For fans feeling bummed out about "dropping" from 6th to 7th in draft order this evening, I have good news! Players drafted in the 7th position have fared on average far better than those drafted in the 6th position over the past 21 drafts. Yes, of course, Dame was a 6th overall selection, and he's the greatest. But based on historical averages of VORP and Win Share (two of the most widely used advanced statistics in basketball), we're more likely to get a more effective player with the 7th pick. See below.
Average Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) Rating since 2000
- Players drafted at 6th: 6.4
- Players drafted at 7th: 7.6
- Difference: +1.2
Average total Win Share since 2000
- Players drafted at 6th: 22.3
- Players drafted at 7th: 30.6 (!)
- Difference: +8.3
A few notables taken at 7th include -
- Jamal Murray (2016)
- Julius Randle (2014)
- Harrison Barnes (2012)
- Steph Curry (2009)*
- Eric Gordon (2008)
- Luol Deng (2004)
- Kirk Hinrich (2003)
- Nene! (2002)
This list is a bit longer than the one for notable 6th picks -
- Marcus Smart (2014)
- Nerlens Noel (2013)
- Dame (2012)
- Danilo Galinari (2008)
- Brandon Roy (2006)
- Chris Kaman (2003)
- Shane Battier (2001)
Big picture, NBA teams are just not that good yet at predicting which players will ultimately succeed, otherwise there'd be a much stronger correlation between a player's outcomes (both basic and advanced stats) and their draft order. Keep in mind this is a league that selected Anthony Bennett first overall in the same draft that took 15 selections before someone chose Giannis. And let's not forget the head scratcher that was the first round of the 2017 draft, when Bam, Donovan Mitchell, John Collins, and Jarrett Allen were all chosen after Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Frank Ntilikina, and Dennis Smith Jr.
Of course, the environment that a player gets drafted into during the first chapter of his career matters a ton. Who knows - maybe if Fultz would've gone to a team with a more patient front office and more *cough* friendly fanbase, his path would've been different. But environment can't fully explain away the tremendous variety reflected in players' outputs once they get into the league, relative to their draft position.
So perk up, Portland! We have a top 10 pick in an exciting draft. That we aren't selecting as high as we would've liked may end up being a bummer long term, but if history is any teacher, we're no worse off than we would've been with a slightly higher pick (and in fact, for inexplicable reasons, maybe things are even a little rosier).
*For all you well actually types out there waiting to raise your finger about "Well Steph Curry throws off the averages for Pick 7's because he's one of the greatest ever," you're not wrong that he greatly affects the averages. But if you're going to omit outliers for one category, you'd have to omit outliers for the other, meaning Dame for the 6th picks. When you take out Steph and Dame, the averages converge pretty significantly, and neither pick appears much superior to the other. But we don't omit outliers because these are real players whose results matter.