I posted my reactions to 2014 draft rookie seasons, and if there is one point to be gleaned: I underrated athleticism. The players that I overrated are all non-leapers and the players the I regret bashing the most (Wiggins and LaVine) are the top two athletes in the draft. Rodney Hood is not an exceptional athlete, but among the players that I graded as bad defensive prospects (McDermott, Napier, Hood, Stauskas) he comfortably has the best first step and delivered comfortably the best offensive performance as a rookie.

I had an inkling that athleticism was overrated since I am a habitual fader of hype, and athleticism seems to correlate with hype. But there are plenty of non-athlete prospects that were overhyped, and after witnessing my predictions in motion I believe athleticism might actually be underrated.

The other issue is that I was far too wary of statistical performances in my rankings. Sometimes NCAA statistics will call to attention relevant details that receive too little attention from scouts and GM’s, such as Adreian Payne’s age and poor feel for the game. But they often reflect success that does not directly translate to the NBA, and paying it too much regard led me down the wrong path a handful of times. While statistics are a helpful tabulation that should always price in, it is impossible to form efficient draft rankings without the aid of physical profiles and the eye test.

If I wanted to have more efficient rankings, I could have taken fewer risks and shaded my disagreements a bit moreso toward consensus. But I am a habitual upstream swimmer and it helped illuminate the flaws in my thought processes to really go out on limbs, so I gambled away. Ultimately it resulted in a messier final big board than necessary, but this was also an inevitable result of experimenting with a wide range of ideas that were not all good.

On the positive side of the equation, my idea to track who creates their own half-court buckets at the rim appears to be a possibly relevant one. The players who excelled all appear to be great draft values: Elfrid Payton, TJ Warren, and Jordan Clarkson. Austin Rivers is there as a friendly reminder that you need to do things other than slash to the rim to become a good NBA’er. Conversely the players who ranked horribly tend to be busts: Cleanthony Early, Shabazz Napier, CJ Wilcox, Kyle Anderson, and Gary Harris stand out. Zach LaVine is a player who might buck the trend due to his inexperience and lack of ball handling duties, and Marcus Smart may not be a bust but it certainly is not because of his slashing ability displayed as a rookie.

My first writeup was entitled “The Draft Starts With Defense” and it is not the worst motto. After parsing through my defensive cliff notes, there appears to be a correlation between defensive aptitude and value with respect to draft slot.

Because I am addicted to making lists, this is what my pre-draft rankings should have been strictly based on pre-draft information. There may be a hint of hindsight bias involved, but it’s not like this ranking counts for anything anyway. I am leaving out Bruno Caboclo because there is no way I could have accurately assessed him without knowing he existed:

1. Joel Embiid

2. Aaron Gordon
3. Andrew Wiggins
4. Marcus Smart
5. Dante Exum

6. TJ Warren
7. Elfrid Payton
8. Jabari Parker
9. Jusuf Nurkic
10. Clint Capela

11. Noah Vonleh
12. Mitch McGary
13. Damien Inglis
14. KJ McDaniels
15. Tyler Ennis
16. Spencer Dinwiddie
17. Dario Saric
18. James Young
19. Nikola Jokic
20. Jarnell Stokes
21. Julius Randle
22. Zach LaVine
23. Kyle Anderson
24. Nik Stauskas
25. Jordan Adams
26. Vasilije Micic
27. Bogdan Bogdanovic
28. Gary Harris
29. PJ Hairston
30. Jerami Grant
31. Walter Taveras
32. Adreian Payne
33. Rodney Hood
34. Doug McDermott
35. Jordan Clarkson
36. Glenn Robinson
37. Dwight Powell
38. Semaj Christon
39. Alec Brown
40. Nick Johnson

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