The 2011 NBA Draft will be held on Thursday night and the consensus seems to be that the Cleveland Cavaliers will take Duke point guard Kyrie Irving with the first pick. Not surprisingly, the top pick is the most likely spot to get the player that will turn out to be the best pro.
However, history has also shown that the worst spot in the draft might be the very next selection.
Last month, after the NBA Draft lottery, Timberwolves General Manager David Kahn jokingly suggested that the lottery was fixed to make sure the Cavs got the top pick. And looking back at the recent history of players picked second, the T-Wolves might be screwed.
Here is a summary of all the players drafted with each of the top 30 picks in the draft since 2001 and how many Wins per year (based on Win Shares*) each pick has been worth on average…
Since 2001, players taken with the top pick have been worth 6.0 Wins per season on average.
But what is interesting is how poorly number two picks have been. Three of the spots after the second pick have done better on average, including the third pick which has been worth nearly as much as the top pick.
In fact, if you consider that the third pick will be paid about $1.0 million less per year than the top pick, you could argue that the the third pick has been just as valuable as the top pick over the last decade.
It is also interesting to look at these results past the tenth pick. Once you get out of the top 10, it is basically a crapshoot. Players picked in the late 20s are typically just as valuable as players picked in the teens. And if you consider that the players at the end of the first round will cost less, it is probably better to have a pick at the end of the first round, rather than the middle.
* Win Shares is a statistic that looks at a players all-around game and calculates how many wins that players contributed to his team that season. LeBron James led the NBA with 15.6 Wins this past season. All data via Basketball-Reference.com.
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