Friday, April 30, 2010

From Draft Day to LOB Day

While watching San Antonio win its playoff series against Dallas last night, I noted that the Spurs have a whopping five players in their rotation whom they originally drafted: Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Hill, and Blair. Other than Duncan (1997 #1), all the others were late first-round picks or second-round picks. They surely must have the best scouting department in the league.

By contrast, the Thunder, the NBA's youngest team, also have several regulars whom they drafted, but almost all in the lottery: Westbrook, Harden, Collison, Durant, Green, Ibaka. (Collison, as we noted in this 2008 post, has been with the Sonics/Thunder franchise since 2003.)

Upon some tallying, as shown below, it seems that most playoff teams, even those perceived as "young" or "up and coming", have just 4 or 5 rotation players whom they drafted. The team with the greatest number of original draftees in its rotation turns out to be Portland, with 7.

Building a winning team mainly with draft picks is difficult, as it requires predicting on-court chemistry before players enter their prime, and really before they've even met each other. If you get your draft picks "right", as Oklahoma City and Portland have, then you can quickly win while paying cheap rookie salaries. If you screw up your picks, as Charlotte has (D.J. Augustin over Brook Lopez? Gerald Henderson over Ty Lawson?) then your re-building project will fail and you will be doomed to start over a few years hence. Aside from Portland and the Thunder, there are few playoff teams that have "grown up" together from draft day to huge postseason success. Most successful teams require a significant trade or free-agent signing (think Bill Cartwright to the Bulls, Dennis Rodman to the Bulls, Pau Gasol to the Lakers, Mark Aguirre to the Pistons, Rashard Lewis to the Magic) before they can fully ascend.

(For purposes of this list below, "drafted" includes trading for a player's rights shortly after some other team drafted him, as happened with Gortat, Hilario, Fesenko, Fernandez. This also includes the signing of undrafted free agents, such as Chris Andersen, J.J. Barea, Wesley Matthews, Udonis Haslem. This includes players presently injured but ordinarily part of the rotation such as Oden, Redd, Kirilenko. Finally, I am generously including players on their second stop with their original team, including PGs such as Kidd, Nash, Fisher.)


  • Boston: Pierce, Rondo, Perkins, T.Allen, Davis

  • Orlando: Nelson, Howard, Redick, Gortat

  • Cleveland: James, Varejao, Ilgauskas, Hickson, occasionally Gibson

  • Atlanta: Williams, Horford, Smith, Teague

  • Miami: Wade, Wright, Haslem, Chalmers, Beasley, occasionally Cook

  • Milwaukee: Jennings, Bogut, Redd, Mbah a Moute, Ilyasova, Gadzuric

  • Charlotte: Wallace, Felton, Augustin

  • Chicago: Rose, Noah, Deng, Gibson, Hinrich (all NCAA standouts, as documented in our previous post here)

  • Los Angeles: Fisher, Bryant, Bynum, Walton, occasionally Vujaci
  • c
  • OKC: Westbrook, Harden, Collison, Durant, Green, Ibaka

  • San Antonio: Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Blair, Hill

  • Phoenix: Nash, Stoudemire, Lopez, Dragic, Barbosa

  • Denver: Anthony, Hilario, Lawson, Andersen

  • Utah: Williams, Matthews, Fesenko, Kirilenko, Miles, Millsap

  • Dallas: Kidd, Nowitzki, Beaubois, Barea

  • Portland: Roy, Aldridge, Oden, Webster, Batum, Fernandez, Bayless

    Anonymous said...

    Misleading to list Nash -- he came of age with Dallas and only returned to his original team many years later!

    Bhel Atlantic said...

    Anonymous: Yes, I acknowledged in the post that I was being charitable by listing Kidd, Nash, and Fisher.