The Odds of Landing a Star: A Look at Past Drafts

The 2013-2014 Philadelphia 76ers are going to be bad. Reeeaallly bad. But that's a good thing. And with so much talk about just how good the 2014 draft class is, I wanted to take a look at past draft classes to get an idea of what can be expected out of each pick.

What I did was take a look back at all the draft classes from 1985 (the year the draft lottery was instituted) until 2010 (allowing for the players to have at least 3 years of NBA experience). A player who became an all-star (a high caliber player - probably in the top 10 in the NBA at his position) registers the score of a "B" to that draft position. A player who made an All-NBA team (probably a player that is top 3 in the NBA at his position) registers the score of an "A". I only looked at the first round because getting a all-star caliber player in the second round is more blind luck than anything else.

Stars in the NBA have always mattered. From getting fouls called in your favor to attracting other teams stars, it is essential for a team to have multiple star players to contend for an NBA championship. In fact no team in the past 30 years has made the NBA finals without at least 2 star players. Even the 2004 Pistons, who everyone points to as an outlier, had 2 "A" players (Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace) and 2 "B" players (Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton) in their starting lineup. A few of the worst teams to make the NBA finals were the 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers who sported 2 "A" players (Lebron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas) and a bunch of garbage, and the 2009 Magic who had only 1 "A" player (Dwight Howard) and 1 "B" player (Jameer Nelson).

So essentially a team will need to have a collection of, at the very least, 2 all-star caliber players. Here's a look at the draft results.

Draft Year 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10
1: A A A B A A A A B A A A B A A A B A A
2: B B A B A A A B A A A
3: A B A A B B A A A A A A A A
4: B A A B A B A A A
5: A A B A A A A A B
6: B B B B B A
7: A A B B
8: A A
9: B A A A A B B
10: B A A A B A B A
11: A B B B
12: B
13: A B A
14: B A A
15: A
16: B B A
17: A A B B B
18: B B B B
19: B B A
20: A B
21: B B A
22: B
23: B
24: B A A A B
25: A B
26: B
27: A
28: A
29: B
30: A A

A few things that really jump out. The 1996 Draft was loaded (8 "A" players - including Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant - just to name a few) - more so even that the highly touted 2003 draft (4 "A" players - Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh).

And holy crap was the 2000 draft bad. 2 "B" players. That's it.

The following chart shows how the numbers shake out for each draft position.

Pick # A: B: Total:
1: 57% 15% 72%
2: 27% 12% 39%
3: 35% 15% 50%
4: 27% 12% 39%
5: 31% 8% 39%
6: 4% 19% 23%
7: 8% 8% 16%
8: 8% 0% 8%
9: 15% 12% 27%
10: 19% 12% 31%
11: 4% 12% 16%
12: 0% 4% 4%
13: 8% 4% 12%
14: 4% 8% 12%
15: 4% 0% 4%
16: 4% 8% 12%
17: 8% 12% 20%
18: 4% 15% 19%
19: 4% 8% 12%
20: 4% 4% 8%
21: 4% 8% 12%
22: 0% 4% 4%
23: 0% 4% 4%
24: 12% 8% 20%
25: 4% 4% 8%
26: 0% 4% 4%
27: 4% 0% 4%
28: 4% 0% 4%
29: 0% 4% 4%
30: 8% 0% 8%

Here we can see the curse of the #2 pick in full effect, with only 39% of draft picks going on to become all-stars. However its shocking to see the fate #8 picks have had in the draft, with only 8% going on to become stars. Spots with sneaky value? The number 10 and 24 spots, with 31% and 20% respectively.

This is by no means a predictor of what future draft picks will accomplish, just an interesting look at the past to see what percentage of players have risen to stardom given the slot they were drafted at.

And again having the title of being an all-star player is not an end-all-be-all for success in the NBA. For example a pretty mediocre player like Jamal Magloire qualified as a B player, whereas much-better-than-average players like Marcus Camby and Mike Bibby did not.

However, in the NBA, perception of being a star player may be more valuable than performing like a star player. Andre Iguodala performed as the best player on the Sixers for years, but no super star was ever taking their talents to Broad Stretch to join forces with Andre. No, the NBA is about having the image of stardom. Like it or not - that's the way it is. But over the next few years the 76ers will be in great position to land a few of those talents.

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