Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Great Article from Chad Ford on Draft Tiers

I really like the Tier System set forth by Chad Ford. It gets past the tired "need versus best player" debate, or rather, it synthesizes the two and provides a framework for letting both interests play a role in a draft decision. There is also some specific discussion about the Hawks in the last third of the article, explaining how the tier system would have led Billy Knight to take Deron Williams in the now-infamous 2005 Draft.

Kudos aside, there are two problems with Ford's analysis of the Hawks. First, the major problem with the Williams pick is not so much that the Hawks took a player at an already-filled position (although there is some of that), but rather than the Hawks took a player who simply isn't as good as the two players picked after him. If Marvin was pouring in 20 ppg instead of 13, the criticism would be a lot less severe. Thus, the tiers are only as good as the scout who is deciding which playres go into which grouping.

Second, the Shelden Williams mistake was certainly not a result of Billy Knight taking the best player available. Rather, it was an overreaction to the mistake of ignoring need the past year. Knight was killed for not taking a point guard in 2005, so after he (correctly) identified the Hawks' problem as a lack of defensive rebounding and interior defense (the 2005-6 Hawks were a perfectly decent offensive team, but they were lousy defensively), he took the player who would address the need the best. The problem is that he again took a player who is inferior to the players taken after him. (Insert usual caveat that Marvin and Shelden are both young and could show improvement.)

The encouraging aspect for the Hawks is that they have two picks in the top 11 in a Draft in which there is consensus that there are 12 players in the top three tiers. Using Ford's framework, the Hawks will grab Mike Conley with the #3 pick since he is in tier two and answers a need (unless Knight thinks that PF is still a need in which case Al Horford or Brandan Wright will be the pick). The fact that the third tier players from which the Hawks will be drafting are all big guys indicates that Knight should go for the point guard with the first pick and then a PF or C with the second. I'll be overjoyed with Conley and Hawes if both fall to the Hawks. No, the late hour has not made me delirious; I really just used the words "overjoyed" and "Hawks" in the same sentence.


Chg said...

From Chad Ford's Monday blog:

Sources say Horford is the Hawks' favorite at the moment -- though they still could trade the pick.

Since the Hawks drafted a similar, albeit inferior, player last year when they took Shelden Williams, it's a little surprising that the Hawks would opt for Horford -- especially when they really need a player like Conley.

But then again, it's the kind of thing we've come to expect from the Hawks.

They will then manage to steal one of the Tier 4 guys with the #11 pick. Pay not attention to the 12 guys in the consensus top three tiers.

Atlanta fans will be much better off the day Belkin is finally handed control of the franchise and Billy Knight is fired.

Jason Mann said...

We know now that Marvin isn't as good as the two players that were drafted the year ahead of him, but at the time Marvin was supposedly the elite player who was destined for superstardom.

Plus, Childress wasn't nearly as efficient in his rookie season as he would later become and Smoove, while exciting, was mistake-prone, couldn't shoot and couldn't dribble.

I don't remember a huge outcry when we took Marvin; there were a few people saying we should've taken a point guard, but until Chris Paul started putting up insane numbers, no one thought picking Marvin was ridiculous.

Everyone was overrating Marvin Williams; we just happened to have the second pick that year.

Otherwise, I completely agree.

LD said...

I agree with a whole lot of this...

I think the Hawks failings have been primarily scouting problems, rather than too much/not enough emphasis on need-based drafting.

I think Knight truly did believe he took the best player available in each situation, he was just wrong in 3 of his 4 first round picks. Personally, in a league where free agent movement is relatively liberal and where player contracts rise exponentially for talented players after 4 years, I think choosing the best player available regardless of position is a reasonable way for a team that can't go over the salary cap to act. Draft the most talented players, those players are even more valuable because they have reasonable salaries, and plug holes at positions through free agency.

This plan should work well if you have good scouts. If you're not drafting the best player, or if you're filling holes with guys who can't do the job, the team turns out terrible.

Matt said...

Hawes? Seriously?

@Jason Mann: Don't fall for the "conventional wisdom" that nobody was calling for Chris Paul. Plenty of people felt the Hawks' primary need was a PG, and Marvin was always going to be a project (as opposed to Paul and Williams, who were both NBA ready).

Of course, if Marvin *does* put up 20/10 this year and we take Conley, I'm going to be happy.

