Last summer I wrote a series of FanPosts projecting how well UK’s incoming freshmen would play in the 2011-12 season. Now that we’re in the post-championship, post-signing day afterglow, I thought I’d take a look back at my 2011 projections and see if they are accurate enough to make it worth doing again for UK’s 2012 crew of Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, Willie Cauley, and (hopefully) Anthony Bennett. As an added bonus, this will also let us see if UK’s 2011 freshmen class outperformed their similarly ranked compatriots, perhaps giving further credence to the “Kentucky Effect.” That’s what follows after the jump.
To make my projections, I took each player’s Scout.com position ranking and averaged the freshman year stats of the past five players Scout ranked in the same slot. For example, Anthony Davis was Scout’s #1 ranked power forward in 2011, so I averaged the statistics of Scout’s #1 power forward from 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. This allowed me to make an informed guess as to how Anthony Davis would perform as a freshman. I then used the same method to make projections for the other three freshmen.
Anthony Davis was the #1 PF recruit and #1 overall. He averaged 14.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, and 4.7 BPG. The past five #1 PF recruits were Tobias Harris, John Henson, Samardo Samuels, Michael Beasley, and Brandon Wright. Combined, they averaged 14.7 PPG, 7.04 RPG, 1.06 APG, and 1.44 BPG. So Anthony Davis was significantly better rebounder and shot-blocker (what a surprise!) than the average #1 PF recruit. He was very near average in terms of scoring and assists. I hasten to add that these stats underrate Anthony Davis significantly because I didn’t look at efficiency stats. Needless to say his 14.3 PPG on 62% is much better than, for example, Tobias Harris’s 15.3 PPG on 46% shooting.
It’s a bit silly to compare Anthony Davis to other recruits. He’s simply too awesome. There’s not a single person in college basketball who would even think for a second of taking any of the other players on this list over Ant (and Michael Beasley is on this list). So while his impact can’t be measured in stats, we can say that this projection was pretty good at predicting Anthony Davis’s stats. My subjective prediction for Anthony Davis was 14 PPG, 8 RPG, 3 BPG, which I feel pretty good about.
If you want to see the original FanPost (which has more analysis), the link is: http://www.aseaofblue.com/2011/7/1/2254266/anthony-davis-what-to-expect-based-on-the-stats-of-similar-recruits
Gillie was Scout’s #1 SF and #5 player overall. Last year he averaged 11.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.9 BPG, and 1.0 SPG. The last five #1 SF recruits were Harrison Barnes, Lance Stephenson, Demar DeRozan, Kyle Singler, and Kevin Durant. The first thing I did was remove Kevin Durant from the list. He is the very definition of a statistical outlier. Losing him took the sample size down to four, but it’s not like five was statistically significant anyhow. The four non-Durant players averaged 13.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.4 BPG, and 0.9 SPG. Looking at Gillie, we can see he was below average in PPG, but significantly above average in RPG. He was right about average in assists and steals.
Once again, we all know statistics don’t do Gillie justice. His ability to lead by example and his relentless energy and defensive pressure puts him above every non-Durant player on the list. It’s also interesting to note, with Shabazz Muhammad in mind, that every #1 SF since Durant has scored between 11.8 PPG (Gillie) and 15.7 PPG (Barnes). Just keep that in mind if you’re thinking Shabazz will be a 20 PPG scorer in UCLA’s mid-tempo offense.
I’m going to toot my own horn by quoting my subjective projection for Gillie: “I’m confident he will average more than 5.7 RPG, if only because he’s likely to spend at least a little time at PF (and scouting reports do indicate he’s a good rebounder). I’ll go out on a limb and say 7 RPG. I also think, though, that 13.8 PPG might be a few too many. Given the number of scoring options UK will have next year, Gillie looks to me like a guy that won’t have many plays run for him. I’ll guess 12 PPG earned through hustle on the boards and on the break. On the defensive side, where all scouting reports are absolutely glowing, I’ll say 1 BPG and 1.5 SPG.” So yeah, I feel pretty good about that one.
Marquis Teague was Scout’s #1 PG and #7 overall player. He averaged 10 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 4.8 APG, and 0.9 SPG his freshman year. The last five Scout #1 PGs were Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Kemba Walker, OJ Mayo, and Ty Lawson. So illustrious company. They averaged 14.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4.5 APG, and 1.5 SPG. We can see that Marquis was significantly below average in PPG and below average in rebounds and steals. He was slightly above average in assists. I should’ve looked at turnovers, but sadly I did not. Marquis ended up averaging 2.7 turnovers per game, which I suspect is above average.
Teague’s statistics in the listed categories are clearly inferior to the point guards who came before him; however, Irving, Wall, and Mayo do drag up several of the categories. Teague compares pretty well to Lawson and Kemba. Also, there is one thing that Teague did much better than the other point guards in their freshman seasons: he won the National Championship. My subjective projection for Teague was super-bullish on assists. I said 13 PPG and 6.8 APG. I was wrong.
Last and, honestly, least (but we still love him) is Kyle Wiltjer. He was Scout’s #2 ranked center and #22 overall player. This posed a problem. Scout’s past five #2 ranked centers were Jared Sullinger, Boogie Cousins, J’Mison Morgan, DeAndre Jordan, and Spencer Hawes. Clearly Wiltjer was a different kind of player. I should’ve switched to a different recruiting site, but I didn’t. What did have value, was looking at how Scout’s #22 overall players performed. Those guys (Ray McCallum Jr., Dominic Cheek, DeQuan Jones, Durrell Summers, and DaJuan Summers) averaged 7.04 PPG their freshman seasons. Wiltjer averaged 5 PPG, somewhat below average. My subjective assessment for Wiltjer was “around 5 PPG” due to lack of playing time, so I suppose huzzah for me again. If you’re interested, the 5 listed guys averaged 9.32 PPG their sophomore years.
I think this exercise is worthwhile. The projections for Davis and Gillie were right on the money and the comparison for Teague was illustrative, if not terribly accurate in the end. The Wiljter comp was scuttled by Evan Daniels’s insistence that KWilt is a center and my refusal to switch scouting services. Once more I’ll reiterate that all our players are better than their individual statistics indicate. When it comes to player evaluation, stats aren’t a wholesale substitute for actual basketball knowledge. It must be said, however, that UK’s 2011 did not outperform their similarly ranked predecessors in the simple statistical categories that I used (although they mostly did in the advanced stats, but you’ll have to look those up yourself). If you want to find the Kentucky Effect, you have to look at how far UK advanced and how highly the players will be drafted.
Nonetheless, the projections were pretty accurate. This summer I’ll once again create a statistical projection for each of the incoming freshman. I look forward to Nerlens Noel.