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  • Ryan Bernardoni

2018 NBA Draft Pick Value Card


Two years ago I created an NBA Draft Pick Value Card modeled after the ones commonly used in the NFL. You can find the original details here; the basic model has not changed. I did find a few players who still had name overlaps in the basketball-reference data and fixed those, though they make almost no difference. The analysis uses win shares, minutes played, and award from the first five seasons of a career so this update adds in the 2013 class.


The 2013 draft was a very strange one, but the data that goes into the analysis goes back to 1985 so any single class doesn't make much of a difference. In each of the past two years the values have shifted slightly but not in any substantial way. I'll continue to update it each yeah, but barring a change in the overall model the value line will stay around where it is now.

Shortly after I released the first edition of the card, Kevin Pelton published a similar project for ESPN. Pelton has a much longer track record on things like this than I do, so understandably his gets referenced a lot more often than mine does. In the first version of his card the values were quite a bit different. In the current version, his value line has come down to be much closer to mine.

The main difference between our pick values is that I don't force a drop between Rounds 1 and 2. The contract structures are different, which is a factor in Pelton's and not mine, but we both think that the player value is very similar. Additionally, I believe that it depends on team circumstances if they would actually prefer the flexibility of a second round pick or the draft rights exception, and commensurate guaranteed contract, or a first rounder.


The other difference between our cards where it's not contract-related is that he believes that there's more a drop-off from #1 to #3 than I do, and that forces them to split from picks 2-7. Still, the difference between where he values the 3rd pick and I do is the equivalent value to about the 40th pick in the draft, so it's still not very big. In general, I think that the fact that the value lines are similar but have some noticeable differences is an indication that my project came out pretty accurately.


It also worth noting that this is much more a theoretical thing than it is in the NFL. In football, where rosters are big and lots of people play significant numbers of snaps, it's common for there to be trades involving lots of picks. In the NBA, no one really wants to trade four 20th picks for one 1st pick. Even if the value over time has historically been the same, the team with four players wouldn't be able to fit them on the roster and develop them and then get them on the floor.


In that way, this tool is helpful for judging the sort of standard 2-for-1 trades that happen in the NBA, or in trying to value swaps or player for pick trades, but not for much more than that.


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