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Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The Importance of Which Team Drafts You

We have an article up on The Situationist today entitled "The Situation of the NBA Draft." It's premised on the idea that many, if not most, players selected in the NBA Draft will succeed or fail largely due to the situation of the team that drafts them. In other words, some players will find themselves in the right environment in terms of teammates and coaches and fans, while others will wind up playing in the wrong offense, with the wrong coach, in the wrong city. These situational factors can be enormously influential in whether the player succeeds or fails in the NBA.

However, when we evaluate these players, we usually focus on presumed, but often immeasurable and perhaps misunderstood qualities, like "how hard they work" or whether they have the "drive to succeed" (whatever that actually means). In other words, we tend to overlook the situation, and focus on the disposition, and that may not be the best way to judge players.

This same point is true of most jobs, of course. Who we work with, and who we work for, have enormous influence on how well we work. Yet often the situation of our employment (and of our relationships and pretty much anything we do) is overlooked by others. Indeed, the only way to really appreciate the situation of others is to be in it.

We hope you check out our analysis.


Both posts are interesting but I wonder why a team would draft a player that is not a good fit for that team's situation. For example, why did the Washington Wizards draft Kwame Brown several years ago? Wrong coach, wrong teammates (Jordan included), wrong style of play, and perhaps the wrong city.

Do teams draft the wrong player because they do not scout well? Because they believe they can alter the player to their system ("I can change him")? Because they just want to draft "the best player available"?

(Oh, and you can ask the same question in other sports. For example, look at most of the Washington Redskin's free agent signings ever since Dan Snyder bought the team.)

Anonymous David -- 4/24/2007 11:27 AM  


Thank you for your comments, you raise several excellent points.

I agree with the explanations you've identified for why teams would draft players who become poor fits (i.e., bad scouting; overly-optimistic coaches/staff; best player available). Maybe another one is a disconnect in basketball philosophy between the coach and the general manager.

I also agree that these same reasons apply to other sports, and the Redskins seem like Exhibit A on that front. That reminds me of when Bill Parcells was coaching the Patriots and he felt that he didn't have enough input on the draft and he said, "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries." Great quote, isn't it?

Blogger Michael McCann -- 4/24/2007 11:42 AM  

This is the reason that bottom feeders specifically in the NBA stay as bottom feeders. They keep on drafting the best player instead of the best player that fits their situation. This is why I aplauded the Texans this year when they took Mario Williams over Reggie Bush because he was a better need, fit, than Bush. Obviously everything that could have went wrong went wrong, so it ended up being bad for them, but idealy I think it was a great move. If in the NBA, organizations started picking the best player for the system, instead of the best athlete, with the most potential.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/24/2007 10:59 PM  

I think economic theory (coase) would suggest that teams should draft the most highly valued player on the board, irregardless of any particular team needs. They could then trade that player to a different team that values him more, presumably for more value in return.

For example, Reggie Bush was clearly the most valued player in last year's draft. The Texans, given their situation, seemed to prefer Mario Williams. They could have drafted Bush, then dealt him to, say, whoever picked Williams, plus another player or cash or something. This makes the Texans better off because now they have Williams + some other form of added value.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/26/2007 10:50 AM  

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