Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Jun 2012

Comparing the NBA Draft to the NFL Draft

Jason Lisk checked out how similar the talent pool stacks up in the NFL and NBA drafts. Turns out, surprisingly, that they're roughly even once you account for the difference in starting players.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 28 Jun 2012

17 comments, Last at 09 Jul 2012, 6:01pm by Jerry


by Tony D. (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2012 - 5:35pm

Who was surprised by this? Lisk says he expected they were about equal before he did the analysis.

by jebmak :: Thu, 06/28/2012 - 6:25pm

So if most people expect something to be the case, no one should test it? I don't see your point.

by sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2012 - 7:29pm

He's referencing Rivers comment in the intro. I was going to say essentially the same thing. Even in the article itself, the author never pinpoints who the "everybody" is that believes the first picks in the NBA draft are more important than their NFL counterparts. Do people believe that?

by jebmak :: Thu, 06/28/2012 - 9:50pm

Ah, gotcha, apologies. Thanks.

by David :: Tue, 07/03/2012 - 7:01am

Yes, people believe this. Personally, I believe it, because Lisk just *proved that it was the case*

Having the first overall pick in the NBA draft is approximately equivalent to having the first 5 picks in the NFL draft. Therefore, having the first pick in the NBA draft is way more important than the first pick in the NFL draft

by tuluse :: Thu, 06/28/2012 - 6:36pm

This seems kind of stupid. We all know early picks are more valuable than late picks, both intuitively and mathematically. All he did was graph both and put them next to each other.

The interesting thing isn't that in both drafts that early picks are more valuable than late picks, but once the graph passes 32 or so, the NFL picks look much more valuable. Which means the average 5th round pick in the NFL is expected to be more valuable than almost every 2nd rounder in the NBA. When you think about how little value 5th round picks have it lets you know how useless the 2nd round is in the NBA.

Also, averaging the NFL picks is going to lose a lot of information (having the 1st overall pick is a lot different than the 4th), and essentially rig the graph to make it look more similar than it probably is.

by Theo :: Fri, 06/29/2012 - 11:48am

Isn't that predictable, since basketball is 5 vs 5 and football is 22 vs 22?

by Seattleite (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2012 - 7:50pm

The most obvious difference is that players drafted in the NFL draft go on to entertain viewers as athletes, while the players drafted in the NBA draft go on to waste broadcast slots that could be better spent on situation comedies or watching bearded hippies paint landscapes.

by ineedawittyname (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2012 - 9:47pm

you win all the internets

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Thu, 06/28/2012 - 9:33pm

How do you compare win shares to AV? An NBA star has a much bigger impact on his team than an NFL star. Drafting LeBron turned Cleveland from a bottom team to a contender. There is no equivalent in the NFL (not even Luck and RG3, who can at best give their teams a successful offense but have no impact on 4/7 of the team's performance). So how are the top NBA picks not more important than the top NFL picks, exactly?

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 06/29/2012 - 8:04am

I think people are missing the point slightly. I don't think Lisk is trying to say that the first pick in the NFL draft and the first pick in the NBA draft are equally valuable. I think he's saying it's interesting that the rate at which value drops off is so similar between the two sports, suggesting that NFL and NBA GMs are comparably successful at evaluating top prospects, and NFL GMs slightly more successful at evaluating lesser prospects.

This was surprising to me at least, because I assumed it would be significantly easier to scout basketball players than football players.

Disclaimer: I know absolutely nothing about basketball.

by tuluse :: Fri, 06/29/2012 - 10:06am

"This was surprising to me at least, because I assumed it would be significantly easier to scout basketball players than football players."

It is to some degree, but there are also only 5-10 players worth anything in a given year.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Fri, 06/29/2012 - 7:46pm

"This was surprising to me at least, because I assumed it would be significantly easier to scout basketball players than football players."

You would think so, but somehow NBA GMs screw it up anyway.

by dbostedo :: Fri, 06/29/2012 - 8:04pm

Yes - the shape of the curves being almost the same once to adjust for the number of players was really the interesting thing I think. There's no real reason they have to be. It seems to imply that talent/skill in both sports falls off at about the same rate and/or that talent evaluation in both matches.

I'd guess you'd see a different shape curve for, say, the baseball draft since talent evaluation seems to be much different and there are more money factors at work in the early rounds.

by Thok :: Sun, 07/01/2012 - 3:43am

Both curve's look somewhat like a Zipf's law distribution to me, which isn't that surprising.

by slipknottin :: Mon, 07/09/2012 - 7:59am

Would be very interested in seeing a comparison to the NHL. I feel that draft may be very radically different.

by Jerry :: Mon, 07/09/2012 - 6:01pm

The NHL (and even moreso MLB) draft is different because very few prospects go straight to the NHL from the draft. Most stay in juniors/college/high school, and then there are often minor leagues before reaching the big time. In football and basketball, teams are drafting players for this year's big league roster.