I’ve always admired John Hollinger’s work for ESPN. In fact, I was excitedly reading him when he was still filing occasional columns for the New York Sun and SI.com before he jumped over to the Mothership. I know that his PER system is flawed, but I think it gets an undue amount of criticism because he is the most high profile writer pushing advanced NBA stats. Surely it’s a fool’s errand to concoct a one size fits all stat for player “value,” but the fact is that you need to give the public something they can wrap their heads around before they’re ready to jump to bigger and better things.
Anyway, with that preamble out of the way, I want to let everyone know that one of my favorite days of the NBA year is upon us — the release of Hollinger’s Draft Rater! It’s an imperfect product and Hollinger tweaks it every year, but I must say it consistently (and seemingly accurately) puts my mind at ease with regards to the Pistons choices every season. Case in point: Last season Hollinger was touting the expected dominance of volatile big man DeMarcus Cousins as the most likely sure thing in last year’s draft. It was no secret that the Pistons were trying to trade up to secure the right to select Cousins — a task in which they ultimately failed. But no fear, the Pistons’ consolation prize turned out to be Greg Monroe who happened to be rated as the fourth-best player in Hollinger’s system. In reality Monroe had the best PER of any rookie last season. Like I said, the system ain’t perfect but that’s the kind of mistake I can live with. And last season, much like this year, the Pistons choices came down to a trio of big men — Monroe, Ekpe Udoh or Ed Davis. He correctly predicted Monroe as the best of the bunch but didn’t think highly of Davis who quite stealthily had quite a good rookie campaign in Toronto last season.
And what of 2009? The Draft Rater pegged Ty Lawson as the best prospect, narrowly edging out Blake Griffin. While Griffin clearly shined as a transcendent rookie last season after sitting out all 0f 2009, it was right about Lawson who slid to the 18th pick. Incentially, the system was also extremely high on Tyreke Evans, Dajuan Blair, Stephen Curry and Danny Green that year. But once again the Pistons selected a Draft Rater “consolation prize” in Austin Daye who rated as the fourth-best prospect in his draft. While Pistons fans have blamed Joe Dumars for missing the chance to get Lawson when he had the chance, he should get credit for the selection of Daye. The rail-thin Daye had red flags coming out of college but he has grown in his two seasons and has shown that he has deadly 3-point range that the team will be able to rely on as it fits more pieces into the core and won’t have to ask him to play out of position at power forward. Many Pistons fans were pining for one of the available point guards in Eric Maynor, Jeff Teague or Jrue Holliday, and while they have proved serviceable, Teague and Maynor seem like they will be just solid backup PGs in the league while Holliday has a chance to be an above average point guard. But while Daye might never be a star he is certainly no bust, and the fact that even after an injury-plagued final season at Gonzaga, Hollinger correctly tabbed him as a potential sleeper is a a coup.
And while Rodney Stuckey is as divisive as ever to Pistons fans, he was rated highly by the Draft Rater in 2008. He was ranked No. 5 in his class behind the likes of Kevin Durant, Mike Conley, Greg Oden and Joakim Noah. The fact is, while Stuckey might not be the cornerstone point guard Dumars has envisioned, he has played better than many of those drafted above him and of the 45 drafted after him. His his only competition for supremacy seems to be a slew of later draft picks — Aaron Brooks and Marc Gasol along with maybe Carl Landry and fellow Pistons draft pick Arron Afflalo. And if Stuckey played his more natural off guard position I think he’d be even better.
So what about this year? Here is Hollinger’s big board. It’s Insider content so I won’t except his analysis of specific players:
"1. Kyrie Irving2. Derrick Williams3. Tristan Thompson4. Jonas Valuncianas5. Kawhi Leonard6. Enes Kanter7. Kemba Walker8. Tobias Harris9. Alec Burks10. Jordan Hamilton11. Bismack Biyombo12. Brandon Knight13. Tyler Honeycutt14. Jon Leuer15. Nikola Vucevic16. Chris Singleton17. Jan Vesely18. Klay Thompson19. Norris Cole20. Iman Shumpert21. Nikola Mirotic22. Jimmer Fredette23. Donatas Motiejunas24. Greg Smith25. Marcus Morris26. JaJuan Johnson27. Markieff Morris28. Davis Bertans29. Kenneth Faried30. Jeremy Tyler31. Jordan Williams32. Bojan Bogdanovic33. Darius Morris34. Giorgi Shermadini35. Reggie Jackson36. Rick Jackson37. Brad Wanamaker38. Damian Saunders39. Nolan Smith40. Malcolm Thomas41. Travis Leslie42. Trey Thompkins43. Malcolm Lee44. Charles Jenkins45. Cory Joseph46. E’Twaun Moore47. Josh Selby48. Jacob Pullen49. Justin Harper50. Jimmy Butler51. Matt Howard52. Jamie Skeen53. Jereme Richmond54. Keith Benson55. D.J. Kennedy56. Marshon Brooks57. Isaiah Thomas58. Andrew Goudelouck59. Lavoy Allen60. Shelvin Mack"
What becomes immediately apparent is that Pistons fans better hope that Hollinger is particularly accurate this season as most of his top players from 3-7 are players the Pistons have reportedly shown interest in. And of note is that he could not run an analysis of Bismack Biyombo because of the league he played in. But in his report he says that even if Biyombo can’t shoot a lick (hint: he can’t) he will still make an impact on the defensive end, hence his slot at No. 11. While Hollinger is a numbers guy he has always pegged people pretty accurately with the old-school eyeball scouting test. I was also happy to see Norris Cole rate so highly. He is a player I’m hoping the Pistons can grab with their early second round pick. If the Pistons previous drafts and Hollinger’s Draft Rater hold to form, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Detroit pick Tristan Thompson, many fans being extremely upset and the Pistons with another potential rookie of the year candidate on their hands. Is this enough to make me rethink my Biyombo love? It just might be …