Assessing Joe Dumars’ draft record too often becomes an exercise in cherry picking.
He chose Darko, so he’s terrible! He found Tayshaun Prince in a weak draft, so he’s great!
That sort of analysis is unhelpful. Dumars has made some great draft picks. He’s also made some terrible picks. That’s true of anyone whose been a general manager as long as he has.
To truly gauge Dumars’ drafting ability, we should look at the entire body of work. Thankfully, Justin Kubatko of Basketball-Reference.com developed a system to do just that.
Kubatko created a chart of win shares a player should earn during his first four seasons, based on draft position. Using just the first four years – the length of rookie scale contracts – most fairly links a draftees’ play with the executive who picked him, rather than skewing the numbers with the player’s production long after he’s drafted.
The drawback to this method is just the draft classes that have spent four years in the NBA can be assessed. That means Austin Daye (likely a bad pick), DaJuan Summers (likely a bad pick), Jonas Jerebko (already earned more win shares than expected), Greg Monroe (certainly a good pick), Terrico White (almost certainly a bad pick), Brandon Knight (tossup), Kyle Singler (tossup) and Vernon Macklin (tossup) can’t be evaluated yet.
I think that’s fair. If we truly want to grade Dumars’ drafting, there’s no point declaring someone like Knight a success or failure at this very moment.
I also think it’s fair to include his 2008 draft picks, even though they’re not four seasons removed from being drafted. Two – Trent Plaisted and Deron Washington – never played in the NBA and likely never will, and the one who did – Walter Sharpe – might be even less likely to join an NBA team in the future.
Here’s Dumars’ draft history, from 2000-08, with each player’s expected and actual win shares through the first four seasons of his career:
|2000||1||14||Mateen Cleaves||Michigan State||9.9||-0.8||-10.7|
|2001||1||9||Rodney White||North Carolina-Charlotte||12.7||1.8||-10.9|
|2003||1||2||Darko Milicic||Serbia and Montenegro||22.1||4.1||-18.0|
|2005||2||56||Amir Johnson||Westchester H.S. (Calif.)||1.1||6.4||5.3|
|2006||2||60||Will Blalock||Iowa State||0.7||-0.1||-0.8|
|2007||1||15||Rodney Stuckey||Eastern Washington||9.4||13.6||4.2|
|2008||2||46||Trent Plaisted||Brigham Young||2.4||0.0||-2.4|
|2008||2||59||Deron Washington||Virginia Tech||0.8||0.0||-0.8|
A +16.5 in win shares is significant. That’s enough leeway to for all of Dumars’ picks through Monroe to retire today and still have Dumars come out ahead. Put another way, you could add a No. 5 pick who never played a minute in the NBA to the ledger, and Dumars would still have a positive draft record.
Granted, maybe Dumars shouldn’t get too much credit for a couple of his late picks drastically over-performing when he missed (12) more picks than he hit (8).* But most of Dumars’ misses came between picks 51 and 60, a range where the difference between a hit and a player never making a roster is minimal.
*Remember, this is based on historical production by pick, not the common over-hyped perception of draft picks. So the league average of hits is 50 percent (give or take).
In many ways, the draft presents a perfect setup for outside evaluation of a general manager.
We don’t know which trades Dumars has turned down and proposed. We don’t know which free agents would and wouldn’t consider Detroit, and of those who would, how much money they’d want to sign here.
But we know which players Dumars can draft, because the players have little to no choice in the matter.
Sure, win shares aren’t a perfect measure, though I don’t see a player on the above list that they misrepresent. And some drafts are stronger than others, but given how long Dumars has run the Pistons, I think that evens out.
My conclusion isn’t an approval of Dumars’ reign as GM. The Pistons have obviously struggled to develop too many of their draft picks, and that’s certainly an indictment of Dumars. But that point is moot unless he drafts good players.
He’s shown, over the long run, he does that better than most.