and then draft his seasons between those who drafted the same player.

IMHO key features: Simplicity. Probably the best option for fantasy beginners or just to warm up.
Creates many questions you wouldn’t even consider otherwise [how would Olajuwon defend Olajuwon?].
Also if everyone can have their own Jordan’s season isn’t it ultimately fair?
IMHO key bugs: strange feeling of having the same players on many teams.
Usually very limited number of players used. Mess if you want to consider defense.

Rotisserie scoring, 1 season, every player only once in the league.

How can it work: You draft one season of any players in the history but once player is drafted his whole career is off the board and his other season can’t be drafted. In the end you sum all their statistics by standard rotisserie scoring to determine the winner.

IMHO key features: The most similar system to the standard non-keeper fantasy draft.
Very easy to calculate and probably requires the least amount of time.
IMHO key bugs: first few picks in this draft are way better than those at the end of first round so either you have cut players at the top out of the pool or you have to balance this by additional changes in the draft order.

Rotisserie or fantasy points scoring, careers and random season.

How can it work: You draft player’s career and then you have randomly assigned one of his seasons.
In the end you sum all players’ stats by standard rotisserie or fantasy points scoring to determine the winner.

IMHO key features: creates an unique perspective and choices regarding players’ careers.
For example, do you prefer short career where greatness is mixed in with some duds or merely good career but very consistent one? Do you prefer a risk of having one very bad season or 50% chance of average one?
Additionally thanks to a layer of randomness it’s probably the best option if you don’t like rotisserie scoring and prefer simple fantasy points system.
IMHO key bugs: active players have an advantage over retired ones because they haven’t played those end of the road seasons yet. But obviously you can limit how many of them can be drafted by one team.

Rotisserie or Head-to-head, 1 season, random games.

How can it work: You draft one season of any player in the history and after the draft you randomly choose single games from given season [it can be 10 games, it can be 41, it mostly depends on "how much randomness do you want to apply and how much time do you want to spend on it"]. In the end you sum all players’ statistics by standard rotisserie or head-to-head scoring to determine the winner.

IMHO key features: Probably the best way to play head-to-head matchups.
The most efficient way to account for injuries and to generate uncertainty.
IMHO key bugs: it can’t be a full all-time draft because we have easily available data only since 1986.
Also it’s probably the most time-consuming option.

Do you have any other idea how such all-time draft can be done?

If the answer is yes, please let me know in the comments.

If you would like to participate in such draft I recommend RealGM forum [for option with descriptions] and
I could gladly organize any other game on this blog so let me know if you are interested ;-)

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Fantasy for Real

 

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Brainstorming Ideas for New CBA in the NBA

I have no illusion that anyone can “solve” NBA lockout mostly because IMHO lockout is not about “fair shares” or “equal partners” or anything like that but it’s a negotiating tactic in a battle of wills.
It’s like two people pulling rope in an opposite direction, there’s no right or wrong there, it’s simply about which one of them is stronger and/or better skilled etc.
So I write this post simply as a way to present [and hopefully discuss] some CBA-related ideas…

Tackling NCAA vs NBA puzzle

NBA’s “solution” is simply to raise the age limit to enter NBA draft which IMHO is ridiculous on many levels but I shouldn’t commit the sin of attacking someone’s ideas without offering alternatives of my own so…
Everyone after high-school [or 18 years old] can enter NBA draft but with this wrinkle:
if they are drafted their new team can assign them to NBDL with max salary set for example at 50-150k$ per year range [depending on draft position] and paid by NBA team. This situation can last up to 3 years and every season in NCAA would shorten that max by one year. If a player is called up from NBDL to NBA his salary becomes typical rookie scale contract and it can’t be lowered again to previous value.
So to sum up, players could earn money playing basketball in the USA right after high-school but it wouldn’t hurt NBA teams financially and there would be a very strong incentive to stay in the NCAA if someone was not ready to contribute in the NBA right away.

Which side would be screwed in this scenario?

Seriously, Why Team’s Prices aren’t a Factor in this CBA?

Even though I wrote about this topic on July 6 thanks to a very informative interview with economist Rodney Fort on Wages of Wins I think I finally put a finger on two things: what’s technically wrong with Roster Depreciation Allowance from player’s point of view even though it’s perfectly legal procedure and how to easily fix it.

From league’s financial point of view every change of ownership creates huge losses and zero revenues.
The first part is understandable for everyone involved [again, I highly recommend that podcast] but I think the second part should be under heavy attack from NBPA. Why? Thanks to league’s growth and/or player’s actions someone earned hundreds of millions and league have nothing to show for it? What?
What’s more, EVERY change of ownership is actually hurtful to player’s bottom line? Again, whaaaat?!

You can find all those ownership changes here but I think this one couldn’t be more fitting:
in 2001 Howard Schultz bought a majority of Seattle SuperSonics for around 250M$ [adjusted for inflation].
5 years later [not a coincidence by the way, before 2004 RDA could be used for 5 years!] he sold it to Clay Bennett for around 380M$ [again adjusted for the inflation].
Here’s the catch: in the NBA books you probably could find both of those prices as a cost spread out over longer period and you couldn’t find anything about really impressive profit earned on this change of hands!

As far as I know every such transaction in the NBA has to be approved by them…
so why not create a 10-25% tax from every such transfer and put it into the BRI?
Shouldn’t NBPA fight over that and not over every percentage point of BRI?
Especially when you consider information like this tweet from Larry Coon: my guys have boiled it down to a formula — X points in BRI means $Y increase in average franchise value.

Owner’s incentives to increase team’s revenue

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Posted by on November 7, 2011 in Unanswered Questions

 

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