Joel said...


you are spot on with the Marvin Williams thinking. Hell, the Bucks were considering taking him #1 overall. That draft had him and Bogut as the clear-cut #1 and #2. If Knight wanted Williams/Paul, he could've traded out of the top 2.

Obviously, things have played out differently then expected, but everyone knew Marvin was a project. Had he taken Williams/Paul at #2 he would have been blasted for passing on Marvin until Williams/Paul showed their true colors.

Unfortunately, this does not excuse the embarrassment that was passing on Deng for Childress. (

(insert here reaction from Childress-jockers pointing out how he'd be a great 5th/6th man on a 60 win team)

Chg said...

There were multiple teams that had Paul rated higher than Marvin Williams. Deron Williams has exceeded expectations, but many rated Paul as the best PG prospect in several years.

Joel said...

Didn't Deron Williams go higher than Paul? #3 if I am not mistaken.

LD said...

Correct... and there were plenty of reports that said Knight had Deron Williams rated higher on Atlanta's board that year than Paul.

Weird trades involved that year for D. Williams...

Utah traded the #6 pick (ended up Martrell Webster), #27 pick (ended up Linas Kleiza) and a conditional First Rounder (ended up #30 in 2006 - Joel Freeland) to move into #3. Then Portland traded the 27th pick (Kleiza) and their own second rounder (Ricky Sanchez) to Denver for Jarrett Jack (#22).

So, if you want to know what kind of value the Hawks could get for that #3 pick, the low end (I'd guess 2005 is a little weaker draft than 2007) is a high-mid range lottery pick and 2 low first rounders.

Jason Mann said...

If I remember correctly, a lot of people wondered if Chris Paul was too small for the NBA.

Obviously, with the benefit of hindsight, picking Paul or Deron Williams would have been the "right" choice. A few said so at the time, but I think a larger portion of NBA observers (and perhaps I'm remembering incorrectly) were enamored with Marvin Williams' talent and said he was beyond a doubt a better long-term prospect. Certainly that's the logic Billy Knight fell for.

If there had been a clear consensus that picking Paul or Deron would have been better than picking Marvin, then I wouldn't have a problem with NBA writers calling Billy Knight an idiot for doing so. But I don't think that was the case. I think probably almost every GM in that situation would have chosen Marvin. And all of them would have been wrong (at least in the first two years).

And actually, I'd defend Childress as a choice over Deng or Igoudala. I'm not saying he's performed better than those two, but he's far more efficient and has produced fairly similar per-minute results without having any plays called for him. I'd say it's a wash.

Now Billy Knight's made plenty of bad choices as GM, and I'm certainly worried of repeating past mistakes, but he hasn't made a complete mess of things. We've got a few pretty good players, lots of tradable assets and few bad investments. The wins haven't come yet, but as the young players grow, they will. Hopefully.

Please check out my blog at nbahawks.blogspot.com.

Michael said...

It is true that Billy Knight was not outside of consensus when he took Marvin Williams at #2 and thus, a lot of the criticism of him is misplaced. That said, Chad Ford definitely argued at the time that the Hawks needed to take Paul or Williams, so he has earned the right to crow about that mistake. There was a lot more criticism of Knight for taking Childress over Deng. In retrospect, that was a mistake because Deng has turned out to be an excellent player, but Childress has been a good player, so it isn't a total blunder.

Just speaking from personal recollection, I spent the entire 13-win year getting excited about Chris Paul and then allowed myself to be persuaded by the Marvin Williams pick. I was much angrier about the Childress pick. I also sold myself on the Shelden Williams pick and that was a mistake.

LD said...

I think what made me angriest about the Deng/Childress pick was Knight's defense in an interview the next morning on 790.

Paraphrasing: Someone (I think Cellini) asked why Deng wasn't the pick. Knight said they thought very highly of Deng, but they didn't have a chance to have him work out so they couldn't pick him. 790 guy said why didn't they work him out. Knight says because the Hawks and Deng's agent didn't think Deng would slip that low. So basically, because Deng was too good, they couldn't work him out. And because they couldn't work him out, they couldn't take him. A to B to C, you get: Because Deng was too good, we couldn't take him. That's why that pick angers me most(more than Marvin Williams over Paul/D.Williams). Shelden was a mediocre pick in a shallow draft. I'm not sold on guys who went behind him either, so Shelden doesn't bother me that much (though how can you not question the strategy of having everyone in America know exactly the player you plan on picking months in advance?).