(All Hail Nikola Jokic)
The college season has just started. However, the European leagues have been going since mid-October, meaning I have enough games to start re-cranking up the P-AWS Draft model, at least for those players.
For this post I am going to focus on a couple of the guys that have actually already been drafted, but were among those players 'stashed' every year in Europe. The group increasingly includes US college players who are encouraged by the drafting club not to sign their offer sheet and instead go overseas.
I am stretching the draft model a bit by applying it to players a year after they're drafted. The main concern is the aging curve since that tells us not only about the player's expected development, but also the level of interest NBA teams have shown in them, as more sought after players will come out earlier. I believe we'll still get valid results as all of the players are still in the age range on which the model was validated and the fact that they have not been signed by a team mitigates the signal of interest being drafted a year ago for all except Dario Saric, who expressly chose to stay an extra year in Europe.
There also likely isn't enough data available to build a reliable 'Euro Stash' only model based entirely on post-draft data. There are also a couple of features of the model that help us evaluate players in terms of progress including the age curve, but also adjustments for the level of competition, a replacement reversion that rewards more minutes of good production on the court, and weights for the more developmentally indicative statistical categories.
Each player is playing outside the NBA but is one year older than last year, which the model will calculate as a negative. So in order the score as well in the model as they did prior to the draft they need to show a couple of things; most notably improved efficiency and production in line with the development curve, increased playing time showing more trust and responsibility with the team, or moving up a level of competition in terms of opponents.
On to the players summed up in the table below:
A couple of highlights from this:
- Nilola Jokic is putting up MVP level numbers in the Adriatic League. He will definitely be ready to move up a level in competition next year within Europe if not to the NBA. Jokic's projection last year was significantly based on potential, which he's living up to thus far. If Jokic continues this level of play for the full year his score in the model will improve even beyond his lottery pick score last year.
- Dario Saric is holding his own at the higher Euroleague level as well as in the Turkish Basketball league (TBL). His production is also at a level that could put him higher than last year's score.
- Walter Tavares has basically held steady in every facet, competition, playing time and production, except for age. That's modestly disappointing, but given his size and relative inexperience he may still pan out.
- Vasilije Micic hasn't produced a lot yet in Euroleague play, but the model still credits him for going up a level. However, if he doesn't produce a more efficient rate, in his case produce some steals, reduce turnovers and hit some threes, his lackluster production will drag his projection down further.
- Bogdan Bogdanovic has played Jeckyl and Hyde in Euroleague and the TBL for overall mediocre numbers, though again that is a higher level of competition than last year. Phoenix took Bogdanovic in the first round likely with the understanding that he wouldn't come over, he remains a borderline prospect by my model.
- Alessandro Gentile has had a tough season so far, as has his team EA7 Milan. His numbers in Euroleague have basically been sub-replacement level. I can't imagine him coming over next year unless he and Milan turn things around to make a deep run.
- Xavir Thames, like Micic, at this point is getting credit for moving up in competition, in case from the NCAA to the Spanish and Euroleague. But he needs to up his production at the level to prove he can move even further up to the NBA.
- Nemanja Dangubic got drafted based mostly on his performance at Euro Camp being named the MVP. He hasn't produced terrific numbers playing before or since, basically calling the external validity of those gatherings into question. One thing every scout or executive should remember, there is nothing intrinsically more valuable in the games/plays you happen to be looking at than the ones you don't. If you happen to see a prospect on his best/worst day you don't throw away the rest of the sample.
- Louis Labeyrie, wasn't on the Draft Express top one hundred, which I use as a filter for the model, so I didn't project him. His numbers look solid but not extraordinary.
It looks like the two front runners from last year, Saric and Jokic, are still the leaders to find their way to the NBA and to make an impact.