Sergi Xaudiera

Charting Skill and Chance in the NBA Draft

Originally published 22 May 2013 by Sergi Xaudiera

We are big fans of NY Times’’ data team. After reading Charting Skill and Chance in the N.F.L. Draft we wondered if we could do something similar for the NBA draft. We wanted to see the position where best players are drafted each year.

So we did it.

We collected data from basketball-reference.com. And then we used all players drafted on the NBA draft from 1992 to 2012 and Win Shares as a performance indicator.

As NYTimes crew did, we first started plotting players. As it was too noisy we simplified it calculating the mean for each draft position, and that’’s the result. As the NBA has less picks than NFL we got a cleanest image. Colors show draft round.

% Mean for every position

After this first approach to the data, we wanted to see where the 5 most productive players. They are compared to others who were drafted in the same edition. Athletes like Manu Ginobili o Marc Gasol were picked, but they started playing in the NBA some seasons later.

Some interested stuff in this graph:

% The 5 most productive players from each draft since 1992, and where they were selected

As bonus-track. We wanted to see when all the best NBA players were drafted. We draw a heatmap where blue intensity is the player performance (darkest blue = best performance).

% When the best NBA players were drafted

All these charts were made with R and Inkscape. Our goal is to get practice on data visualization, and learn imitating from the best.